Power of imagination in Sādhana

This article deals with an important preparatory step for real meditation.


Sri Rāmakrishna continually conversed with the Divine Mother. To him, she was a living entity. He saw her, spoke to her just as a child speaks with its mother, had childish fights with her even! The Gospel of Sri Rāmakrishna is an unparalleled book mainly because it faithfully records innumerable incidents from the daily life of this ‘Greatest of Avatāras’.

One of the purposes of an incarnation of God is to provide spiritual aspirants with mental and emotional props for their spiritual practices. Sādhana involves imagination. Purely fictitious imagination lacks power to engage us for long. Hence, an Avatāra provides us with situations, which we can use in our imagination. It is something similar to role-playing employed by teachers of history and literature. Avatāra energizes the spiritual environment of an epoch by providing situations for role-playing. In fact, this is the reason art, literature, poetry and music gets immense inspiration from the life of an Avatara.

The Gospel of Sri Rāmakrishna is a very rich source of material for such imageries. Pure Consciousness assumed the form and personality of Sri Rāmakrishna and enacted innumerable human situations with his devotees. Some of these have been recorded in this book. We need to read those incidents. Then we need to put ourselves in the role of one of those devotees with whom Sri Rāmakrishna interacts, as described in this book. This creates a mood in us. We need to dwell in that mood for some time. This will form the content of our meditation. This kind of meditation is called ‘Līla Dhyāna’. This is one of the most powerful tools available for a spiritual aspirant. In fact, Swami Vivekānanda points out[1] that real meditation comes only by a sustained process of systematic imagination.

We cannot start our spiritual practice with meditation. It is not possible. This is because, meditation is the 7th step in a graded process of spiritual practice. It is preceded by a process called Dhārana. When the mind is limited and confined within a certain set of ideas, imageries, feelings and physical settings, it is called Dhārana. Try it out. Try to keep the mind confined to a certain set of ideas! It is almost impossible to do so beyond a few seconds in the beginning. Practice however enables us to do this for a few minutes. The greatest help in establishing Dhārana is imagination, says Swami Vivekānanda.[2]

The Vedāntic conception of the world is that it is nothing but imagination. There is a wonderful line of logical arguments to establish this conception. We need not go into that argument here. But, what follows from that conception is that our conception of our bondage is but imagination; and that our conception of spiritual practices to break free from that bondage is also imagination! So, one set of imagination will cure another set of imagination. Among the imaginations that cure us of our delusion, the greatest imagination is that of the Personal God, proclaims Swāmi Vivekānanda.[3] By Personal God is meant God with a name, form and a personality. With such God, we can interact, as persons. With the Impersonal God, how can we, as persons, interact?

Here, we may ask: If God is but imagination, then, where is truth in God, or efficacy in thinking about and meditating on God? Swāmi Yatīshwarananda points out that imagination can be of both the Real and the fictitious or Unreal; and imagination of God is actually imagination about the Real.[4] Therefore, thinking about God is really beneficial for our spiritual growth. Persons who are experts in this field have discovered that God, although an imagination in the final analysis, serves a great purpose in the evolution of the human soul. In fact, Swāmi Vivekānanda says categorically, that the Personal God can indeed be molded according to the imagination of each person.[5]

Meditation occurs only when the object of meditation is clearly visualized. When we say clearly visualized, what we mean is that the object has to be visualized as living. In order to achieve this state of visualization, we need to hone the skill of imagination. Swāmi Vivekānanda says, “The same faculty that we employ in dreams and thoughts, namely, imagination, will also be the means by which we arrive at Truth. When the imagination is very powerful, the object becomes visualized.” [6]

One important milestone in our spiritual practices is to bring alive the personality of Sri Rāmakrishna alive in our mind. The photograph of Sri Rāmakrishna is just a starting point. None of us have seen him when he lived. Hence, the photograph might be just a two dimensional picture for most of us to begin with. Gradually, we need to attach our feelings with that picture. The person, whose picture we see in the photograph, has to become living in our mind. That is why we need to weld that picture with the graphic instances recorded in the Gospel of Sri Rāmakrishna, and invest them with our feelings. And we need to do this repeatedly, for a few minutes every day, for many years. The result will be truly amazing. For, our mind is indeed a most wonderful instrument.

As we noted earlier, the life of an Avatāra provides us with innumerable situations which can serve as effective imageries for sharpening our faculty of imagination. As a sample, we give below some incidents recorded in the Gospel of Sri Rāmakrishna, which can be used in our daily practices by devotees of the Rāmakrishna Order.

  • Make him stainless: When it was dusk he returned to his room and sat down on the small couch. Soon he went into Samādhi and in that state began to talk to the Divine Mother. He said: “Mother, what is all this row about? Shall I go there? I shall go if You take me.” The Master was to go to a devotee’s house. Was it for this that he was asking the Divine Mother’s permission? Again he spoke to her, perhaps praying about an intimate disciple: “Mother, please make him stainless.[7]

I put myself in the role of a devotee present in that room. (It would be helpful if we have visited that room in the Dakshineswar Temple complex. Else, we can at least look at the Pictorial Biography of Sri Rāmakrishna where a good photograph of that room is given. This helps our imagination greatly.)

I can further imagine that I am that blessed devotee about whom Sri Rāmakrishna is praying to the Divine Mother. Sri Rāmakrishna himself is praying to the Mother of the Universe that I be made stainless! Can you imagine the efficacy of that prayer?

What happens when I become stainless? Elsewhere, Sri Rāmakrishna himself explains what this means: Weeping, I said to Her: “O Mother, protect me! Please make me stainless. Please see that my mind is not diverted from the Real to the unreal.”[8]

So, as a result of imagining that I am that devotee, regarding whom Sri Rāmakrishna supplicates to the Divine Mother that I be made stainless, my mind will get focused on the Real. This quality, my mind will start developing, as I progress with this imagination for an extended period of time.

  • Draw him to Thee: The evening worship began in the temples. The Master was seated on the small couch in his room, absorbed in meditation. He went into an ecstatic mood and said a little later: “Mother, please draw him to Thee. He is so modest and humble! He has been visiting Thee.” [9]

Sri Rāmakrishna went into Samādhi. His body was motionless. He remained in that state a long time. Gradually he came down to the consciousness of the outer world. Still in a spiritual mood, he began to talk, sometimes addressing the devotees, sometimes the Divine Mother. “Mother, please attract him to Thee.[10]

Just observe how Sri Rāmakrishna identifies some simple qualities in someone and recommends him to the Divine Mother! I need to put myself in the place of that devotee for whom Sri Rāmakrishna is putting in a strong recommendation! What are the qualities of that devotee? He is modest, humble and visits Sri Rāmakrishna often.

I imagine that I have these qualities in me; I sit before Sri Rāmakrishna as he sits on the small couch in an ecstatic mood. Then I imagine that he makes the request to the Divine Mother regarding me.

He doesn’t stop with just that one prayer. He knows that I really do not have those qualities such as modesty, humility, regularity and punctuality. Hence he further prays to the Divine Mother on my behalf, Mother, please attract him to Thee.

Who knew that the Divine Mother could attract people to herself, and that she actually did such a thing! Anyway, I am fortunate that Sri Rāmakrishna is himself praying on my behalf! I stay in that mood of feeling fortunate for some time.

  • Now and then: The evening worship was over in the temples. The Master returned to his room and sat on the couch, absorbed in meditation on the Divine Mother. M. sat on the floor. There was no one else in the room. The Master was in Samādhi. He began to come gradually down to the normal plane. His mind was still filled with the consciousness of the Divine Mother. In that state he was speaking to Her like a small child making importunate demands on his mother…The Master was weeping and praying to the Mother in a voice choked with emotion. He prayed to Her with tearful eyes for the welfare of the devotees: “Mother, may those who come to You have all their desires fulfilled! But please don’t make them give up everything at once, Mother. Well, You may do whatever You like in the end. If You keep them in the world, Mother, then please reveal Yourself to them now and then. Otherwise, how will they live? How will they be encouraged if they don’t see You once in a while? But You may do whatever You like in the end.” [11]

I imagine the ambience in the room when Sri Rāmakrishna is in Samādhi. There is a palpable pressure on my entire being. My own breathing has slowed down perceptibly. I look intensely at him. He is not breathing. His face has an unbelievable glow, eyes half-opened and transfixed, focused on nothing in particular. I remain in this incredible atmosphere for some time.

Then he starts coming down to the normal plane. The return to normalcy is not fast. It is haltering. Clear changes are visible in his personality with each step he takes towards becoming normal.

Then I imagine him making an amazing prayer to the Divine Mother. I imagine I too am one of the devotees for whom that unprecedented prayer was made!

  • Human relations: Sri Rāmakrishna was sitting on the small couch in his room. Rākhāl, M., and, several other devotees were present. The Master, in a happy mood, became engaged in conversation with a fair complexioned young man: “Be on friendly terms with your brothers. It looks well. You must have noticed in your theatrical performance that if four singers sing each in a different way, the play is spoiled.” [12]

I am the young man to whom Sri Rāmakrishna is speaking. Rākhāl, M and some others too are in the room and looking on. I am the center of attention of the Greatest of Avatāras! Those eyes are riveting; extreme concern for my well-being is oozing out of those eyes. That voice is the sweetest I can ever imagine.

And what is he saying to me? “Be on friendly terms with your brothers. It looks well. You must have noticed in your theatrical performance that if four singers sing each in a different way, the play is spoiled.”

Whatever be the situation we are in, we live among other people. A large number of our problems in life arise due to lack of proper understanding among ourselves. A sweet relation between us creates a social homeostasis, allowing us to concentrate our time and energies on our spiritual practices.

Recall the words of Jesus in the Bible: “Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen.”[13] “Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister.”[14] “How can you say to your brother, ‘let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye.”[15]

  • The divine touch-1: Sri Rāmakrishna then went to Adhar’s house. M., Rākhāl, and other devotees were present. He sat down, still in an ecstatic mood. The Master said to Adhar, “My son, meditate on the Deity whose name you chanted.” With these words he touched Adhar’s tongue with his finger and wrote something on it.[16]

I put myself in the place of Adhar. Sri Rāmakrishna has come to my room. I see that he is still in a semi-conscious state. A beautiful smile is playing on his lips. he sits down on a chair in my room.

Once I am able to imagine this scene clearly, I then imagine him telling me, “My son, meditate on the Deity whose name you chanted.” I had been chanting his name. I have just finished doing Japa of my Ishta mantra. He now tells me that he is not a human being like me, but a divine being. He is a deity. I, however, see him to be just like me, a human being, but, he himself tells me this. I recall Swāmi Vivekānanda mentioning in the Math Rules, “The Lord has not yet given up the Ramakrishna form.” This is what Swamiji meant. Even as I hear Sri Rāmakrishna tell me these words, I immediately become aware that I do not understand what he means. What does he mean he is a divine being? I do not understand anything other than a human being.

That is when he suddenly gets up, comes towards me, presses my cheeks whereby my mouth opens and I instinctively throw out my tongue. He writes something on my tongue with his finger (I can’t make out which finger he uses). I am in a haze. But that touch was magical! I feel a tremendous joy welling up within me. I remain in that state for some time.

  • The divine touch-2: It was evening and the worship in the temples was over. Mahimācharan, Rākhāl, and M. were in the room. Adhar sat on the floor with the devotees. The Master said to him, “Please stroke here gently.” Adhar sat on the end of the couch and gently stroked Sri Rāmakrishna’s feet.[17]

I again put myself in Adhar’s place. I am sitting on the floor in Sri Rāmakrishna’s room.

He is reclining on his small couch, with his head and upper back resting on a cylindrical bolster. His feet are pointed towards me, while his head is slightly turned to his right side, and hence he is able to see me. There is the sweet scent of incense in the room.

All of a sudden, he asks me to stroke his feet gently.

I get up, go to his couch, sit down on the edge of his couch, and start pressing his feet. I first press his right foot, from the knee-cap down to his ankle. Then I switch to his left foot. I notice that he has very little hair on his legs. The color of the skin on his legs is uniform. There is very little flesh in his calves. The bones are easily felt. When I go on pressing like this, I hear his breathing, which is even; he seems to be drifting into a light sleep. I continue pressing his feet for some time.

  • Our real identity: Master (To M., pointing to Baburām): “You see, my own people have become strangers; Rāmlal and my other relatives seem to be foreigners. And strangers have become my own. Don’t you notice how I tell Baburām to go and wash his face? The devotees have become relatives.[18]


  • Complete your studies: Again for a few moments all sat in silence. Master (to Narendra, smiling): “Won’t you continue your studies? [19]

It was dusk. Sri Rāmakrishna was sitting in his room, absorbed in contemplation of the Divine Mother. Now and then he was chanting her name. Rākhāl, Adhar, M., and several other devotees were with him. Master to M: “Tell me, does Baburām intend to continue his studies? I said to him, ‘Continue your studies to set an example to others.’ After Sitā had been set free, Bibhīshana refused to become king of Ceylon. Rāma said to him: ‘You should become king to open the eyes of the ignorant. Otherwise they will ask you what you have gained as a result of serving me. They will be pleased to see you acquire the kingdom.’” [20]

Students can very nicely identify with this imagery.

A Swāmi of our Order used to tell us when we were young, that the first thing a boy does when he comes in contact with Rāmakrishna Mission is lose interest in his academic studies! A strong tradition seems to have been set by the direct disciples themselves, it seems.

Young boys however do face a real conflict within, between engaging themselves in spiritual practices such as Japa, dhyāna, adhyayana, etc. and completing their school and college studies. This conflict can be resolved by using this powerful visual and auditory imagery.

  • Brahmacharya in married life: Master: “Bhavanāth is married; but he spends the whole night in spiritual conversation with his wife. The couple passes their time talking of God alone: I said to him, ‘Have a little fun with your wife now and then.’ ‘What?’ he retorted angrily. ‘Shall we too indulge in frivolity?’” [21]

This is an essential imagery for married persons, who have a strong urge to practice Sādhana. All these words are uttered by Sri Rāmakrishna. We need to dwell on the sense of approval in his tone when he is telling these words. Sri Rāmakrishna is very happy, it is apparent in his voice, when he reproduces Bhavanāth’s angry retort, “Shall we too indulge in frivolity?

Elsewhere, Sri Rāmakrishna had told us that husband and wife should live like brother and sister after the birth of a couple of children. Here we have Bhavanāth demonstrating that teaching in reality. What was Bhavanāth’s state of mind when Sri Rāmakrishna teased him about having a little fun with his wife? We need to dwell on that incredible state of Bhavanāth’s mind. How did he get to develop such a state of mind?

We find the hint in another scene in the Gospel:

In the afternoon Bhavanāth arrived. Rākhāl, M., Harish, and other devotees were in the room. Master (to Bhavanāth): “To love an Incarnation of God – that is enough.”[22]

            We should imagine Sri Rāmakrishna telling us these words. “To love and Incarnation of God – that is enough.” Enough for what? And enough for whom? Loving an Avatāra is enough for all of us, married or monastic; for our spiritual growth.

Sri Rāmakrishna is revealing a great secret here. When he spoke such secrets, the entire atmosphere in that room would become intense! Our entire soul recognizes the value of those words. We must love Sri Rāmakrishna. That is enough for us.




