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Cosmic Consciousness, by Richard Maurice Bucke, [1901], at


Case of Ramakrishna Paramahansa.

We are indebted to Max Mueller and to Protap Chunder Mozoomdar for such scanty details as we have in this case. Their evidence is perhaps all the more valuable, since the first named, at least, who is the principal reporter [116: 306], has never shown in his writings any knowledge or appreciation of the faculty here called Cosmic Consciousness, although his lifework in Indian literature has brought him in contact with the more or less perfect expression of it a thousand times. All that is done here is to epitomize such information as the reporters above named have given us.

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Ramakrishna Paramahansa was born in 1835, in a village near Jahanabad (Hooghly district), near Kamarpukur. His chief place of residence is said to have been at a temple of the Goddess Kali, on the bank of the Ganges, near Calcutta. He died 1886, in the Kasipur Garden, two miles north of Calcutta. He is said to have exercised an extraordinary influence upon a large number of intelligent and highly educated men, including Protap Chunder Mozoomdar and Keshub Chunder Sen. A score of young men, who attached themselves closely to him, have, since his death, become ascetics. They follow his teaching by giving up the enjoyment of wealth and carnal pleasure, living together in a college and retiring at times to holy and solitary places. Besides these, we are told that a great number of men with their families are ardently devoted to his cause.

Ramakrishna never moved in the world or was a man of the world. He seems, from the first, to have practiced severe asceticism. He was a Brahmin by caste, well formed in body, but the austerities through which his character developed seemed to have permanently disordered his system, leaving upon his features an appearance of debility, paleness and shrunkenness which excited compassion. Yet, in the midst of his emaciation, his face retained a fullness, a childlike tenderness, a profound visible humbleness, an unspeakable sweetness of expression, and a smile such as Mozoomdar says he never saw on any other face. A Hindu saint is always particular about his externals. He wears the Garua cloth, eats according to strict forms, refuses to have intercourse with men, is a rigid observer of caste, is always proud and professes secret wisdom; he is always a universal counsellor and dispenser of charms. But the man Ramakrishna was singularly devoid of any such claims. His dress and diet did not differ from those of other men, except in the general negligence he showed towards both, and as to caste, he openly broke it every day. He repudiated the title of a teacher, showed displeasure at any exceptional honor which people tried to pay him, and he emphatically disclaimed the knowledge of secrets and mysteries. He worshiped no particular Hindu deity, neither Siva, Vishnu, or the

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[paragraph continues] Saktis, and yet he accepted all the doctrines, the embodiments, the usages and devotional practices of every religious cult. Each in turn was infallible to him. His religion meant ecstasy, his worship transcendental insight, his whole nature burnt day and night with the permanent fire and fever of a strange faith and feeling. His conversation was a ceaseless breaking forth of his inward fire and lasted for long hours. He was often merged in rapturous ecstasy and outward unconsciousness during the day, particularly when he spoke of his favorite spiritual experiences or heard any striking response to them. Krishna became to him the incarnation of loving devotion, and we are told that, while meditating on him, his heart full of the burning love of God, his features would suddenly become stiff and motionless, his eyes lose their sight, and while completely unconscious himself, tears would run down his rigid, pale, yet smiling face; and while in that state he would sometimes break out into prayers, songs and utterances, the force and pathos of which would pierce through the hardest heart and bring tears to eyes that never wept before through the influence of religion.

What is most extraordinary, his religion was not confined to the worship of Hindu deities. For long days he subjected himself to various kinds of discipline to realize the Mohammedan idea of all-powerful Allah. He let his beard grow, he fed on Moslem diet, he continually repeated sentences from the Koran. For Christ his reverence was deep and genuine. He bowed his head at the name of Jesus, honored the doctrine of his sonship, and once or twice attended Christian places of worship. He showed how it was possible to unify all the religions of the world by seeing only what is good in each one of them, and by sincere reverence for every one who has suffered for the truth, for their faith in God and for their love of men. He left nothing in writing. His friends wrote some of his sayings. He did not desire to found a sect.

Here follow a few more or less characteristic passages from his teachings:

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How to get rid of the lower self. The blossom vanishes of itself as the fruit grows, so will your lower self vanish as the divine grows in you.

So long as the heavenly expanse of the heart is troubled and disturbed by the gusts of desire, there is little chance of our beholding therein the luminary God. The beatific godly vision occurs only in the heart which is calm and wrapped in divine communion.

The soiled mirror never reflects the rays of the sun; so the impure and the unclean in heart that are subject to Maya (illusion) never perceive the glory of Bhagavan, the Holy One. But the pure in heart see the Lord as the clear mirror reflects the sun. So be holy.

A recently married young woman remains deeply absorbed in the performance of domestic duties, so long as no child is born to her. But no sooner is a son born to her than she begins to neglect household details, and does not find much pleasure in them. Instead thereof she fondles the new-born baby all the livelong day and kisses it with intense joy. Thus man in his state of ignorance is ever busy in the performance of all sorts of works, but as soon as he sees in his heart the Almighty God he finds no pleasure in them. On the contrary, his happiness consists now only in serving God and doing his works. He no longer finds happiness in any other occupation, and cannot draw himself from the ecstasy of the Holy Communion.

As one can ascend to the top of a house by means of a ladder, or a bamboo, or a staircase, or a rope, so divers are the ways and means to approach God, and every religion in the world shows one of these ways.

Why can we not see the Divine Mother? She is like a high-born lady, transacting all her business from behind the screen—seeing all, but seen by none. Her devout sons only see Her by going near Her, behind the screen of Maya.

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

In the play of hide-and-seek, if the player succeeds in touching the grand dame (Boori), he is no longer liable to be made a thief of by the seeker. Similarly, by once seeing God, man is no longer bound down by the fetters of the world. Just as the person touching the Boori is free to go about wherever he chooses without being pursued and made a thief of, so also in this world's playground there is no fear to him who has once touched the feet of God. He attains freedom from all worldly cares and anxieties, and nothing can ever bind him again.

The pearl-oyster that contains the precious pearl is in itself of very little value, but it is essential for the growth of the pearl. The shell itself may prove to be of no use to the man who has got the pearl. So ceremonies and rites may not be necessary for him who has attained the Highest Truth—God.

A little boy wearing the mask of the lion's head looks indeed very terrible. He goes where his little sister is at play and yells out hideously, which at once shocks and terrifies his sister, making her cry out in the highest pitch of her

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voice in the agony of despair to escape from the clutch of the terrible being. But when her little tormentor puts off the mask the frightened girl at once recognizes her loving brother and flies up to him, exclaiming, "Oh, it is my dear brother, after all!" Even such is the case of all the men of the world who are deluded and frightened and led to do all sorts of things by the nameless power of Maya, or Nescience, under the mask of which Brahman hides himself. But when the veil of Maya is taken from Brahman, the men then do not see in him a terrible and uncompromising Master, but their own beloved Other Self.

It cannot, perhaps, be proved (in the usual way) that Ramakrishna was a case of Cosmic Consciousness. We cannot point to the presence of the subjective light or to sudden illumination at a certain age. Still there is little doubt about the diagnosis, and we can readily understand our want of definite information, which is probably due to the fact that those who reported the case to us had no conception of its real nature, or what were the characteristic and essential symptoms. To them subjective light (if they knew of it) would probably seem a matter of no consequence, and equally so the age and the more or less suddenness of the oncoming of such features in the case as they did report.

Next: Chapter 25. Case of J. H. J.