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Keeping holy company
Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa
February 1882: M.'s second visit to the Master
Keep holy company and now and then visit God's devotees and holy men:
M. (humbly): Yes, sir. How, sir, may we fix our minds on God?
MASTER: Repeat God's name and sing His glories, and keep holy company; and now and then visit God's devotees and holy men. The mind cannot dwell on God if it is immersed day and night in worldliness, in worldly duties and responsibilities; it is most necessary to go into solitude now and then and think of God. To fix the mind on God is very difficult, in the beginning, unless one practises meditation in solitude. When a tree is young it should be fenced all around; otherwise it may be destroyed by cattle. To meditate, you should withdraw within yourself or retire to a secluded corner or to the forest. And you should always discriminate between the Real and the unreal. God alone is real, the Eternal Substance; all else is unreal, that is, impermanent. By discriminating thus, one should shake off impermanent objects from the mind.
Sunday, April 9, 1882: Master's visit to Prankrishna Mukherji's house
1. You should constantly seek holy company for the disease of the world has become chronic:
MASTER: God and His glory. This universe is His glory. People see His glory and forget everything. They do not seek God, whose glory is this world. All seek to enjoy 'woman and gold'. But there is too much misery and worry in that. This world is like the whirlpool of the Visalakshi. Once a boat gets into it there is no hope of its rescue. Again, the world is like a thorny bush: you have hardly freed yourself from one set of thorns before you find yourself entangled in another. Once you enter a labyrinth you find it very difficult to get out. Living in the world, a man becomes seared, as it were.
A DEVOTEE: Then what is the way, sir?
MASTER: Prayer and the company of holy men. You cannot get rid of an ailment without the help of a physician. But it is not enough to be in the company of religious people only for a day. You should constantly seek it, for the disease has become chronic. Again, you can't understand the pulse rightly unless you live with a physician. Moving with him constantly, you learn to distinguish between the pulse of phlegm and the pulse of bile.
2. Holy company begets yearning for God:
DEVOTEE: What is the good of holy company?
MASTER: It begets yearning for God. It begets love of God. Nothing whatsoever is achieved in spiritual life without yearning. By constant living in the company of holy men, the soul becomes restless for God. This yearning is like the state of mind of a man who has someone ill in the family. His mind is in a state of perpetual restlessness, thinking how the sick person may be cured.
Or again, one should feel a yearning for God like the yearning of a man who has lost his job and is wandering from one office to another in search of work. If he is rejected at a certain place which has no vacancy, he goes there again the next day and inquires, 'Is there an vacancy today?'
3. Holy company helps one cultivate discrimination between the Real and the unreal:
There is another benefit from holy company. It helps one cultivate discrimination between the Real and the unreal. God alone is the Real, that is to say, the Eternal Substance, and the world is unreal, that is to say, transitory. As soon as a man finds his mind wandering away to the unreal, he should apply discrimination. The moment an elephant stretches out its trunk to eat a plantain-tree in a neighbour's garden, it gets a blow from the iron goad of the driver.
Nature of God:
- Getting overwhelmed with the sorrows of the world
- Goal of human life is to love God
- God alone is real, all else is illusory
Nature of Guru:
- God is with and without form
- God is our inner guide
- Communion with God is full of bliss
- God is our very own
- God creates both good and bad
- God gives the results of our actions
- God is like a magnet which attracts a pure mind
- In every age God incarnates Himself to teach humanity
Nature of Man:
- Satchidananda alone is the guru
Path to God:
- Four classes of men
- Nature of the ever-free
Things to avoid:
- Repeating God's name and singing His glories
- Keeping holy company
- Going into solitude and meditating on God
- Discriminating between the Real and the unreal
- Remembering God while performing worldly duties
- Crying to God with an intensely yearning heart
- Keeping away from the evil-minded
- Having tremendous faith in God
- Cultivating inner strength
- Earnestly praying to God
- Purifying the mind of impurities
- Following the instructions of the Guru
Signs of Spiritual Progress:
- Sin begets its own result
- One should avoid anger
- Hearing the name of God you shed tears
- Feeling that God alone is the doer and I am a mere instrument
- With deep yearning God may be realised by any path