[1]Meditation, you know, comes by a process of imagination.” Complete Works: Vol-4: Lectures and Discourses: Meditation

[2]When the Chitta, or mind-stuff, is confined and limited to a certain place it is Dharana. This Dharana is of various sorts, and along with it, it is better to have a little play of the imagination.”: Complete Works: Vol-1: Raja-Yoga: Ch-VI: Pratyahara and Dharana

[3] “Some imaginations help to break the bondage of the rest. The whole universe is imagination, but one set of imaginations will cure another set. Those that tell us that there is sin and sorrow and death in the world are terrible. But the other set — thou art holy, there is God, there is no pain —these are good, and help to break the bondage of the others. The highest imagination that can break all the links of the chain is that of the Personal God.”: Complete Works: Vol-5: Notes from Lectures and Discourses: On Bhakti-Yoga

[4] What is the immediate goal? To get in touch with the Reality. Whatever we call real draws our whole being. So it is most essential for us to have a clear conception of what Reality is. The goal and the path must be real. Even our imaginations must be about the Real. Meditation & Spiritual Life: Pg: 644

[5] In the same man the mother sees a son, while the wife at the same time sees differently with different results. The wicked see in God wickedness. The virtuous see in Him virtue. He admits of all forms. He can be moulded according to the imagination of each person. Water assumes various shapes in various vessels. But water is in all of them. Hence all religions are true.: Complete Works: Vol-6: Notes of Class Talks and Lectures: Notes Taken Down In Madras, 1892-93

[6] Complete Works: Vol-6: Notes of Class Talks and Lectures: Lessons On Raja-Yoga

[7] Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna: Pg: 283

[8] Ibid: Pg: 895

[9] Ibid: Pg: 160

[10] Ibid: Pg: 741

[11] Ibid: Pg: 381

[12] Ibid: Pg: 428

[13] New Testament: John 4:20

[14] Ibid: John 4:21

[15] Ibid: Matthew 7:4

[16] Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna: Pg: 273

[17] Ibid: Pg: 387

[18] Ibid: Pg: 380

[19] Ibid: Pg: 935

[20] Ibid: Pg: 458

[21] Ibid: Pp: 715-716

[22] Ibid: Pg: 356

Personality of Holy Mother Sri Sharada Devi

Personally, I am uneasy writing about Holy Mother. It is difficult to verbalize about what is extremely dear to one’s heart. One feels like having committed a sacrilege by putting that into words. No matter what you write, you get a feeling in your gut that you have done gross injustice to the subject.

Another reason I find it hard to write about Holy Mother is that there is hardly anything dramatic or extraordinary in her life and personality, the kind of adventure and glory we see in Sri Ramakrishna or Swami Vivekananda. The best description of Holy Mother’s personality, I found, in a passage that Swamiji uttered in his First Public Lecture in the East in Colombo. He was speaking of the effect of Indian thought on the western mind. But, the words are absolutely true of Holy Mother’s life also. So, I will take the liberty of paraphrasing Swamiji’s words to make it sound like he is speaking of Holy Mother. “Those who keep their eyes open, those who understand the workings of the minds of different people of this world, those who are thinkers and study people, will find the immense change that has been produced in the tone, the procedure, the methods, and in the lives of the people of the world by this slow, never ceasing permeation of Holy Mother’s personality…If there is one word in the English language to represent the gift of Holy Mother’s life to the world, if there is one word in the English language to express the effect which her personality produces upon mankind; it is this one word, ‘fascination’. It is the opposite of anything that takes you suddenly; it throws on you, as it were, a charm imperceptibly. To many, the daily circumstances of Holy Mother’s life might be repulsive at first sight; but let them persevere, let them study her life, let them become familiar with the great principles underlying this amazing person, and it is ninety-nine to one that the charm will come over them, and fascination will be the result. Slow and silent, as the gentle dew that falls in the morning, unseen and unheard yet producing a most tremendous result, has been the work of the calm, patient, all-suffering Holy Mother upon the people who come in contact with her.[1]

At first sight, it is almost impossible to specifically locate Holy Mother in the genesis and evolution of this worldwide spiritual organization. But, every person, without an exception, once he enters this movement, is totally ‘fascinated’ by Holy Mother, and becomes intensely attached to her. When and how exactly she starts exerting her imperceptible influence on us is impossible to say. As Swamiji said, “If there is one word in the English language to express this effect…it is this one word, ‘fascination’. It is the opposite of anything that takes you suddenly; it throws on you, as it were, a charm imperceptibly.”

What exactly is the role of Holy Mother in the Ramakrishna Movement? More fundamentally, who exactly is this lady that we worship today as Holy Mother? Kasmai devaya havisha vidhema? [2] Many illustrious monks and thinkers have tried to answer these questions. All of them resort to poetry, giving up all positive language, in trying to describe Holy Mother. Ordinary language seems to fall short when we speak of her. Swamiji exhorts in one place, “You people always want action! You cannot yet perceive the poetry of everyday common little incidents in life![3] Swami Vireshwarananda makes a wonderful observation in one of his lectures: “When Holy Mother was at Madras on her way to Rameswaram, devotees used to come and inquire Shashi Maharaj whether she was going to deliver any lecture. That was the yardstick by which they measured greatness – intellectuality. They had heard Annie Besant, who could throw the audience into raptures by her oratory. So they expected Holy Mother also to give lectures![4] It is not possible to speak about her in asserting, positive language. Take for instance Swami Brahmananda. He says, “Who can understand our Holy Mother?…Is it possible for an ordinary person to have digested the worship of an incarnation like Sri Ramakrishna? From this, one has to understand what a great container of power she is!…Our Holy Mother is Mahamaya herself! But such is her Maya that none can understand her. Inside, she is the ocean of realization; outside, absolute calm. How ordinary and easy she appears! Even Avataras cannot keep under control such Bhava and Bhakti.[5]

Look at the words Swami Brahmananda uses, ‘How ordinary and easy she appears!’ She is very ordinary. She is very easy of approach. But, that is just how it appears. That is not the truth. Why not? Because, slow and silent, as the gentle dew that falls in the morning, unseen and unheard yet producing a most tremendous result, has been the work of the calm, patient, all-suffering Holy Mother upon the people who come in contact with her. Not only that, Swami Yatishwarananda mentions another amazing facet of Holy Mother. He says, “Which aspect of Holy Mother do you like? Only her love and affection? Remember that she is Kali too. If need be, she will tear open your heart.[6]

This is an amazing personality we are dealing with here. Swami Saradananda, after living with Holy Mother for eighteen long years, once mentioned about her, “What can we understand of the Holy Mother! However, this much I can say that I have never seen such a great mind, and I do not hope to see one either. It is beyond our capacity to comprehend the extent of Holy Mother’s glory and power. I have never seen such attachment, nor have I seen such detachment. She was so deeply attached to Radhu. But when her last day came she said, ‘Please send her away.’ I said, ‘Mother, you are now telling to send Radhu away. But what will happen when you will like to see her again?’ Holy Mother replied, ‘No, I have not the slightest attraction for her anymore.’ While saying these words, Swami Saradananda became absorbed within himself and started humming a song whose meaning was, ‘Amazed at your activities, I am wondering whether I should laugh or cry. In this strange world, you make and unmake things all day long, just as children do while playing. I have lived long by your side and followed you. Let me now acknowledge my defeat – I could not understand you.’[7]

There is one more reason why Holy Mother is not what she appears to be – ordinary and easy. One morning in Jayrambati, Holy Mother was husking paddy, which she did almost every day. Swami Arupananda asked her, “Mother, why should you work so hard?” She replied, “My child, to make my life a model, I have done much more than is necessary.[8]

Her life is more than a role model. For whom is her life a model? What is the model she is speaking of? Why did she have to make her life a model for others? Sister Nivedita said, “To me it has always appeared that Holy Mother is Sri Ramakrishna’s final word as to the ideal of Indian womanhood.[9] So, is Holy Mother a role model only for women? These are some questions that need to be answered, which I shall try presently.

An Avatara reveals a new spiritual ideal for humanity and propagates this new ideal in two distinct, yet deeply interconnected ways. One is the cult aspect of the teaching and the other is its philosophical aspect. The philosophical aspect of the Avatara’s teachings is centered on principles. The cult aspect is centered in personality; it consists of beliefs and devotional attitudes concerning the Avatara. The health and vitality of the religious movement depend on maintaining balance between these two aspects. While philosophy is the skeleton, muscles and skin, cult is the heart of the movement. It is the hidden source of vigor in a religious movement. Without philosophy, cult becomes sentimentalism or fanaticism. So also, without the devotional spirit generated by the cult, philosophy degenerates into intellectualism or cosmopolitanism, without a spirit of self-sacrifice so essential for making any religious movement vibrant.[10]

Holy Mother is the greatest representative of the cult aspect of the Ramakrishna Movement, while Swami Vivekananda is the most illustrious representative of its philosophical aspect. In fact, once when he was very young, Swami Saradananda confided in Swami Yogananda, “I do not always understand what Naren means. He talks about many things. Whenever he speaks about something, he does it with such emphasis that all his previous statements become practically meaningless.” Swami Yogananda advised him, “Let me tell you something. You stick to Holy Mother. Whatever she says is right.[11] Holy Mother was the first, and the foremost, person to embody the cult principles which has given to the Ramakrishna Movement whatever vitality it possesses. It is in this sense that Holy Mother is considered as the Shakti behind this movement.

Sri Ramakrishna revealed a new spiritual ideal called Vijnana. How do we reach that spiritual state starting from where we are at present? The Divine Mother gave him specific directions in this regard. It is interesting to note that the path followed by the Avatara himself to reach that new spiritual ideal may not be suitable for the masses. At least in Sri Ramakrishna’s case, that is so. The path he took for reaching the state of Vijnana is not meant for ordinary people like us. So, a separate path, a separate set of spiritual practices had to be laid out for us. The Divine Mother specifically revealed to him that ordinary people would reach the new state of Vijnana by following the path of Bhakti-mishrita-Karma-Yoga. Swami Saradananda elaborates this revelation in Sri Ramakrishna Lila Prasanga as follows: “An ordinary person must try to do his duties with detachment, depending on the Lord, like the maidservant who does everything for her master, knowing in her heart that her home is elsewhere. This is known as karma yoga. As far as possible one should take the name of the Lord and meditate on Him while discharging one’s everyday duties in an unattached way.[12]

Sri Ramakrishna needed someone who could demonstrate to the masses exactly how one should proceed along this new path to reach the new ideal. Sri Ramakrishna selected Holy Mother for this extremely vital job. In a way, each of his disciples – both monastic and householder – did this job to the limit possible by each one of them. But, Holy Mother was specifically meant to do this.

Holy Mother’s entire life is a glowing illustration of the three beliefs on which the cult aspect of the Ramakrishna Movement stands:[13]

  1. Sri Ramakrishna is an Avatara. He embodies in himself the spiritual consciousness of the past incarnations and is the expression of all forms of God.
  2. His life and personality have revealed a new spiritual ideal.
  3. By tyaga and seva, one can participate in the spiritual consciousness he has created.

We grow spiritually by dedicating all our actions to Sri Ramakrishna. This belief is the primary motive force behind the Ramakrishna Movement. Long before Swamiji institutionalized this idea, Holy Mother pioneered this new path leading to the new ideal. Holy Mother demonstrated how to become totally identified with Sri Ramakrishna by working for him. Swami Yogananda made a wonderful observation in this regard, which I quote: At Vrindavan, Holy Mother had many spiritual experiences. One day her companions found her in deep Samadhi. They uttered the name of the Lord Krishna in her ears and tried to bring her mind down. They could not. I then repeated the name of Sri Ramakrishna with all my might and strength of voice. Then Holy Mother seemed to come down to the ordinary sense-plane. During such periods of ecstasy, her manner of speech, her voice, her way of taking food, her mode of walking and her general behavior were exactly like those of the Master. The scriptures mention a spiritual state known as ‘Tadatmya Bhava’, being at one with God…Holy Mother forgot her own separate existence and became one with him. When I put to her some intricate questions about spiritual matters, shortly after her states of Samadhi, she replied in a God-intoxicated mood, very much like Sri Ramakrishna, that is, in the same manner characteristic of the Master, using even the same easy style of expression with metaphors and parables. We were amazed to see the spirit of Sri Ramakrishna unified with her. It was unique. We realized that the Master and Holy Mother were essentially one, though appearing in separate forms.[14] Once a disciple questioned Swami Saradananda why Holy Mother took only two or three minutes to initiate a disciple, while he took about half an hour. The Swami replied, “The very touch or will of Holy Mother is sufficient assurance that the disciple had surrendered to, and had been accepted by, Sri Ramakrishna. In my case, I need to spend some time in meditation before I receive that assurance.[15]

Holy Mother was the Vijnana ideal in flesh & blood. The most noted of Sri Ramakrishna’s disciples were monks. Though they were involved in preaching, philanthropy and administration, they all lived outside the family. Even Sri Ramakrishna himself, though married, had nothing to do with family. But in Holy Mother, we find the unique example of one who lived in the circle of her relatives and bore the worries of such a life to the fullest extent, but at the same time kept intact her Viveka and Vairagya.

She was wife, nun and mother at the same time.[16] These are mutually conflicting situations in life. But Holy Mother harmonized them in her life. She was married to Sri Ramakrishna at the age of five. Till the end of his life she was his companion, fully participating in his spiritual ideals. Being the wife of a spiritual teacher who remained a celibate for life and insisted on celibacy as an essential discipline of spiritual life, she remained a nun in spite of her married condition. As such she had no children of the body, but she had a large number of devotees and disciples, to whom she was a mother. In relation to them she displayed all the love and sweetness which a woman reveals when she receives fulfilment as a mother. In this respect, Holy Mother is a unique figure in world history. There have been great wives, great nuns and great mothers, but none who have been all of these at the same time. Holy Mother, therefore, reveals a new possibility in the field of womanly character. This is perhaps why Nivedita called her Sri Ramakrishna’s final word as to the ideal of womanhood. Holy Mother demonstrated that wifely devotion is possible without physical attraction, that maternal love can be manifested without oneself bearing children, and that the highest spirituality can be cultivated even in the midst of daily life in the world.

Although Swamiji & Holy Mother had totally different mechanisms for delivering the message of Sri Ramakrishna, both of them were essentially on the same page, at all times. This equivalence is not obvious always, but we find glimpses during moments of crises and dilemma in Swamiji’s life. In March 1898 there was an outbreak of plague in Calcutta. Swamiji immediately made plans for relief work, but there was no money. He told his brother disciples, “We shall sell the land we have purchased for the Math. We are monks. We must be ready to sleep under trees and live on alms as we did before. Must we care for monastery and possessions when by selling them, we could relieve thousands of helpless people suffering before our own eyes?” Swamiji had such a strong personality that his brother disciples could not dissuade him. Swami Shivananda however said, “Swamiji, you always consult Holy Mother about important matters. Will you not consult with her before selling the Math?” Swamiji immediately went to Holy Mother in Calcutta, accompanied by Swami Brahmananda, Shivananda and Saradananda. There Swamiji said, “Mother, there is no money to serve the plague-stricken people. I am planning to sell the Math property and use that money for relief work. We are monks. We can live under trees. We need your permission.” Holy Mother had always supported Swamiji’s projects. But on this matter, she did not agree. She said, “My son, you cannot sell the Math property. This is not your Math. It belongs to the Master. You are my heroic sons. You can indeed spend your lives under trees. But my children who will come in the future will not be able to live like that. This Math is for them…Will the purpose of Belur Math end after conducting only one relief work? The Master’s mission has many objectives. The infinite ideas of the Master will spread all over the world in the future. His mission will continue through ages.[17]

Although this looks like Holy Mother disagreed with Swamiji, what actually happened was something very deep. A lot of resentment had built up in some of the direct disciples regarding Swamiji’s modern methods of organization. So, in the course of this dilemma, when Holy Mother declared that the Math, and the organization associated with it, was actually the will of Sri Ramakrishna, everyone fell in line.

Who actually started this wonderful organization? It is interesting to study the dynamics of its genesis. It is popular knowledge that Swamiji hit upon the idea of organization while he was in the West. That is a fact. But that is not the whole truth. Holy Mother once said to a disciple: “How much I wept and prayed to the Master for my children! That is why you find Math and Mission centers everywhere today. After the Master’s demise his disciples renounced the world, found a temporary shelter and for a few days lived together. Then one by one they went out independently and began to wander. That made me very sad. I prayed to the Master, ‘O Lord, you incarnated as a man and spent your life with a few disciples. Now has everything ended with your passing away? In that case what need was there for your embodiment entailing so much suffering? I have seen in Vrindavan and Benares so many holy men living on alms and sleeping under trees. There is no lack of sadhus of that type. I cannot bear to see my children, who have renounced all for your sake, wandering about for a morsel of food. It is my prayer, O Lord that those who give up the world for your sake may not suffer for want of simple food and clothing. My children should live together, clinging to you and your teachings; people of the world should come to them and get peace of mind by hearing your words from them. That is why you incarnated yourself in a human form.’”[18] When a person like Holy Mother prays, it carries infinite power with it. The Ramakrishna movement and the monastic organization that is at the back of it sprang from the resolution she made in her pure and powerful mind. She is the bedrock on which Sri Ramakrishna’s spiritual edifice is built. That is the power of the Cult aspect. She is, in a very real sense, the mother who gave birth to the spiritual movement associated with Sri Ramakrishna’s name.

We saw that Sri Ramakrishna had a divine revelation that the spiritual path for mankind would be Bhakti-mishrita-Karma-Yoga. Later on, when Swamiji was formulating the new doctrine for the movement, in his famous Karma Yoga lectures, he narrates a beautiful story. A young monk went to a forest and practiced Yoga for a long time. One day, some birds disturbed him during his meditation. He looked at them with anger. The birds got burnt to ashes. He was overjoyed at this development of power. After sometime he had to go to the town to beg his food. He went, stood at a door, and said, ‘Mother, give me food.’ The lady of the house said, ‘Wait a little, my son.’ The sadhu thought, ‘You wretched woman, how dare you make me wait! You do not know my power yet.’ While he was thinking thus the lady said again: ‘My son, don’t think too much of yourself. I am not a bird you can burn.’ He was astonished. When the woman came with food, he fell at her feet and said, ‘Mother, how do you know about what happened deep in the forest?’ She said, ‘My son, I do not know your Yoga or your Sadhana. I am a common everyday woman. I made you wait because my husband is ill, and I was nursing him. All my life I have struggled to do my duty. When I was unmarried, I did my duty to my parents; now that I am married, I do my duty to my husband; that is all the Yoga I practice. But by doing my duty I have become illumined; thus I could read your thoughts and know what you had done in the forest.’[19]

Through this story, Swamiji is essentially telling us that working for the love of God, coupled with Brahmacharya[20] is enough for our spiritual awakening. This was in fact a story from the Mahabharata. But, when Swamiji explained it, there was tremendous life force in his words. Where did that force come from? It came from what he directly saw in Dakshineswar and Cossipore, in the life and personality of Holy Mother. He knew that this was not just another fairy tale. This could happen. In fact, it had happened. By the way, did you notice how similar the personality of that woman in the story was with that of Holy Mother?

Recall the Shodashi Puja that Sri Ramakrishna performed on Phalaharini Kali Puja night. Sri Ramakrishna informed Holy Mother that she was to come to his room at around midnight. She went. He made her sit on a stool, which he had duly consecrated. Then he invoked the presence of the Divine Mother of the Universe in Sri Sharada Devi and worshipped her as one would ritually worship an idol. She went into Nirvikalpa Samadhi. Around day-break, she came back to normal consciousness, got up and went to her room in the Nahabat.[21] This information we find in her biographies.

We need to imagine a little bit here. Then we will understand what I am trying to say. Remember that Holy Mother was an ordinary household lady, for all practical purposes. She too had fixed duties to perform. So, when her husband asked her to come to his room by midnight, how did she come? She had a household to run. That night, she must have prepared food for quite a good number of people. She must have served them food. After that, she would have cleaned the eating place and the vessels. She must have done all these. Then she must have bathed. Only then would she have gone to her husband’s room. Similarly, next day morning, coming down from Samadhi, she goes back to her room, for what? For rest? Where is rest for a lady of the house?! Early morning she must have collected milk for preparing chana for her husband (he needed it as a staple diet). After that, she would have begun the innumerable daily duties such as preparing breakfast, washing clothes, drying them up, etc. She didn’t claim any privileges after her Nirvikalpa Samadhi!

Moreover, let us remember that one becomes fit to experience this kind of Samadhi only after the most rigorous Sadhana done for a long time. In this instance we find this lady doing all her daily duties, and then she is ready for the highest spiritual experience directly after that! It makes us wonder what must have been the attitude with which she had been working, if her preparation for Nirvikalpa Samadhi was the daily duties she performed! She herself used to say, “Sri Ramakrishna has left me behind to manifest the Motherhood of God to the world.[22] This is an important facet of her motherhood. She takes us by the hand and teaches us how to live and work so that we can participate in the spiritual consciousness of Sri Ramakrishna. This is the training a mother gives her child, making him aware of his paternal heritage.

Once while Swamiji embarked on his wanderings in North India, he prayed to Holy Mother that he might not return before attaining the highest realization. She blessed him profusely, but asked him whether he would not like to take leave of his mother Bhuvaneswari Devi. Swamiji addressed Holy Mother and replied, “You alone are my mother, and none else![23]

I end this essay by quoting Swamiji’s words about Holy Mother, “You have not yet understood the wonderful significance of Mother’s life, none of you. But gradually you will know. Without Shakti, there is no regeneration for the world.[24]


[1] Paraphrased from: Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda: Vol-3: Lectures from Colombo to Almora: First Public Lecture In The East (Delivered in Colombo) on 15th Jan 1897

[2] “Who is the deity we shall worship with our offerings?”: Hiranyagarbha Suktam: Rg Veda: 10.121

[3] Complete Works of Sister Nivedita: Vol-1: Master as I saw him: Ch.-XVIII: Swami Vivekananda And His Attitude To Buddha: Pg: 178

[4] Sri Sharada Devi, the Great Wonder: Pg: 56 & 143

[5] Ibid: Pg: 34


[7] Sri Sharada Devi, the Great Wonder: Pg: 37

[8] Sri Sharada Devi & her Divine Play by Swami Chetanananda: Pg: 627

[9] Complete Works of Sister Nivedita: Vol-1: Master as I saw him: Ch.-X: Calcutta & Holy Women: Pg: 105-106

[10] Adapted-Cf: Sri Sharada Devi, the Holy Mother by Swami Tapasyananda; 1958; Sri Ramakrishna Math, Chennai: Pg: 270-277

[11] Sri Sharada Devi & her Divine Play by Swami Chetanananda: Pg: 266

[12] Cf: Sri Ramakrishna & His Divine Play: Swami Saradananda; 2003; Vedanta Society of St. Louis: Page: 361

[13] Adapted-Cf: Sri Sharada Devi, the Holy Mother by Swami Tapasyananda; 1958; Sri Ramakrishna Math, Chennai: Pg:270-277

[14] Sri Sharada Devi, the Great Wonder: a compilation; 1994; Advaita Ashrama, Kolkata: Pg: 43 & 44

[15] Ibid: Pg: 37

[16] Adapted-Cf: Sri Sharada Devi, the Holy Mother by Swami Tapasyananda; 1958; Sri Ramakrishna Math, Chennai: Pg:275-276

[17] Sri Sharada Devi & her Divine Play by Swami Chetanananda: Pg: 202-203

[18] Sri Sharada Devi, the Great Wonder: Pg: 164-165

[19] Cf: Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda: Vol-1; Karma Yoga: Chapter-IV: What is duty?

[20] Just before he narrated this story, Swamiji had elaborated on the necessity of Brahmacharya (chastity) for spiritual awakening. Hence, the story has to be understood against the background of ideas in the main lecture.

[21] Sri Sharada Devi & her Divine Play, by Swami Chetanananda: Pg: 61-66

[22]Sri Sharada Devi & her Divine Play, by Swami Chetanananda: Pg: 424

[23] Life of Swami Vivekananda by Eastern & Western Disciples: Vol-1: Pg: 243-244

[24] Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda: Vol-7: Epistles: No. XXV : From U. S.A in 1894 to Swami Shivananda

The Superior Teacher

Revered Secretary Maharaj, Revered Maharajjis assembled here, distinguished speakers on the dais, and dear teachers, today is the 2nd day of the Annual Celebrations of this Ashrama. We are having a Teachers’ Convention today. Before I begin my lecture, I wish to ask you all a question. This question is for my benefit. How many of you have some teaching experience? Those of you, who have five years of teaching in a classroom, please raise your hand. (Around 70% of the audience raises their hands.) You see, the topic given to me us ‘The Superior Teacher’. Excellence in teaching requires fine-tuning of the teaching experience. You don’t start off your teaching career as a teacher-par-excellence. So, what I am going to tell you today will be addressed mainly to those of you who have already had some teaching experience. The rest of you, who are probably studying B.Ed now, may keep my ideas in mind and implement them as and when you get the opportunity in the future.

I think it was George Bernhard Shaw who was once asked which was the most dangerous profession. He had replied that the most dangerous profession was teaching. His argument was – if a doctor commits a mistake, it gets buried six feet underground; if a lawyer commits a mistake, it hangs six feet above the ground; but if a teacher commits a mistake, it destroys six hundred years of his country’s future! Our profession is that important!

I have been associated with the teaching – learning activities in Ramakrishna Mission for the last ten years. You all know that Ramakrishna Mission has pioneered nationalistic education in India and has gained enormous experience in the last 100 years. I am going to present before you the best practices of our Ramakrishna Mission teachers. We believe that the high quality of education for which Ramakrishna Mission has become synonymous today is because of the high quality of our teachers. Hence, if I explain to you the practices of our Ramakrishna Mission teachers, that would serve as pointers to you, as a benchmark, regarding how to become a superior teacher.

Analyzing the distinguishing characteristics of the superior teachers in our Institutions, I have been able to categorize them under three cardinal rules for teachers.

The first cardinal rule for being a superior teacher is ‘Patience & cheerfulness’. Enormous patience is required when dealing with students. I remember seeing a documentary once in which a very old man asks his son if it is a Sunday. The son answers that it is indeed Sunday. Sometime later, the old father again asks the same question. When the old man asks the same question for the third time, the son loses his patience and yells at him. Then the old man brings out an old diary. In it he had recorded something that had happened about 30 years ago when that son was a 5-year old boy. The old man had written: Today, my son asked me the questions ‘why is the crow black?’ a total of thirty-two times and each time I had lovingly replied that black is the natural color of the crow!

Children tend to forget very quickly. You can’t help it. They forget. We need to keep on repeating the same thing again and again, and put in processes to help them internalize the points we tell them. We need to keep this point in mind when we discipline the kids. It won’t do if we just mention the rules of behavior once and then expect the kids to remember them. They just won’t. And we shouldn’t end up concluding that the child is willfully ignoring our advice. There was a Sufi saint who was entertaining some friends one day. He had served them tea in some very costly china cups. After the tea, he called his son and asked him to carefully take the empty china cups and give them to his wife in the kitchen for cleaning. He told the boy to be careful about the china. Then he slapped him hard. His friends asked him, ‘Hey, the boy hasn’t done anything wrong. Maybe he will be careful with the china. Why did you beat him before he has committed a mistake?’ The Sufi saint replied, ‘What is the use of beating him after he drops the cups and breaks them?’ We have to take care to see that we don’t end up behaving like this.

Disciplining is a difficult job. It takes lot of patience. Lot of repetition is required. You need to clearly specify what rules you want to be followed in your class. In fact, when I was in our Along School, I had announced that the first few days of a new academic year, the teachers would concentrate on just explaining the behavior they expected out of their students in their class. The teachers would first of all have the rules clearly written down. Then they would dictate them to their students. Then they would explain those rules to their students and ensure that each student understood each rule. The underlying idea of disciplining is to train the child to enter into the complex system of processes and procedures that exist in our present day society. Just look around you. Everywhere, it is system, process & procedure that operate. Take this very convention for example. You all didn’t just walk in today. The whole thing must have started a month ago. From this office here, notices would have gone to your schools and colleges. Then your school or college would have announced appropriately for your information. Then you would have registered your name in the specified place and manner. That is how the present day world works. The child has to be trained to deal with this. The whole idea of disciplining is this training – how to adopt oneself to this ever expanding network of systems and procedures.

We teachers will have to constantly introspect whether we ourselves are the cause of indiscipline in our students. An ordinary teacher learns to correct and train his student. But a superior teacher learns to respect his student as an individual. Swami Vivekananda wrote to Swami Brahmananda once, ‘Take care of how you trample on the least rights of others.’ You all remember the famous drama written by George Bernhard Shaw called Pygmalion. In that drama, Professor Higgins undertakes to train a rustic flower-girl into a very sophisticated lady. After she becomes a lady accepted in the highest social circles in London, she explains what actually made her a lady from her humble beginnings. She says it wasn’t the meticulous training of Prof Higgins. She says she became a lady the moment Colonel Pickering called her ‘Miss Doolittle’!

We ourselves are not clear what we want the child to do. All that we know is what the child shouldn’t do. A superior teacher has a clear idea of what the student must do and not just what he shouldn’t be doing. Let me explain what I am trying to tell. A young mother was once walking on the road with her small child. She met her friend on the way. As happens when two ladies meet, they started talking. The child got bored. Children get bored very easily. So this child asked its mother, ‘Mother, can I play with that dog?’ ‘No.’ after a few minutes, ‘Mother, can I go over to that shop and see those toys?’ ‘No.’ Again, after a few minutes, ‘Mother, will you get me an ice-cream?’ ‘No, ice-cream causes sore throat.’ The child started crying. The mother tells her friend, ‘Have you seen a child like this? So difficult to control; starts crying anywhere and everywhere.’ We are always telling the child what not to do. If we specify what the child should do, maybe children will be disciplined better.

When I was in Along, I noticed something very interesting. I was on the corridor outside the classrooms and I was observing a particular class. A boy in that class was seeing outside the window. He was intrigued by a butterfly outside. You know, in the North-east, you have very large and colorful butterflies. The teacher was teaching something, perhaps mathematics. This boy got up and asked the teacher if he could go out of the class. The teacher asked why. He said he wanted to go near and see that wonderful butterfly. The teacher flew into a rage and shouted him down. After sometime, that very boy stood up and said he had to go pee. The teacher allowed him. I was observing. The boy went out, didn’t go anywhere near the toilet, went out to the garden, played around the butterfly and came back! Just see what happened here. That teacher had ‘taught’ the boy to tell a lie! So, we need to be very, very careful.

Our main problem is we forget that communicating with children is different from talking to adults. Suppose I am to address this audience here today regarding maintaining silence it is sufficient to say ‘It will be good if silence is maintained here in keeping with the decorum of the Ashrama’. Do you think this statement would mean anything to students? What idea do they have about an Ashrama’s decorum? If I were to address an audience of students I should have been much more direct. Then they would have understood. Listen to a story.

There was once a couple who had trouble handling their son. There was no way they could convince him that paper should not be torn. He had developed a strange habit. Wherever and whenever he got a piece of paper or a book or a magazine, immediately he would tear it to bits. They had consulted educational experts, counselors, doctors and even psychiatrists, but to no avail. One day, a good friend of the boy’s father came to their house and stayed with them for a week. During that time, the boy became very close to this man. One night, after dinner, the parents explained their dilemma regarding the boy’s inexplicable behavior to this man. And from the next day, the parents found that the boy had stopped tearing paper! They were shell-shocked. Where experts in the field of education and medicine and psychology had failed, this ordinary man had succeeded. They asked him about it. His reply is note-worthy. He said, “I took him on my lap, looked him in his eye and told him, ‘Look here, son. Don’t tear paper. You should use paper to write.’ You see, what happened with him is, all of you tried to do so many things with him, except tell him directly not to tear paper. If only one of you had told him explicitly what to do, the boy would have understood and the problem would have stopped long ago.”

So, the first cardinal rule is – We have to be patient and cheerful. The second cardinal rule is something that the Jesuits always say. You know the Jesuits; they have made some great contributions to education. Saint Ignatius Loyola used to say, ‘To teach Mathematics to John, you need to know two things. You need to know Mathematics. And you need to know John.’ Please try to understand this statement. You need to know your subject. You must be thorough in your understanding of your subject. You make only one statement. But, there are 40 minds in your class. All may not understand what you said. You will need to tailor your statement in as many different ways as possible so that every mind in that class understands. You must plan your class. You know, you must have your lesson plan, your evaluation schedule and all that stuff that you learn in your B.Ed class. That is a vital requisite. But the other part of the Jesuits’ saying is even more important. You must know John. You must know your student in as much detail as possible. You must know the child’s home background. You must make notes about each student in a journal. Every data, every bit of information and your observation about that child must be present in that journal. The Jesuits have another wonderful saying. They say, ‘A child that gets love at home comes to the school to learn; a child that is not loved at home comes to the school to get love & affection.’ Please remember this marvelous saying. Problems at home reflect in the behavior of the student in class. Dysfunctional family reflects as inability to concentrate or as general restlessness in the child. Then there are many other symptoms such as ADD or ADHD or Dyslexia that may also be contributing to the child’s lack of focus. Today, most school boards have mandated that schools must have a dedicated counselor who has psychological expertise. But I hold that each teacher has to be a counselor.

So the 1st Cardinal Rule is ‘Patience & Cheerfulness’. The 2nd Cardinal Rule for being a superior teacher is ‘To teach Mathematics to John, you must know Mathematics & you must know John’. Now we come to the third rule. You must love your job. You must have a sense of pride in your job as a teacher. Today, it is a matter of great pride to say that I am a space scientist in ISRO. Do we feel the same sense of pride when saying ‘I am a teacher’? That is needed. The child may not consciously understand all this pride stuff. But it will intuitively grasp whether we love our job or hate it. If we love our job, our students will start respecting us automatically.

You know, there is no such thing as a difficult subject. Some of us end up feeling – Oh! I teach history. Mathematics or Physics has prestige, but not history or civics. That is to be avoided. Listen to a story. A man once purchased a pet dog. He was greatly enamored with that pet. He purchased lots of good books on how to rear a pet dog, read all of them and patiently went about doing all those things mentioned in them. In all of them, it said that pet dogs love cod-liver-oil, and that it was absolutely essential for the pet to grow up fit and fine. Well, our man brings home a big bottle of cod-liver-oil. He pours some oil onto a large spoon, catches the dog, splices the dog between his legs, forces open its mouth and pours the oil into it. The dog pukes out the oil and runs away. The owner is flabbergasted. Something must be wrong with his pet. It simply doesn’t love cod-liver-oil. But every day, he did the same exercise. Then one day, while he was maneuvering the spoon into the dog’s mouth, the dog jerked strongly, and the bottle of cod-liver-oil fell down and broke. The owner was now livid with anger. But, he was surprised to see that the dog was greedily lapping up the oil that had spilled onto the floor, and in a few minutes, it had licked the whole floor clean!

So, the dog did not hate cod-liver-oil. It just rejected the method through which it was fed its favorite cod-liver-oil! Do we have a lesson here, as teachers aiming to be superior teachers? Let us all kindly think deeply over it.

Some of you may have a question – how to love our job? There is such a thing called Shared Vision. You need to key yourself to a larger vision in order to get pride in the small job that you do. A senior Swamiji in our Order used to say ‘You may be doing a clerk’s job; but why do you have to do it with a clerk’s mind? Do it with the mind of the President of India.’ Please think about this statement. Imagine the mind of the President of India. He may be living in a small room in Delhi. But every moment he is thinking about the whole country. Every decision he takes, he will pause and think how it will affect the remotest village of his country. So also, we may be teaching in a small class room to only 40 students. But we may be aware in our minds about the future of those students, of the 600 years of our country’s future; how my teaching will affect them.

When I was a student, I was a member of Vivekananda Balaka Sangha in our Bangalore Ramakrishna Ashrama. There was a senior Swamiji of Ramakrishna Order called Swami Ranganathanandaji who later became a President of Ramakrishna Mission. He used to visit Bangalore Ashrama once or twice every year. Once when he came, he spent some time with us. We were all school-college boys, volunteers in the Sangha. It was afternoon, after his lunch. We all sat on the ground in front of him. He asked us ‘Can you tell me which is the golden period of Indian history?’ We were all good students and we started giving our answers. One of us said it was the Ashoka’s reign. Another said it was the Gupta period, especially under Samudra Gupta & Chandragupta-II. Yet another said it was under King Harshavardhana. The Mughal period under Akbar-Shah Jehan was also said by some. Swamiji was just looking at all of us when we were giving our answers. Then one of us asked the Swamiji, ‘What is the correct answer, Swamiji?’ What he said was marvelous. He said, ‘You know, I was recently in Japan. There I met some students, just like this. I asked them the very same question – what is the golden period of Japanese history? And they all answered ‘Swami, the golden period of Japan is the future and we are going to make it.’ When I heard that, I immediately felt that those young boys couldn’t have hit upon that answer all by themselves. There must have been some teacher who must have put that amazing idea in their minds. That is what is called ‘Shared Vision’.

You have all heard of NASA, the American organization that deals with its space programmes. Sometime in the 1960s, J F Kennedy announced that NASA would put a man on the moon. That was the goal he gave. Once he was visiting NASA’s office. When he was walking down the corridor, he met a man. That man was the janitor, whose job was to clean the toilets and corridors of NASA. He shook hands with that janitor and asked him what he did in NASA. That janitor replied, ‘Mr. President, I am putting a man on the moon.’ He didn’t feel ‘I am an insignificant toilet cleaner in NASA’. Instead he was able to identify himself with the mission of the organization. A superior teacher will be able to do that with respect to his job of teaching.

Before I wrap up my lecture, I will summarize the main points I have placed before you.

A superior teacher is found to follow three cardinal rules:

  1. He/she is always patient and cheerful.
  2. He/she realizes that ‘to teach Mathematics to John, you should know Mathematics and you should know John’.
  3. He/she will love his/her job of teaching. He/she will have genuine pride in being a teacher.

I pray to Guru Maharaj that all of you may be inspired to raise yourselves from an ordinary teacher to a superior teacher. Thanks for your patient hearing.


How to teach Science & Maths

JBNSTS Science Teachers Training Program


Ramakrishna Mission Vidyamandira (Ekalavya Model Residential School), Jhargram

Revered Swami Shantimayanandaji Maharaj, Revered Swami Shubhakaranandaji Maharaj, distinguished guests on the stage and learned colleagues: it is a pleasure to be present here amongst you all today and to deliver the keynote address at the JBNSTC Science Teachers Training Program. I came to this school exactly one year ago, just a day before Ramakrishna Mission took over this school from the Government. Today, when I entered the campus, I was wonderstruck at how much it had changed. Indeed, the efforts of Shantanu Maharaj are paying off, and in an incredible manner. Who would have ever imagined seeing this kind of development in this remote school! And that too in so short a time! It will not be an exaggeration to say that Bhagawan Sri Ramakrishna is using Shantanu Maharaj and his team to work up a revolution here in this Ekalavya School at Jhargram.

Today onwards, JBNSTC will be conducting a workshop for the Science and Math teachers. I am given to understand that there are teachers from various schools of Jhargram.

I too have been in this education area for the last decade. I know what problems areas exist for us. I am also aware of how ill-prepared we are for handling those problems. It is a tough job we are doing. In fact, our job is also very dangerous. You know, once George Bernard Shaw was asked about the most dangerous profession in the world. He replied that it was ‘teaching’. His humorous argument was like this: if a lawyer makes a mistake, it hangs six feet above the ground, and then the whole world forgets about it. If a doctor makes a mistake, it is buried six feet underground, then everyone forgets about it and the world moves on. But if a teacher makes a mistake, six hundred years of the country’s history gets damaged!

When I was asked to look after a school in Arunachal Pradesh, I made a special study of the Jesuit philosophy of Education. One particular saying of the Jesuit Father Ignatius Loyala seemed to sum up the entire philosophy of teaching, for me. He said, “If you wish to teach Math to John, you should know Math and you should know John.” Just look at this statement!

We must know our subject very well. After some years of teaching the ‘syllabus’, we become experts, so to speak. We develop the habit of going to classes without any preparation. We are confident of winging it! I remember seeing some books in our Bangalore Ashrama. There was a very revered Swamiji there long back called Swami Yatishwaranandaji. He was a great scholar and a highly venerated monk. Yet, till the last, he would prepare notes for his lectures! Those books had those notes; painstakingly he would write down all the points he would deal with in the class. He naturally had no need to such notes. It was all at his fingertips. Yet…

We should ‘know’ our student. What is meant by this? Is it that we should know about his family background? The problems he faces at home? Those things too matter. But what is more important is that the boy is not a blank slate. He comes with some fund of information in his young mind. Can we understand that? Unless we know that, we can never really teach him effectively. The problem is this – we too were students once upon a time, and we too had struggled with ideas; for a long time, the concepts and principles made no sense for us too. Then, the constant effort we put in bore fruit and connections were made with pre-existing ideas in our brain! And we have forgotten how exactly those connections were made. If only we can recall those moments, we will be able to really ‘know’ our student!

I am sure you all will agree with me that teaching Science and Math is especially challenging. Teaching any subject, for that matter, is a tough job. But more so with these two subjects. Why? Because they are very dry. Consider History or Literature. There are stories, plots, sub-plots, poems, intrigues, heroes and villains; there is always an excitement about what will happen next! That is completely absent with Science & Math. Just lifeless ideas and numbers! Have you wondered why there has been no blockbuster Bollywood movie on Science? Our subjects don’t lend themselves to that kind of treatment.

I wish to place two ideas before you today. Actually I will be sharing these two ideas, which are actually my life-lessons during my stint as a teacher. First, the importance of remembering facts and principles; second, some techniques I picked up on the way.

We must acknowledge the fact that we need two different approaches while teaching Science & Math. The approach we adopt for the students up to secondary level is different from the approach we adopt for teaching the HS students. But, in both cases, we need to emphasize the habit of learning by-heart a whole lot of facts. I am afraid, we don’t do this. Our present examination system is doing away with this habit. And it is working to the detriment of our boys. Unless the boy knows a whole lot of things my memory, he won’t be able to play with ideas. Playing with ideas, calls for a solid fund of facts in the brain. And what is Science & Math teaching-learning if it’s not playing with ideas! Just take a look at the ancient tols in our country. The first few years of the student’s life was spent in rote-learning. If the student could learn by-heart a certain set of books, he could graduate to the higher education. Then would start the most interesting play with the ideas which the boy could recall from memory!

For instance, in our Aalo School, I had to teach force analysis in Mechanics in Class-XI. I found out that the students had no clear understanding of trigonometry. During those days, trigonometry was taught in Class 9 & 10. So I passed on this feedback to teachers who handled those classes. The next batches became better!

Similarly, once our HS Chemistry had resigned in the middle of a year. So I had to handle Chemistry for Class XII. While teaching the class, I found that the students had trouble working numerical problems in Electrochemistry, especially the ones on Nernst’s Equation, etc. I found out why that was so. The students had to have a conception of logarithms for working these problems. And wonder of wonders, the CBSE in its great wisdom had removed logarithms from the entire school syllabus. Hence it was never taught! So, I sat with my teachers and decided that we would give an introductory class on logarithms to our Class XI students. That too bore great results later on for us.

Remembering facts and numbers must become a passion with students. It must seem rewarding to the students. We need to encourage students to develop their own ‘memory development techniques’. Mnemonics, for instance, could be very helpful.

  • To memorize the colors of therainbow: the phrase ‘Richard Of York Gave Battle In Vain’ – each of the initial letters matches the colors of the rainbow in order (Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Indigo, Violet). Other examples are the phrase ‘Run over your granny because it’s violent’ or the imaginary name ‘Roy G. Biv’.
  • To memorize the North AmericanGreat Lakes: the acronym HOMES – matching the letters of the five lakes (Huron, Ontario, Michigan, Erie, and Superior)
  • To memorizecolor codes as they are used in electronics: the phrase “Bill Brown Realized Only Yesterday Good Boys Value Good Work” represents in order the 10 colors and their numerical order: black (0), brown (1), red (2), orange (3), yellow (4), green (5), blue (6), violet or purple (7), grey (8), and white (9).
  • To memorize chemical reactions, such asredox reactions, where it is common to mix up oxidation and reduction, the short phrase ‘LEO (Lose Electron Oxidation) the lion says GER (Gain Electron Reduction)’. An alternate mnemonic is ‘Oil Rig’ can be used – which is an acronym for ‘Oxidation is losing, Reduction is gaining’.
  • To memorize the names of the planets, use theplanetary mnemonic: Each of the initial letters matches the name of the planets in our solar system (Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, [Pluto]).

Mean Very Evil Men Just Shortened Up Nature

Mary’s ‘Virgin’ Explanation Made Joseph Suspect Upstairs Neighbor

My Very Easy Method Just Speeds Up Naming Planets

Many Very Educated Men Justify Stealing Unique Ninth

My Very Educated Mother Just Served Us Nachos

  • Mnemonic phrases or poems can be used to encode numeric sequences by various methods. One common one is to create a new phrase in which the number of letters in each word represents the according digit of pi. For example, the first 15 digits of the mathematical constantpi (3.14159265358979) can be encoded as ‘Now I need a drink, alcoholic of course, after the heavy lectures involving quantum mechanics’; ‘Now’, having 3 letters, represents the first number, 3, and so on. Piphilology is the practice dedicated to creating mnemonics for pi.
  • To remember the order oftaxa in biology

(Domain, Kingdom, Phylum, Class, Order, Family, Genus, Species):

Dear King Philip Come Over For Good Spaghetti/Soup

Do Kings Play Chess On Friday Golf Saturday?

Do Kings Play Chess On Fat Green Stools?

Did King Paul Cry Out For Good Soup?

Do Kings Play Chess On Fine Green Silk?

Dumb Kids Prefer Candy Over Fancy Green Salad

Dumb Kids Playing Catch On Freeway Get Squashed

Do Kids Pass Chemistry Or Flunk General Science?

Does King Phillp Come Over For Grape Soda

Don’t Kill Parrot’s Carrots Or Face Gruesome Sicknesses

  • To remember the lifecycle of cells

(Interphase, Prophase, Metaphase, Anaphase, Telophase, Cytokinesis):

Idiotic Penguins Make Antarctica Too Cold

I Pee More After Tea Consumption

  • To remember the common functional groups

(Hydroxyl, Carbonyl, Carboxyl, Amine, Sulfhydryl, Phosphate, Methyl):

Hair Care Can Always Save People Money

  • To remember the processes that define living things:

MRS GREN: Movement; Respiration; Sensation; Growth; Reproduction; Excretion; Nutrition

  • Metabolism; Response; Homeostasis; Growth; Reproduction; Nutrition:

My Really Hungry Grasshopper Refuses Neglect

  • To remember the roles of reproductive organs in flowers:

Stamen are male; stigma (as in mother) are female

  • To remember the number of humps on types of camels:

D in Dromedary has one hump; B in Bactrian has two

  • To remember the 6 nutrients (Water,Carbohydrates, Proteins, Minerals, Vitamins, Lipids).

What Car Protects My Vital Lips?

Order of mathematical operations

PEMDAS- Parenthesis, Exponents, Multiplication & Division, Addition & Subtraction can be remembered by the phrase: ‘Please excuse my dear Aunt Sally’.

BEDMAS – Brackets (parenthesis), Exponents, Division & Multiplication, Addition & Subtraction

BIDMAS – Brackets, Indices (exponents), Division, Multiplication, Addition, Subtraction


ASTC stands for All Students Take Calculus, as well as the more simplified mnemonic Add Sugar To Coffee, which represents the trigonometric functions that are positive in each quadrant, beginning with the top right and continuing counterclockwise: All, sine, tangent, cosine – All Science Teachers Are Crazy – All Silver Tea Cups – Annie Spewed Terrible Curses

Remembering the definitions of sine, cosine, and tangent can be done by memorizing SOHCAHTOA, which helps to encode Sine = Opposite over Hypotenuse, Cosine = Adjacent over Hypotenuse, and Tangent = Opposite over Adjacent. These mnemonics are more useful if they can be recited in three groups of three words.

Other ways to remember SOHCAHTOA are:

Some Old Horses Can Always Hear Their Owner Approaching

Some Old Horse Came A-Hoppin’ Through Our Alley

Silly Old Henry Can’t Add Hundreds, Tens Or Anything

Some Old Hags Can’t Always Hide Their Old Age

Some Old Hippie Caught Another Hippie Tripping On Acid

SPH-CBH-TPB (sine = perpendicular/hypotenuse, cosine = base/hypotenuse, tangent = perpendicular/base)

Some People Have Curly Brown Hair Through Proper Brushing

Some People Have Curly Brown Hair Turned Permanently Black

Another odd permutation:

Oranges Have Segments, Apples Have Cores, Oranges Are Tangy

In Hindi, there is a funny mnemonic — Sona Chandi Tole Pandit Badri Prasad Har Har Bole, where:

Sona = Pandit / Har (sine = perpendicular/hypotenuse)

Chandi = Badri / Har (cosine = base/hypotenuse)

Tole = Prasad / Bole (tangent = perpendicular/base)

Let us remember that if we initiate our students into this interesting game of forming mnemonics, they will later on formulate creative ways by themselves. And that will go a long way in enabling effective teaching-learning in the higher classes. It is like building a large vocabulary when it comes to speaking a language. If you don’t have a good fat fund of words, what will you speak?

So, this is the first idea I wanted to share with you. The second idea I want to share with you all is – I have picked up some important techniques which I have used to great advantage with my students. I will explain them one by one.

We must try to provide a physical manifestation of the concepts we teach. For instance, while teaching fractions; consider we have to teach the concept of 2/7. Take a long stick and divide it into 7 parts. Place all the parts on the table and show how it can be called 7/7. If you take 2 parts away, then the arrangement would be called 2/7. A child who sees this demonstration will develop a new insight into numbers, which will blossom into something wonderful in the higher classes.

Why can’t we provide a rationale for the concept that is being taught? What do we do? We take up some idea like differential calculus. We open a standard text book, start dealing with the rules and then proceed to working out the numerical problems. Of course, our Indian boys and girls are really good at picking up unrelated bits of ideas and living their entire lives with those bits of nonsense running riot in their brains! I once read in a book how to introduce the students to the concept of Limits that forms the basis of differential calculus.

We all know the famous story of the hare and the tortoise. Let us assume that the tortoise is given a head start. After the tortoise runs for 1 hour, let us allow the hare to start running. Let us assume that in 1 hour, the tortoise has covered 100 meters. Let us assume that the hare covers this distance in 1 minute. Did the hare catch up with the tortoise? No. Why? Because in that 1 minute, the tortoise would have moved 1 inch more. Let the hare cover that 1 inch in say 1 second. Did the hare now catch up with the tortoise? No. Why? Because in that 1 second, the tortoise would have moved 1mm. Let the hare cover that distance in 1/100th of a second. Again, our linear logic tells us that the hare will never catch up with the tortoise. So, the four operations on numbers – addition, subtraction, multiplication & division – are incapable of analyzing this problem for us. We need a new operation now. And that is Calculus. When the time and distance divisions become smaller and smaller so that they approach the limit of zero, the hare will finally overtake the tortoise! Thus, in this case, the real world and mathematics will match only if we adopt this new tool called calculus.

We teachers have to provide a perspective for the concept we teach. We seldom do that. The ideas we teach are obvious to us. They need not be so obvious to our students. I recall; I was once teaching the concept of coefficient of thermal efficiency to Class IX students in Aalo. I used the standard example of the railway track, as given in the NCERT textbook. At the end of the class, I saw blank expressions in the eyes of my students. I delved inside their minds to find out where the disconnect had happened. Why hadn’t they understood what was to me a very simple concept? Do you know what I found out? Those students hadn’t ever seen a real railway track! The only tracks they had seen were in TV and movies. You never get to see the gap in the tracks in the movies or TV, you see.

How about making the students aware of multiple approaches to same problem? Many of us have the habit of teaching according to the ‘syllabuses’. Then there are the five-year or ten-year question papers. A lot of today’s education is governed by these two – syllabus & past question papers. I once overheard one of my teachers; a boy had asked him something; this sage replied, ‘Hey, that is not in your syllabus; they will never ask that in the Exam; don’t bother!’ And, we all worry – why don’t the students of the present generation respect us anymore?! Anyway, we need to make students aware of more than one method of approaching the same problem. Take the example of Factorization. Let us say, we need to find the factors of (x2+5x+6). This is exactly of the [x2+(a+b)x+ab] = (x+a)(x+b) form. With a=2 and b=3, we can factorize this expression as (x+2)(x+3). Well, that is one way of doing it. If we make the students work out many problems of this type,

Then there is another way too. Suppose we need to factorize (x2+5x+7). The students cannot do this with the technique we taught them. They will need another technique for this. Hence we will teach them about roots of the quadratic equation. : . Now, the original expression itself will be seen in a different form, not the [x2+(a+b)x+ab] form, but as (ax2+bx+c). Then we teach the students that these two forms of the quadratic equation are indeed one and the same, interchangeable.

Another important technique I learnt about teaching Science to students is to explain the historical background for those concepts. Take for instance thermodynamics. We know that there is the Zeroth Law of Thermodynamics. Now, how can someone name a law as the Zeroth Law? It is unimaginable. Listen to a story.

There was a numismatic exhibition. Many famous coin-collectors had put up their collections on exhibition. There was a prize for the rarest coin. The prize went to a person who had exhibited a coin which mentioned ‘53 BC’! Now, how can someone print BC on a coin? BC means before Christ. How the hell did the people at that time know that they were 53 years before the birth of Christ?! That coin was fake!

Similarly, with this Zeroth Law! How could anyone know that this was the Zeroth Law? Any sane person would have named it the First Law of Thermodynamics. What actually happened was this: the 1st, 2nd & 3rd Laws of Thermodynamics were enunciated long ago. Then, sometime in the 1930s, there was a British Science teacher called Fowler who was teaching Thermodynamics from a book written by two Indians Saha & Srivastava. In this book, on the 1st page itself, the two authors have mentioned the principle of equivalence of temperatures. Fowler realized that if the three known laws of thermodynamics have to stand, then this equivalence principle was fundamental. Hence, he couldn’t name it as the fourth law of thermodynamics and was constrained to name it the Zeroth Law! That is how it happened.

Lastly, I wish to emphasize the idea of teaching students to imagine vividly, in pictures. We have to understand this world around us. We need a language to do that. Mathematics evolved as that language. However, we can still think quite clearly about everything in this world without resorting to Math. This habit has to develop. After sufficient failure in dealing with this world purely in pictures, we will be forced to resort to Math; not before! The mistake we do is to introduce Math to students without allowing them to struggle with the situation purely armed with their imagination. For instance, take this problem[1]:

A boat carrying a large stone is floating on a lake. The stone is thrown overboard and sinks. The water in the lake, with respect to the shore

  1. Rises
  2. Drops
  3. Remains the same.

It is possible to imagine what happens here. The answer can be arrived at by purely imagination. Math is not required to answer this question. However, if we need to find out how much the boat will rise after the stone is thrown, we will need to use numbers, not until then.

So, I have shared some of my ideas about teaching Science & Math with you all. I believe I have set the tenor for the workshop. I hope the next three days will be profitable to all of you. I pray to Bhagawan Sri Ramakrishna to shower His blessings on you all and on this EMRS Jhargram School.


[1] These problems are called “Mazur’s Concept tests”.


{Delivered at Larsen & Toubro Ltd, MMHIC Headquarters, Godrej Towers, Newtown, Kolkata on 25th August 2014}

 Om sthapakaya cha dharmasya sarva dharma svarupine

Avatara varishtaya ramakrishaya te namaha.

Many thanks to Mrs Minakshi Bhattacharya for introducing me to you all; Revered Swami Sarvapriyanandaji Maharaj & dear friends, I begin today’s session by offering my pranams to Rev Swamiji here. Let me explain to you the details of today’s programme. First of all, I will speak for about 15 to 20 minutes on ‘Self-Management’ from the monastic point of view. Then Rev Swami Sarvapriyanandaji will speak for about 30 to 45 minutes on ‘Self-Management’ from the corporate point of view.

I worked in a corporate house just like this some 15 years ago. Then, I joined the Ramakrishna Mission. Ramakrishna Mission too is a corporate entity. It is also an organization, just as yours is. Of course, many will object saying that while yours is a ‘For-profit’ organization, Ramakrishna Mission is a ‘Non-profit’ organization. Yet, both are organizations, having rules and procedures and personnel and dealing with services and money and other kindred aspects concomitant with being an organization. Similarly, problems you find in your organization will be found in Ramakrishna Mission too. In fact, when I first joined the Mission, I would very keenly observe for these matching points. And then, what I discovered in each case was a paradigm altering view-point. I shall explain one of them to you today.

I remember my days in the corporate world. I remember very well that my entire life was governed by a foreboding sense of fear, of a perpetual apprehension. ‘What’s going to happen to me? Will my boss be kind to me with my annual performance appraisal? I hope I get a good rating this time. Does my boss know that the vital idea for that particular project came from me? I hope I get confirmed in my post this year. I hope that goof-up I made on that particular site doesn’t weigh down upon my personal records’ and stuff like that. I found that more often than not, my attention was pegged on the ‘other’ man out there, say, my boss or my seniors. So much of energy gets frittered away on things outside of me, on people around me. My happiness, my peace of mind depended on what the ‘other’ man out there felt about me! Although I felt this was ridiculous, I slowly started learning the mechanics of leading life like that; some of my friends in the company didn’t approve of it. I thought perhaps remaining aloof as they did from this ridiculous social rigmarole would keep them happy. But it didn’t. They would drink their fears away! I reckoned that it was better to go through the foolish social rigmarole than to drown oneself in the haze of alcohol and frustrated soft middle age! Anyway, what I was trying to tell you was that fear governed my life. And it wasn’t just me. So with all my friends; and the worst part of it was – so was it with my boss! I feared him; and he feared the one above him; and he also feared me, for he had no clue what I would do behind his back! And thus it went on. You see, fear is terrible. It leads to very strange situations. A man was once walking along a road. He saw that two policemen were walking behind him, a little far away. He stole a look at both of them. He suddenly felt that their faces and their animated body language seemed to tell him that both of them were discussing about him and that they suspected him about something. A fear enveloped him and he bolted. As soon as the two policemen saw that the man before them was running, they gave chase. He came across a huge iron gate. He jumped over it and entered a graveyard. There was a freshly dug out grave. He jumped into it and hid there. But it wasn’t long before the law enforcement officers caught him there. They asked him why he was hiding there. When they asked him that question, he realized that he had acted in haste and that he was never a suspect in the first place. He gave an answer which I appreciate a lot. He said, “Officer, you have asked a simple question. But I assure you that I cannot give you an equally simple answer to that question. All I can safely tell you is this – I am here because of you both, and the both of you are here because of me!

Our actions are most of the times knee-jerk reactions when we act out of fear. You won’t even know what real work is until you start working in a fear-free environment.

Then I joined Ramakrishna Mission and what a breath of fresh air it was! Don’t we have appraisals here? Yes we do. But then, we are free to remain as we wish, true to our own selves. Your suckering up to your immediate superior doesn’t affect your appraisal in any way. Here I found that one could truly remain true to himself and in that sort of environment alone does work become a joy. I used to feel surprised that work was stressful before. Now, work is a joy. I don’t need any further ‘entertainment’ after work for refreshing myself. The work I do is in itself quite refreshing to me. I don’t need to take vacations. In fact, ever since I joined Ramakrishna Mission, till date, I haven’t gone on a vacation. And I still feel fresh, rejuvenated. Don’t we have deadlines here? We manage huge institutions. Naturally, crises occur; deadlines have to be met; personnel problems arise; legal battles have to be fought; very similar to what you all face. But, the centering in our own self that is possible in Ramakrishna Mission makes it possible to experience a ‘flow’ in the job we do.

After a few years in the Mission, I analyzed where the difference was. I was able to pin it down to the view I had about myself. In a company like yours, I have value based on what my boss perceives about me. In this organization, my value is based on what I intrinsically am. Others’ perception doesn’t matter and doesn’t evaluate me. Suppose I were a manager in your company and I were to be made an Asst manager! Imagine the stigma that would attach to me! I would seriously consider resigning from my job. Not so in this Mission. Today I may be a Principal in a huge School or College. Tomorrow I may be manning a books show-room, selling books. My value hasn’t changed one single bit here. I am not evaluated by the post I hold now. I remain a monk, whether I am in the School at its helm or in a poultry-farm rearing chicken for our students hostel.

Then I analyzed how this change in my view about myself had come about in me, since my joining the Ramakrishna Mission. I was able to zone it down to one single practice that I was asked to perform every day. I was routinely allotted duties in the Ashrama I stayed in. I was asked to perform my allotted duties sincerely, in an ‘unattached’ fashion. Ah! The catch is there; most of us work sincerely even in an organization like yours. But then ‘unattached’ work – well, that is difficult. What exactly is this ‘unattached’ work? Let me tell you a story.

There was once a king whose close friend was a monk. This king, as you all can understand, had a very stressful job.  Indeed, what job can indeed be more stressful than that of an all-powerful, absolute monarch?  So, one day he went to meet his friend the monk in the forest and told him, ‘I am fed up with running this kingdom. I have decided to renounce it all and go somewhere and live a low-key, peaceful life.’ The monk commented, ‘Is that so? Well, let me see…you must certainly have made provisions for your successor?’ The king had made no such arrangement. His own son was but a small boy. But he was planning to choose someone from his large kingdom so that he could hand over its reins and be free. However, since he was a conscientious king, who took his kingship very seriously, there was a nagging fear that he might not get the right kind of successor who would care for his immense kingdom just the way he had done all these  years. The monk understood all this. He volunteered, ‘Say, why don’t you gift your kingdom to me?’ The king was overjoyed. Where could he get a better successor than his closest friend?! So, he gave away his kingdom to the monk. There was a visible relief on the king’s face now. The monk asked him, ‘Where will you go now? What is your next plan?’ The king said, ‘Well, I will now go to my palace, take some money, go to a neighboring kingdom. I know many trades. I will earn my livelihood there.’ The monk stopped him, ‘Hey, wait. Did you say ‘my palace’ just now? Remember that the palace, along with everything in the kingdom is now mine!’ The king was indeed taken aback. Yes, what the monk said was indeed true. Without another word, he turned and was about to go away when the monk stopped him and said, ‘Say, my friend, you said you are ready to go elsewhere and do some job and earn your living. What do you say if I offer you a job right here?’ This was indeed acceptable and he agreed. Then the monk said, ‘Well, you see, I have just come upon this huge kingdom. I am a monk. I live according the voice in my soul. I need a trust-worthy man to look after this beautiful kingdom on my behalf.  You have sufficient experience in running kingdoms. Say, I will fix a certain amount as salary for you.  Why don’t you run this kingdom on my behalf?’ The king readily agreed. Thus he went back to his palace and went about managing his kingdom exactly the same way as it was before. A month later, the monk came to meet the king in the palace. He asked the king, ‘How are you? Are you facing any problems now?’ The king now replied, ‘I am doing fine. Problems, yes, of course there are; but I and my team of ministers keep solving them on your behalf.’

That is how you do ‘unattached’ work. I was taught to offer all the work I do to the Lord. Thus I would do a whole lot of work in the course of the day, and then I would offer all that to the Lord and I was a free man once again. How do you offer ‘work’ to the Lord? Flowers and stuff we can offer. How does one offer an intangible thing like ‘work’ to the Lord? Well, you may have noticed that I began today’s programme with a prayer. I am now delivering my speech. I will finish it by uttering another prayer and go my way with the peace of mind that I did all this as a loving offering to my Lord.

I do not claim that I am an expert in all this, or that I am a perfected man. But this much is true; I have practiced these things, just as I have explained to you now. And I have reaped enormous benefits for myself. So much so that I am able to compare myself to my own condition before I joined Ramakrishna Mission with my condition thereafter. Sometimes I have felt, if I had been taught this wonderful practice even while I was working in the other organization, perhaps I wouldn’t have felt the need to leave it and join Ramakrishna Mission. For, is it not possible to work as I have delineated just now, in your company, for instance? Perhaps it is possible. I don’t know. But then, there is one thing. If I had not joined Ramakrishna Mission, perhaps I wouldn’t have picked up this mode of working at all! It wasn’t easy for me in Ramakrishna Mission either, picking up this mode of working ‘unattachedly’. Again and again, I would forget. That would invariably lead to inter-personal problems. Again and again I would pick myself up and go about it. Over the years, it became sort of a habit.

Later on, I read Swami Vivekananda’s books and came to know that he had envisaged such a revolution among the masses; you know – a revolution in their thinking, in their mode of working. According to Swami Vivekananda, it wasn’t enough that his monks alone work like this. He wanted that everyone in India should work like this – unattached; well, at least the majority should work like that. That is what he envisaged.

How are the masses to work ‘unattachedly’? Which form of God are they going to offer their work to? Well, they will offer their work to whichever form of God appeals to them. Also, one can work unattachedly even when one doesn’t believe in God. How? The organization itself will be his highest ideal. There will have to be an apotheosis of the organization. Recall for instance India’s freedom struggle. Most of the great men of that period considered our nation as their highest ideal, apotheosizing it to a Goddess, and every act of theirs was an offering to Her. Similarly, for those of us who do not or cannot believe in what we cannot see, then we will have to metamorphose our conception of the organization for which we work into the highest ideal and then consider our work as an offering to that metamorphosed version of our company. Why offer again, some may ask. Duty isn’t enough. Offering is required. There is a small difference. Duty is a compulsion. Offering is voluntary. I remember a friend telling me once. He had just returned from Japan. This was in the early 2000s. He said that his Japanese friend’s shift started from 8am and ended at 5pm. But every day he found his friend arrives at the factory at 7am and leave at 6pm. He checked to see if he claimed any OT benefits. No, he didn’t. He asked him. The Japanese friend told him that the two hours were for his country and the 8 hours were for his company. I was stunned when I heard this. No wonder a country no bigger than West Bengal is today the 3rd largest economy in the world.

I don’t know the basis of their thinking. But here, in our country, we have a strong philosophy that backs such an outlook. So, I am very optimistic that in the years to come, we will see innumerable people take to this mode of working; a mode of working which is actually a spiritual practice; a mode of working which yields worldly fruits as well as confers spiritual benefits on the worker.

I leave you all with these ideas. I shall meet you all again. Thank you for patiently hearing me. Now, I too will sit peacefully over there and listen to Rev Swami Sarvapriyanandaji. I must inform you all that Rev Swamiji is one of the most sought after speakers today in Ramakrishna Mission. I too look forward to an intellectual treat from him today.

Om shantih, shantih, shantihi. Harihi Om, Sri Ramakrishnarpanam astu.


Swami Vivekananda: His new monastic Order

Swami Nirvanananda Memorial Lecture


Ramakrishna Math, Bhubaneswar

on 25th July 2015

 Om sthapakaya cha dharmasya sarva dharma svarupine

Avatara varishtaya Ramakrishnaya te namaha.

Revered Secretary Maharaj, dear Mihir Maharaj and dear devotees and friends, generally, in our Order, we do not speak after our Revered Secretary Maharaj has spoken. Today I am making an exception because Revered Maharaj has himself asked me to speak after him.

I have come from Ramakrishna Mission Shilpamandira, Belur Math. It is a Polytechnic College where we give training to Diploma students. Belur Math, as you all know, is the headquarters of the worldwide Ramakrishna Math and Ramakrishna Mission, two organizations started by Swami Vivekananda.

Today’s topic for deliberation is ‘Swami Vivekananda: His new monastic Order’. The topic has the words ‘New monastic Order’. This suggests that there are at least two types of monastic orders – the old one and the new one. I will tell you some things about the old monastic order so that you will be able to appreciate the new one founded by Swamiji.

Who is a monk? Or, what is monasticism? And what is a monastic order? A monk is person who has dedicated his life for God realization. That is the single aim of his life. Monasticism is therefore a way of life, distinct from that of the majority of the people in the world. What do I mean? The majority of the people in the world are born, go to schools and colleges, learn some skills, engage in some profitable activity, earn money, get married, have children, grow old and die. The Hindu way of life has designed that all these activities be sanctified by certain rituals called ‘Samskaras’, so that by participating in these activities, he or she may also further one’s spiritual evolution. A person is born. There is a samskara to be done. Then the child is named and that has another samskara or ritual. Then the first food, weaning away from the mother’s breast and that has another ritual. Then marriage, another ritual. And so on until death, which is the final rite or ‘Antima Samskara’. Thus, society has prescribed specific rules and regulations on every person born into society.

Thousands of years ago, there arose a rebellion against being bound like this by social rituals. They claimed that they be allowed to lead a life unfettered by social bindings and their claim was based on the fact that right from childhood or youth, that is, after their formal education, they would like to delve into the method and means of God realization directly. They did not want to go through the circuitous route of the society. They would stay away from society and achieve the same goal. Society also prescribes the same goal for those who stay inside its confines. Their goal is also God realization. However, there are too many rules, regulations, duties, and responsibilities associated with life in society. Some people wanted to be freed from all those bindings and be allowed to engage in self-discovery directly, by the path known as Yoga. These were actually social outlaws. They are the monks. They perform a grand ritual known as Viraja Homa and sever all connections with society. They will not produce anything. They will not produce wealth or children. They are out of all competition. If you analyze the innumerable activities that people do in this world, you will find that all of them will fall into these two categories – production of wealth and production of progeny. A monk declares that he is out of both of these. What else is there to do? Does he not eat and wear clothes? Where does he get them?

The only activity of the monk is to realize God. His only activity is meditation. When he does not meditate, he may spend some time talking to people about his spiritual practices, his own realizations and discussing the practices and realizations of other monks of the past, which are enshrined in our holy books. That is all he is allowed to do. Society in India, even thousands of years ago, acknowledged this mode of living and said that it would support such people with bare food and clothing. That is how monks came into existence. When their numbers grew, there came about classifications among them too. There were rules worked out for them too, but these rules were mainly codes of conduct for the monks. This led to the formation of ‘Monastic Orders’. Monks who followed a certain set of rules of conduct claimed to belong to a certain monastic order. Over the centuries, [and I am speaking of a time much before the Buddha here], these monks got classified into two types – the wanderer and the settler. They were called ‘Bahudaka’ and ‘Kutichaka’.

The Hindu society did one more grand thing. When they recognized the validity of this claim of some people to be let free from the social bindings, they tried to incorporate this urge for freedom into their social structure itself. The leaders of society declared that every person would be accorded this freedom in the last stage of his life on earth. A person would study, set up a house, rear up his kids and get them settled in life and then, he and his wife could take monastic vows. This decision was a stroke of genius, for, it ensured that there wouldn’t be an exodus of people away from society into monasticism. If such an exodus occurred, society would crumble down. In due course of time, certain other conditions too got added on concerning caste. Slowly, all learning got accumulated among these forest recluses, and hence their power grew to a great extent. These subtle oppressions necessitated a transformation in monasticism that the Buddha brought about.

Buddha himself was a Bahudaka monk. He was a Vedantic monk. Later on, he brought about some vital changes into monasticism. These changes were so drastic that those monks had a tough time integrating with the mainstream Hindu monks and hence they developed as a separate type of monks called Buddhist monks.

These Buddhist monks spread all over the known world and from some of those monks, Jesus Christ was deeply influenced. And from him grew yet another category of monks called the Christian monks. We must understand that the Christian monks lived in a society that was totally different from the Indian society that had given birth to the monastic lifestyle. Hence, the Christian monks lived by working and producing things of value for the society. Of all the known religions of the world, only Hinduism, Buddhism and Christianity have monastic orders. [Jainism recognizes monasticism, but then, Jains are generally considered as a part of Hinduism.]

Hindu monasticism underwent three major transformations before Swamiji. The Buddhist transformation was the first. Centuries before the Buddha, Hindu monasticism had started and had thrived in India. But, there were some criteria for allowing a person to leave the society and take up monkhood. Also, more often than not, monkhood was considered as the last stage of life. A person was directed to live a full life in society, following all its rules and regulations, contribute in terms of wealth and progeny to society and when he reached an age of retirement, he was allowed to accept monastic vows. Therefore, we find even today that the purificatory mantras one chants before becoming a monk expiates him from all sorts of sins, even the sins of killing Brahmins, warriors and fetuses! But, people were not allowed to become monks without first having lived in society and served the society by contributing wealth and progeny. So, typically, a person was supposed to have picked up some skills in life during his youth; then he was supposed to have engaged in some gainful activity and produced wealth. Then he was supposed to have married and set up house. Then he was supposed to have produced a couple of children and reared them up. When the children had married and had set up their own houses, he was given permission from society to leave his own house and all that he had created in society and retire to the forest. In the forest, he generally set up a small hut, lived with his wife, and engaged in spiritual pursuits. Often, young boys and girls would also come from society and live with him. He would teach them the various skills he knew. Sometimes, the monk would remain a wanderer, without any fixed hermitage, especially if he was a widower. This was the scene until Buddha came.

Buddha brought about a great change in Hindu monasticism by relaxing many of these norms. He allowed anyone, at any stage of life, to become a monk. This transformation was so drastic that finally Hinduism had to dissociate itself from Buddha’s ideas. But the one change that remained in Hindu monasticism was the concept of the Akhada. Before Buddha, Hindu monks either lived in small hermitages or were free wanderers. Buddha’s influence remained in Hindu monasticism in the form of Akhadas. These were very large hermitages with an Abbot. The daily activities of the Akhada were managed by the Abbot and a team of monks. Apart from this Abbot & his team, innumerable monks lived in the Akhadas, without any fixed duties, engaged in spiritual pursuits, free to come and go as they fancied. There were general rules of conduct to be followed.

Later on, Acharya Shankara brought about tremendous systematization into Hindu monasticism. He classified Hindu monks into ten different orders of monks. All the extant Vedas and Upanishads were allotted to the various orders of monks for safekeeping and cultivation of the spiritual culture. He further established four monasteries in India and gave charge to the Abbots of these monasteries for these ten orders of monks. He felt the need to start these four monasteries because in the wake of the Buddha’s revolutionary transformations, the forest hermitages had lost their relevance, and they needed to be revived.

Gradually, Islam entered into India and started persecuting the Hindu monks. Innumerable monks died in the onslaughts of Islamic rulers. Another monk called Madhusudhana Saraswati brought about another transformation at this time. He started a new wing in each of the ten orders of Vedanta monks called the Naga wing. These monks were warriors and monks at the same time. If any attack occurred on the monasteries or on wandering monks, these Naga monks would fight back for self-protection. They carried all sorts of arms but followed a policy of ‘not-attacking-first’.

Now, the traditional Hindu monasticism is as I have described until now.

As I said, the old monastic orders prescribed that the only goal of a monk was to realize God. And the path for realizing God also was prescribed. It was a complete negation of everything of this world. For, it is the things of this world that held us back from God. Hence, the monk renounced everything of this world, that is, of this society. The motto of the traditional monk was ‘Atmano mokshartha sanyasahrama grahanam’ – that is, ‘Embracing monasticism for the sake of self-liberation (i.e. God realization)’. The conception of the goal was also a very interesting thing. I told you about the three reformations in Hindu monasticism that happened before Swami Vivekananda. One of the important things that Acharya Shankara introduced into monasticism was a particular conception of the goal. He specified that the goal was Nirvikalpa Samadhi and nothing else. Until that time, the goal was quite flexible. There used to be monks who strove to obtain a vision of a particular deity; that was the proclaimed goal for which they had renounced society. But Acharya Shankara changed that. He directed that nothing less than Nirvikalpa Samadhi would the goal of monks and that all monks who wished to adopt monasticism under the Vedanta tradition would have to compulsorily accept Nirvikalpa Samadhi as the goal.

This had a strange fallout on the monastic society as well as the Indian society. Acharya Shankara, apart from proclaiming the goal of monks, also prescribed the particular path along which the monks had to tread in order to realize that goal. That path was the ‘path of negation’ in accordance with the Advaita Vedanta School of philosophy that he had rigorously established through his treatises and commentaries on the Upanishads, Gita and Brahma Sutras. As a result, everything belonging to this world had to be renounced as useless. Every pursuit or activity pertaining to this world was condemned as a distraction and hence had to be rejected. The goal was one of perfect inactivity; it was a state of pure Being; doing was a fall from that supreme state of Nirvikalpa Samadhi. Hence, a gradual devaluation of all kinds of activity occurred in the monastic society. This slowly rubbed itself onto the larger Indian society as a whole, since, it was these monks who taught religious pursuits to the people in the society.

The first two transformations wrought by Buddha and then by Acharya Shankara had another very detrimental repercussion on the Indian society. Before Buddha, Hindu monasticism was open mainly to persons who had lived a full life in society. By a full life, I mean, they had worked hard in some gainful activity, produced wealth, got married, begot children, strove to get their children educated and married and only then were they eligible for monastic life. In this scheme of things, the presence of these social outlaws did not affect the efficacy of the society. Buddha changed this delicate structure and declared that anyone, in any stage of life, could take monastic vows. This change had on the one hand completely disturbed the delicate balance of the economy and on the other hand had brought in unspeakable degradation into monastic society. Of course, we must understand that these detrimental changes occurred over a period of a few centuries and they were simply fallouts of Buddha’s policy and were not intended specifically by the Buddha at all! So Acharya Shankara made it a norm that only those people could become monks who decided to do so right from their childhood and not later on. Married people couldn’t become monks. Further, women were deprived of the right to become nuns, since much of the post Buddhist degradation could be traced to the free intermixing of monks and nuns.

Both these developments led to a very strange outcome in the Indian society. Firstly, the man in the society started developing an inferiority complex with respect to oneself. Secondly, marriage was considered as a compromise to one’s inability to lead a celibate’s life and hence the married man was always lower in spiritual stature compared to a monk. Thirdly, any activity, especially wealth creation was considered as unholy since all spiritual pursuits called for complete renunciation of all activity. Fourthly, women became liabilities since they were barred from all higher spiritual pursuits.

I must clarify one thing here. When I say that these problems were the fallouts of Buddha’s and Shankara’s attempts at transformation, I do not mean that these two great prophets meant it to be like that. That would be an absurd conclusion. The great ones proclaim the truth, as they perceive it. Society then starts working it out and ends up muddling it up.

This is the ‘old monastic order’ that I wanted to describe to you before starting on today’s topic. Against the background of these ideas, you will be able to appreciate what exactly Swami Vivekananda achieved by establishing the ‘new monastic order’.

Sometime in 1886, the young boy Naren lived in Cossipore Garden House with Sri Ramakrishna, where the latter was being treated for his throat cancer. Along with nursing their Guru, the young boys led by Naren engaged in spiritual practices too. One day, Naren experienced Nirvikalpa Samadhi. When he regained normal consciousness, he went to Sri Ramakrishna and told him that he wished to remain immersed in that blessed state of consciousness. But Sri Ramakrishna chided him, ‘Is that all! I thought you were different, but I see that you are very small minded. Let me tell you, there is a state of consciousness that lies beyond Nirvikalpa Samadhi. Aim for that.’ This state of consciousness that lies beyond Nirvikalpa Samadhi is called ‘Bhavamukha’.

Let us consider the above-mentioned event in detail. Naren had already achieved the goal of traditional monasticism. All that was left for him to do was to accept the formal vows of Sannyasa. Such monks, who accept monastic vows after achieving the goal, are called ‘Vidwat Sanyasis’. Generally, monks accept formal monastic vows and then attempt to achieve the goal throughout their lives. These monks are called ‘Vividisha Sanyasis’. Naren was a traditional vidwat sannyasin. He had already achieved his goal of personal liberation, having experienced Nirvikalpa Samadhi. And in such a circumstance, his Guru is exhorting him to go beyond! What indeed can be there beyond the grand goal of Nirvikalpa Samadhi?

Sri Ramakrishna too had accepted formal monastic vows from his Guru Tota Puri. Under Tota Puri’s guidance, he too had experienced Nirvikalpa Samadhi. Having experienced that supreme state of consciousness, he remained in that blessed state for six months. His Nirvikalpa Samadhi rendered him utterly useless even to safeguard his own body! He couldn’t even eat. By a strange coincidence of events, a young man had come to Dakshineshwar at that time that recognized the supreme state in which Sri Ramakrishna lived. He realized that if this man did not eat, his body would simply fall down like a dried leaf falls from a tree. So, every day, he would take a long stick, beat Sri Ramakrishna’s body repeatedly, and bring him down to normal consciousness for a little while, during which time he would force a few morsels of food down his throat. And immediately after that, Sri Ramakrishna would merge himself in Nirvikalpa Samadhi again. This went on for about six months. Then, Sri Ramakrishna slowly started to accustom himself to coming down to a state of consciousness a bit below Nirvikalpa Samadhi.

Nirvikalpa Samadhi is a state of consciousness that occurs when there is only one thought-wave in the mind. That thought-wave is the wave of self-consciousness. It is a state where one is completely identified with consciousness per-sé, there being no predicate for that consciousness. It is a state where one is merely “aware”, not aware of one, two, or more things; there is awareness; there is not even the awareness that I am aware. It is said to be the state where one has become awareness itself. One reaches this state only after one has rigorously renounced every thought about others and about oneself and has, for a protracted period, concentrated purely on the awareness burning within oneself. Sri Ramakrishna attained this state and lived in that state for six long months. Then, Sri Ramakrishna slowly started to accustom himself to coming down to a state of consciousness a bit below Nirvikalpa Samadhi. He wasn’t the first person to have done this. Innumerable people before him had done this. However, in this case there was a vital difference.

In all the previous cases, this coming down to normal consciousness from Nirvikalpa Samadhi was considered as a “fall” from the supreme state. This was therefore followed by an attempt to regain that state of bliss. Moreover, the exact state of consciousness in which one would remain after coming down from Nirvikalpa Samadhi was left to chance, more or less. Sri Ramakrishna made a great deviation here. On the one hand, he did not consider his coming down from Nirvikalpa Samadhi as a “fall” because he had his ‘Divine Mother” to fall back upon. He interpreted his coming down as the will of the Divine Mother. He could do this because of the unique path he had followed on the way up to Nirvikalpa Samadhi. Unlike the others before him, he hadn’t followed the path of total negation up to the top. He held on to his Divine Mother until the end. He was able to use his conception of the Divine Mother and merge everything that he perceived into Her form. Having done that, there were only two left – he and his Divine Mother. In the final step, he took the sword of knowledge that was in his Divine Mother’s hand and cleaved Her divine form into bits. With that final act, he passed on to the supreme state of Nirvikalpa Samadhi. In other words, he had effectively perceived that his Divine Mother showed Herself to him in Her popular form as Kali sometimes and some other times, if it fancied Her, She would reveal Herself to him as pure awareness, without any form. After spending those six months in undifferentiated consciousness, Sri Ramakrishna learned to slowly accustom himself with states of consciousness that occur when he came down from there. He could come down all the way to the state of perceiving multiplicity like we all do. He could also come down to the state where he was aware of only himself and his Divine Mother. There was however a distinct state of consciousness just below Nirvikalpa Samadhi, but above the state where he perceived his Divine Mother alone. In this state, he was able to perceive that there was an underlying sea of consciousness that took the forms of everything that we see as individual things in our normal state of consciousness. He slowly started to dwell in this state of consciousness. He named this state as “Bhavamukha”, as I mentioned a little while ago.

While chiding Naren about his proclivity towards Nirvikalpa Samadhi, Sri Ramakrishna told Naren that “Bhavamukha” was the ideal for which people have to strive for. And he trained his young disciples like Naren, Rakhal, Baburam, Shashi, Hari and others to attain to this state and live after his demise. Further, he exhorted Naren to find out a new path for leading the masses to this ideal.

Even while he was alive, he informally conferred monasticism on these young boys. Later on, after his demise, these boys took monastic vows formally and became monks belonging to the Puri Order of Vedanta monks, in keeping with the monastic tradition of their Guru Sri Ramakrishna. Although these monks belonged to the old tradition, during their lifetime, they instituted some amazing changes in their monasteries and next generation monks.

There were two of these young monks who spearheaded this transition from the old to new state of affairs. One was Swami Vivekananda and the other was Swami Brahmananda. Swami Vivekananda realized in due course the greater implication of the chiding that Sri Ramakrishna had given him long ago when he had innocently and sincerely asked to remain immersed in Nirvikalpa Samadhi. Having understood that, he set himself to work. He carefully placed before humanity the new ideal that his Guru had revealed, the state of Bhavamukha. Did he undo Acharya Shankara’s work by this? No. One may still aim for achieving Nirvikalpa Samadhi. But Swamiji said that it would be wrong to stay immersed in it. For, that would mean that Nirvikalpa Samadhi alone was the Reality. But, multiplicity is the same Reality too! One has to aim for achieving that supreme state and then further aim to come down to the state of Bhavamukha and interact with everyone in this world in myriad ways. Simultaneously, Swamiji also specified the path to be followed for achieving this new goal. The new ideal called for action. What action? Every action that springs up from society trying to sustain itself. For, the new goal is to see that society itself but another form of the Reality that reveals itself as the Divine Mother and as undifferentiated consciousness in Nirvikalpa Samadhi.

Sister Nivedita explains this most wonderfully as follows: “…as Sri Ramakrishna expressed (it), ‘God is both with form and without form. And He is that which includes both form and formlessness.’ It is this that adds its crowning significance to our Master’s (Swami Vivekananda’s) life, for here he becomes the meeting-point, not only of East and West, but also of past and future. If the many and the One be indeed the same Reality, then it is not all modes of worship alone, but equally all modes of work, all modes of struggle, all modes of creation, which are paths of realization. No distinction, henceforth, between sacred and secular. To labour is to pray. To conquer is to renounce. Life is itself religion. To have and to hold is as stern a trust as to quit and to avoid. This is the realization that makes Vivekananda the great preacher of Karma, not as divorced from, but as expressing Jnâna and Bhakti. To him, the workshop, the study, the farmyard, and the field are as true and fit scenes for the meeting of God with man as the cell of the monk or the door of the temple. To him, there is no difference between service of man and worship of God, between manliness and faith, between true righteousness and spirituality. All his words, from one point of view, read as a commentary upon this central conviction. ‘Art, science, and religion’, he said once, ‘are but three different ways of expressing a single truth. But in order to understand this we must have the theory of Advaita (Vedanta).

Swamiji wanted the masses in India and the world to espouse this new ideal of Bhavamukha. The present day world is ripe for adopting it. This ideal answers the spiritual needs of the modern man. How would he do that? He understood that unless he had a pilot team who could exhibit its efficacy, the masses would have trouble grasping it. So, he established a monastery in Belur in Howrah. Many young men had joined the fledgling Ramakrishna Math in Baranagore and Alambazar when Swamiji was in the West. Now he rallied all of them at Belur and started training them in a new way. He gave them a rallying motto ‘Atmano mokshartham jagaddhitaya cha sannyasashrama grahanam’. I quote from a lecture that is recorded in the book ‘Lectures from Colombo to Almora’:

A parting Address was given to Swamiji by the junior Sannyâsins of the Math (Belur), on the eve of his leaving for the West for the second time. The following is the substance of Swamiji’s reply as entered in the Math Diary on 19th June 1899:

This is not the time for a long lecture. But I shall speak to you in brief about a few things which I should like you to carry into practice. First, we have to understand the ideal, and then the methods by which we can make it practical. Those of you who are Sannyasins must try to do good to others, for Sannyasa means that. There is no time to deliver a long discourse on “Renunciation”, but I shall very briefly characterize it as “the love of death”. Worldly people love life. The Sannyasin is to love death. Are we to commit suicide then? Far from it. For suicides are not lovers of death, as it is often seen that when a man trying to commit suicide fails, he never attempts it for a second time. What is the love of death then? We must die, that is certain; let us die then for a good cause. Let all our actions — eating, drinking, and everything that we do — tend towards the sacrifice of our self. You nourish your body by eating. What good is there in doing that if you do not hold it as a sacrifice to the well-being of others? You nourish your minds by reading books. There is no good in doing that unless you hold it also as a sacrifice to the whole world. For the whole world is one; you are rated a very insignificant part of it, and therefore it is right for you that you should serve your millions of brothers rather than aggrandize this little self. 

“With hands and feet everywhere, with eyes, heads, and mouths everywhere, with ears everywhere in the universe, That exists pervading all.” (Gita, XIII. 13)

Thus you must die a gradual death. In such a death is heaven, all good is stored therein — and in its opposite is all that is diabolical and evil.

Then as to the methods of carrying the ideals into practical life. First, we have to understand that we must not have any impossible ideal. An ideal, which is too high, makes a nation weak and degraded. This happened after the Buddhist and the Jain reforms. On the other hand, too much practicality is also wrong. If you have not even a little imagination, if you have no ideal let guide you, you are simply a brute. So we must not lower our ideal, neither are we to lose sight of practicality. We must avoid the two extremes. In our country, the old idea is to sit in a cave and meditate and die. To go ahead of others in salvation is wrong. One must learn sooner or later that one cannot get salvation if one does not try to seek the salvation of his brothers. You must try to combine in your life immense idealism with immense practicality. You must be prepared to go into deep meditation now, and the next moment you must be ready to go and cultivate these fields (Swamiji said, pointing to the meadows of the Math). You must be prepared to explain the difficult intricacies of the Shâstras now, and the next moment to go and sell the produce of the fields in the market. You must be prepared for all menial services, not only here, but elsewhere also.

The next thing to remember is that the aim of this institution is to make men. You must not merely learn what the Rishis taught. Those Rishis are gone, and their opinions are also gone with them. You must be Rishis yourselves. You are also men as much as the greatest men that were ever born — even our Incarnations. What can mere book-learning do? What can meditation do even? What can the Mantras and Tantras do? You must stand on your own feet. You must have this new method — the method of man-making. The true man is he who is strong as strength itself and yet possesses a woman’s heart. You must feel for the millions of beings around you, and yet you must be strong and inflexible and you must also possess Obedience; though it may seem a little paradoxical — you must possess these apparently conflicting virtues. If your superior order you to throw yourself into a river and catch a crocodile, you must first obey and then reason with him. Even if the order be wrong, first obey and then contradict it. The bane of sects, especially in Bengal, is that if any one happens to have a different opinion, he immediately starts a new sect, he has no patience to wait. So you must have a deep regard for your Sangha. There is no place for disobedience here. Crush it out without mercy. No disobedient members here, you must turn them out. There must not be any traitors in the camp. You must be as free as the air, and as obedient as this plant and the dog.

Here Swamiji very clearly states that as compared to the old order of monastic life, he was initiating a new order of monasticism. And that these young monks would be the torchbearers of this new kind of monastic life. He placed a new ideal before the young monks. Then he prescribed a new method of achieving that new ideal. Is that ideal different from the old ideal of Nirvikalpa Samadhi? Yes, it is different. But it is not an ideal that rejects the old ideal. The new ideal of Bhavamukha subsumes the old ideal and develops on it. I am to realize that I am undifferentiated consciousness and then I am to realize that everyone else and everything else in this world around me is the same undifferentiated consciousness. Having realized that, I am to work as per my position in society. The method I am to follow is the method of ‘Man-making’ as he explains in this lecture. Elsewhere, he calls it the method of ‘Practical Vedanta’. It is a synthesis of all the spiritual practices that have been discovered till date. All of them will have to be practiced in a harmonious manner in my own life, for Reality is indeed of that nature; it is All things to All men. Thus, it is no longer the norm that only meditation and ritualistic worship of the deity are spiritual practices. Scavenging too is an act equally holy and so is every activity that society sanctions me to do. This society itself is the visible Deity for me and I will follow its dictates on me. I will discharge my duties as dictated by society in the spirit of worship, knowing that it is undifferentiated consciousness that is revealing Itself to me as everything I see and conceive.

The traditional ideal of Nirvikalpa Samadhi completely negates this world. Since it negates everything, the path towards achieving it must necessarily be world negating. The new ideal of Bhavamukha reveals that undifferentiated consciousness reveals itself as me and the world around me. Everything that exists is nothing but undifferentiated consciousness. Hence, the path towards achieving it can be world-affirming.

I wish to draw your attention to three ideas in the lecture quoted above. Firstly, Those of you who are Sannyasins must try to do good to others, for Sannyasa means that. Traditionally, Sannyasa did not mean that. How and why should a monk help others? If a monk were to help others, why didn’t he stay within the confines of society? A monk was supposed to refuse to recognize the world around him and realize the blessed state of undifferentiated consciousness and hold on to that state for as long as his body lasted. A monk was called upon to seclude himself from contact with society and meditate in silence. Here, specifically, Swamiji calls upon his young monks to “help” others, and further states that this “helping others is the raison d’être of Sannyasa”! This is something new for Hindu monasticism.

Secondly, In our country, the old idea is to sit in a cave and meditate and die. To go ahead of others in salvation is wrong. One must learn sooner or later that one cannot get salvation if one does not try to seek the salvation of his brothers. You must try to combine in your life immense idealism with immense practicality. You must be prepared to go into deep meditation now, and the next moment you must be ready to go and cultivate these fields (Swamiji said, pointing to the meadows of the Math). You must be prepared to explain the difficult intricacies of the Shâstras now, and the next moment to go and sell the produce of the fields in the market. You must be prepared for all menial services, not only here, but elsewhere also. From time immemorial, the idea of personal liberation, Moksha, has been the driving force behind Hindu monasticism. This idea translates into the Nirvikalpa Samadhi when we speak in terms of mystical language. The traditional idea of monasticism has centered on individual liberation. Swamiji makes a tremendous deviation here by asserting that seeking personal salvation alone is wrong. This is a powerful statement. We can seek our own Mukti, provided we simultaneously strive for the salvation of others too. Seeking one’s own salvation has been the immense idealism that Swamiji speaks of here. Ignoring completely anything else that pertains to spiritual life and considering that this world is all we have got and all we can hope for, and therefore to make the best of this life here is the immense practicality that Swamiji speaks of in the next breath. In other words, it is materialism, as we know it today. He says we ought to combine both. Actually, this almost seems like saying ‘mix darkness and light’ or ‘mix truth and falsehood’. If Nirvikalpa Samadhi is indeed the goal before us, if pure idealism is the goal before us, wont it make better sense to completely renounce everything pertaining to this world and immerse oneself purely meditation as the monks of old times did? Surely, the goal has shifted; else, there was nothing wrong with the traditional practices of Hindu monks. The traditional practices of the Hindu monks were completely in line with the traditional goal they aimed for. Has it not produced a steady line of saints until the present day? Those methods have proven to be efficacious beyond any shadow of doubt. It is because the goal itself has changed that Swamiji is exhorting for a new method here.

We may ask then, is Swamiji hinting that we become humanitarians? Helping our fellow beings and not bothering about the ideal state of existence? Certainly not. The goal he presents before us is not a rejection of the Nirvikalpa Samadhi, neither is it a state short of it, but something “beyond” that. It is very important to clarify this point here. Else, it will look as if he is asking us to stay contented with the lives we lead and not dream about anything ideal. Living in this world, as we already do, will seem to be the method, if we miss this point. No. The point is – we need to renounce and we need to serve. It will not do to serve without renouncing. It is not a comfortable religion that Swamiji is giving here. Elsewhere he says “Our method is very easily described. It simply consists in reasserting the national life. Buddha preached renunciation. India heard, and yet in six centuries she reached her greatest height. The secret lies there. The national ideals of India are renunciation AND service. Intensify her in those channels, and the rest will take care of itself. The banner of the spiritual cannot be raised too high in this country. In it alone is salvation (of the Indian masses).” Then, are we to understand that Swamiji wants all of us to formally renounce and then come back to society to serve? Again, no. but perfect control over all our senses, emotions, thoughts and faculties are a sine qua non for service. Any interaction with others without backed up by practice of perfect Brahmacharya is falling short of the new ideal.

Lastly, “The next thing to remember is that the aim of this institution is to make men.” When did the objective of a monastery become the making of men? The objective of a monastery has always been the making of saints, persons who can demonstrate the attainment of the state of pure consciousness. What indeed does this ‘making men’ mean? This is a topic I will discuss on a later occasion. Suffice it to say that a person who achieves the state of Nirvikalpa Samadhi is a saint, while a person who achieves the state of Bhavamukha is a ‘man’.

Swamiji started this new monastic order with the view that these monks would demonstrate to the world how this new path has to be followed and how the new ideal translates into experience. The masses were the target group that needed this ideal most of all. Once the masses caught on to this new ideal and the new path, the aim with which Swamiji started this new monastic order would stand fulfilled.

Om shantih, shantih, shantih. Sri Ramakrishnarpanamastu.


Swami Vivekananda & Organization

“Why is it that organization is so powerful? Do not say organization is material. Why is it, to take a case in point, that forty millions of Englishmen rule three hundred millions of people here? What is the psychological explanation? These forty millions put their wills together and that means infinite power, and you three hundred millions have a will each separate from the other. Therefore to make a great future India, the whole secret lies in organization, accumulation of power, co-ordination of wills.”

 I begin by quoting this passage from the Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda. This passage appears in his lecture ‘Future of India’ delivered by the great Swami in Chennai on 14th Feb 1897.

We see a few interesting points in the above passage:

The first thing to note is that here we have a spiritual giant of the stature of Swami Vivekananda discussing such a mundane idea as making a nation great! Isn’t that the job of politicians and diplomats? Isn’t that the job of the leaders of political parties? Isn’t that the job of leaders who have legislative power? Should a monk speak or think on these issues?

The second thing to note is – Swamiji says that the forty millions of Englishmen put their wills together. Did they, really? If so, how and why? Does history mention any such development where the forty million Englishmen of the 19th century came together and decided that they would put their wills together? None of the history books mentions such a development. Why is Swamiji mentioning this here?

The third thing to note is – Swamiji says here ‘Do not say organization is material’. Who said organization is material? Most of us don’t even know what organization means! Some of us perhaps think that organization means corporations, consisting of profit-minded executives; some perhaps even think that it refers to groups of people who come together for a particular cause, such as the organization for blacks’ rights, or organization for the economically deprived. Even if we do understand this word to mean something like that, who amongst us ever felt that organization is ‘material’?

The fourth thing to note is – in order to become a great nation, India needs to do only one thing! There is no need to do many things. Only one thing is necessary, says Swamiji. And that is – ‘Coordinate the wills of the Indians’.

Let us deal with each of these points one by one.

Why is a spiritual man, a monk, and that too, one of the stature of Swami Vivekananda, talking about the future of a nation, about making India great, about organization? Shouldn’t a monk confine himself to spiritual practices, to scriptural study, to rituals and spiritual ministration? Isn’t it wrong for a monk to deal with ideas such as those mentioned in this passage?

Well, traditionally, monks have dealt with such issues. Our country has had a marvelous history.[1] The social power structure has always been managed by the two upper castes – the Brahmins and the Kshatriyas. Between them, they ruled the people of this country. When the Kshatriyas lost touch with the ground reality and became too dictatorial, the Brahmins overthrew the Kshatriyas and took power into their hands. Same thing happened when the Brahmins lost touch with the ground reality and became arrogantly powerful and oppressed the people whom they ruled. It is because of this dipole power structure in India from ancient times that class struggle (so fondly studied by the Communist historians) never arose here.

Over and above the four castes of this unique social structure, there was one more group of people who outlawed themselves from this four-caste structure and stayed outside the society. They were the monks. This group of people were quite objective in their perceptions of society and were sensitive to the tilts in the power balance of the ancient Indian society. Since the monks were self-declared outlaws, they did not need patronage from anyone, neither the Brahmins nor the Kshatriyas. They would boldly point out the flaws in their functioning and warn them to correct themselves or get ready for an upheaval and overthrowing from power. Moreover, since monks themselves were not beneficiaries in the resulting social change, their observations and advices carried a great moral value. Repeatedly, this happened in Indian history. However, the unwritten norm of the Hindu monks has been that the monk could at most point out the flaw and then hands off! The monk would not engage in actually re-structuring the power equations in society. From time immemorial, it was considered one of the activities assigned to monks to point out the corrective measures that society needed to get back on track; and it was simultaneously considered anathema for monks to directly get involved in engaging in the political activities required for bringing about the prescribed social changes.

This is what we see Swamiji do here. He was able to see why Indians lived as slaves to a foreign power. He was able to see why a foreign power was able to enslave the Indians and rule over them. He was able to see how Indians could break themselves from the shackles of such foreign domination. But, he wouldn’t involve himself directly in any political activity required for breaking India free from foreign rule. He however delineated what was required for Indians to become a great nation, which included obtaining political freedom, educational self-reliance and economic superiority in the comity of nations. If we were concerned about our country’s future, we would heed these words of Swamiji and work as directed by him.

Swamiji says that the forty millions of Englishmen put their wills together. Did they, really?

The rise of the Joint Stock Companies in Europe, especially in Britain was a watershed event in the history of mankind. This event fueled the Industrial Revolution as much as the scientific discoveries did, if not more. Man knew a particular type of production until then. Production activity was largely localized. And it was confined to a small group of people who held the technical knowhow as a safely guarded secret. All of a sudden, the British were engaged in a new type of production that required enormous coordination of the activities of an enormous number of people across enormous physical distances. For instance, a large number of people were engaged in one part of the world in growing cotton. Once they had grown the cotton, it was all collected by another large group of people and transported across oceans to huge mills situated in some other part of the globe. Yet another large group of people ran these huge mills. They worked day and night to manufacture standardized cotton threads. These threads were then collected by yet another large group of people who were engaged in manufacturing clothes out of those yarns. One more large group of people then transported those clothes all over the world and handed them over to a different large of people who then sold them to end-users.

This was the main reason behind the rise of the organization in Britain. The cause was economic in nature. More and more number of people joined together in a particular enterprise. Large amounts of money and resources were pooled in. Huge amounts of things were manufactured in a short time. And the things thus manufactured were more often than not, very complex. As long as man confined himself to the old style of manufacturing, all he could produce was a bullock cart, or a horse drawn carriage. Once large number of people came together, as they did in Britain, man was able to produce a motor car. It is impossible to produce a modern motor car in the old style of production.

Whatever be the reason, the British had found out a way to get a large number of people to come together, pool in their money, resources and effort, and consequently multiply their individual strengths while cancelling out their individual weaknesses. This strange form of community activity was later on given the term organization. Thus, the root of the modern organization, as we know it today, is purely economic, purely material.

The point that Swamiji is trying to make here is – granted that the western world’s organization has purely materialistic roots, but, once an organization has been formed, it no longer remains a purely materialistic entity. Why is that so? The objectives of forming an organization may be to earn money, to wage wars and kill people and to conquer new regions. But what exactly is an organization? Is any motley group of people called an organization? If a group of people is to be considered an organization, there are certain important criteria. First, there has to be a group of people, who, amongst them have a wide variety of skills, talents, experiences and abilities. This allows for division of labor amongst them. Secondly, they have jointly agreed upon a common goal, or a common set of goals to be achieved. Thirdly, all of them pool in their resources, energies and time to work together in order to achieve those commonly set goals. Fourthly, their attitudes and behaviors are conditioned by commonly accepted norms. And lastly, all of them recognize that the group has an existence of its own, just as all of the individual members have an existence independent of one another. In other words, the group is considered as a living entity, just as the individual members are. And this existence is recognized in all the individual and collective activities and decisions of the group. These criteria show one very important characteristic: the existence of the organization, therefore, is not temporal. The existence of organization is in the minds of the members. The more the individuals get identified with this mental construct, the stronger that organization becomes. The individual members pour in their life-force into the sustenance and growth of this organization. That organization now develops a life of its own, as it were. It develops individuality, as it were. Long story short, it comes into existence. All that exists has Spirit as its basis. Hence, Swamiji says that we shouldn’t write off organizations as inconsequential by thinking it is a mere material entity.

These ideas that we have explored till now in this article lead to a wonderful theory, which have enormous ramifications on our actions and on our lives. Let us try to analyze that briefly:

Swamiji said to Sister Nivedita once[2], “That is precisely my position about Brahman and the gods! I believe in Brahman and the gods, and not in anything else!”…. You see, I cannot but believe that there is somewhere a great Power that thinks of Herself as feminine, and called Kali, and Mother. And I believe in Brahman too …But is it not always like that? Is it not the multitude of cells in the body that make up the personality, the many brain-centers, not the one, that produce consciousness?… Unity in complexity! Just so! And why should it be different with Brahman? It is Brahman. It is the One. And yet and yet it is the gods too!” Elsewhere he makes a significant statement about God: “….the only God that exists, the only God I believe in, the sum total of all souls[3]” It seems fairly clear to us now that Swamiji saw God as the sum-total of souls, apart from subscribing to the Impersonal aspect. When we extend this idea to an organization, we find that when a group of people come together, putting in their wills together for a common goal, no matter how trivial or mundane that goal be, in effect, there is a spiritual entity, a god, that is created!

This is a very powerful idea.

Our actions here have a repercussion on the spiritual realm! It has always been believed to be the other way around. It has always been held that some entities somewhere in an unapproachable spiritual realm decides that something should occur on earth, in our lives, and then we human beings act out that decision of the gods. This has been the commonly held belief. When we combine these three ideas of Swamiji – first, that organization is a spiritual entity; second, Reality is Personal as well as Impersonal; third, Personal God is the sum total of souls; – we arrive at a totally different conception of human actions. Gods may or may not influence our actions. But it is of much greater importance for us that our actions here influence the spiritual realm! By our actions, we can create new spiritual entities. If we decide to get together and combine our wills, we give rise to a new god! And that god needs to be worshipped. How? By our actions, again. Take an organization such as a factory. The moment you consider yourself a part of that organization, you are in the presence of a new god, the spiritual entity associated with that organization. You will need to worship that new god. Since this new god has a strange form, unlike a stone image, consisting of buildings and machinery and people and processes, your worship will have to be in consonance with this new form. Your so-called ‘work’ in that factory will be nothing but worship that the new god demands.

Some readers may object to the line of thought presented here, saying, I am blowing a simple idea of Swamiji out of all proportions. To answer such objections, let me quote one amazing statement of Swamiji: “Now we have a new India, with its new God, new religion, and new Vedas.[4]

This brings us to the fourth point: What India needs for a bright and strong future is just this – organization. People living in the geographical confines of India should feel identified with India. That is one organization Swamiji definitely wanted to take shape. All through history, people have populated this particular geographical region but have seldom felt identified with it as a Nation. Our identity has all along been to the religious and cultural mores of the sub-regions rather than to the abstract concept of a Nation.

The historic struggle for freedom from the British Rule in the early 20th century saw the development of national sense in us. The post-independence period in India however has done little to ensure that this national sense grows in the coming generations. The national sense grows along various lines in different cultures. The Civic sense is the basis in most western countries. In India, we do not see much hope along that line. A poor nation, habituated to hunger and squalor cannot be expected to appreciate the civic sense to any decent degree. Our hope lies in spiritualizing the abstract concept of the Nation. Swamiji makes a significant observation in a letter as follows: “But, excuse me if I say that it is sheer ignorance and want of proper understanding to think like that, namely, that our national ideal has been a mistake. First go to other countries and study carefully their manners and conditions with your own eyes – not with others’ – and reflect on them with a thoughtful brain, if you have it: then read your own scriptures, your ancient literature, travel throughout India, and mark the people of her different parts and their ways and habits with the wide-awake eye of an intelligent and keen observer – not with a fool’s eye – and you will see as clear as noonday that the nation is still living intact and its life is surely pulsating. You will find there also that, hidden under the ashes of apparent death, the fire of our national life is yet smoldering and that the life of this nation is religion, its language religion, and its idea religion; and your politics, society, municipality, plague-prevention work, and famine-relief work – all these things will be done as they have been done all along here, viz. only through religion; otherwise all your frantic yelling and bewailing will end in nothing, my friend![5]

India is a living goddess and She demands our worship. Won’t we respond? Extrapolating this idea further, every sub-structure within the nation is also a goddess (or a god, if you will). Every organization constituting the national economy is a living goddess. Let us worship these goddesses with the appropriate form of rituals. While a stone or marble image of a goddess called for the ritualistic dashopachara or shodashopachara puja, these new goddesses call for meaningful, systematic labor of our hands, heads and hearts. Let us please these modern goddesses, which are organizations, and allow our Nation to reach great heights of economic and social development simultaneously achieving our own spiritual unfoldment, ‘Atmano moksha jagaddhitashcha’.


[1] Cf: Complete works of Swami Vivekananda: Vol-4: Modern India: An essay written for Udbodhan magazine, wherein Swami Vivekananda delineates this history in a masterly fashion, giving ample evidences from Indian history.

[2] Cf: Complete works of Sister Nivedita: Vol-1: Master as I saw him: Ramakrishna Sarada Mission, Kolkata: 1967: pg-118

[3] We can recall here the fact that Sri Ramakrishna used to go into Bhava Samadhi whenever he saw a gathering of people assembled for singing the praises of the Lord. Could it be that he perceived a vision in those cases, the vision of the spiritual entity corresponding to that group? See for instance, Cf: Sri Ramakrishna & His divine play: Swami Saradananda: Vedanta Society of St. Louis: 2003: pg 235 & pg 858.

[4] Cf: Complete works of Swami Vivekananda: Vol-7: Epistles: Letter No. XXXII, dated 27th April, 1896, written from Reading, USA to his brother disciples at Alambazar Math

[5] Cf: Complete works of Swami Vivekananda: Vol-5: Writings: Prose and Poems: The East And The West (Translated from Bengali) Chapter-I: Introduction