By Swami Chetanananda
Ramakrishna (1836-1886) was one of the most influential spiritual masters of modern India. He entered the highest mystical states as easily as other men step through a door, and described his extraordinary experiences with an innocent eloquence that brought spiritually to life for millions around the globe. How to Live with God transports us into Ramakrishna’s world with lucidity and breathtaking detail. Sitting alongside his closest disciples, we witness the master’s spiritual ecstasy, his astonishing insights, his humor, and his practical advice for common people yearning to know God.
Swami Chetanananda peals away time and space to introduce us to this god-intoxicated mystic as a living presence. How to establish a relationship with God, how to love God, and how to live with God are the themes of this book. Much of the information is translated into English for the first time.
In my study of the world’s religions I have been fortunate in coming upon inspiring firsthand accounts of the world’s great spiritual geniuses, including Sri Ramakrishna, India’s greatest 19th century saint…. Swami Chetanananda has infused Ramakrishna with new life for our time. He has produced an important book that puts us all in his debt.
For over thirty years Swami Chetanananda has researched the details of the life of Sri Ramakrishna, and performed for us the great service of making available in attractive form many valuable archival and historical resources that had long been inaccessible.
As one moves through the twenty-nine chapters of this book, one begins to get a sense of what it means to live with God through every aspect of one’s personal and professional life…. Regardless of one’s religious or philosophical tradition, How to Live with God: In the Company of Ramakrishna is a wonderful and rich testament to the value of authentic spirituality.
List of Illustrations
1. Various Forms of Ramakrishna
2. Ramakrishna: His Name and the Science of Japa
3. How to Understand Ramakrishna
4. Ramakrishna’s Desires
5. Ramakrishna and the People of Calcutta
6. The Stage for Ramakrishna’s Divine Play
7. Dakshineswar: An Object of Meditation
8. Christmas Vacation with Ramakrishna
9. Ramakrishna in the Streets and Meadows
10. The Story of Rasik
11. Ramakrishna and the Bohemians
12. The Mysterious Kalpataru
13. The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna
14. The Centenary of TheGospel of Sri Ramakrishna
15. The Gospel of Ramakrishna According to Girish Chandra Sen
16. The Gospel of Ramakrishna According to Suresh Chandra Datta
17. The Gospel of Ramakrishna According to Ram ChandraDatta
18. The Gospel of Ramakrishna According to MahendraNathGupta
19. The Gospel of Ramakrishna According to Swami Brahmananda
20. After Ramakrishna’s Passing Away By M.(MahendraNathGupta)
21. Ramakrishna and His Divine Play According to Swami Saradananda
22. My Master According to Swami Vivekananda
23. Disciples of Ramakrishna in the West
24. Ramakrishna and the Renaissance of Art
25. Ramakrishna and Monasticism
26. If Ramakrishna Were Alive Today
27. The Second Coming of Ramakrishna
28. Some Glimpses of Ramakrishna
29. Centenary of the Ramakrishna Mission
30. The Ramakrishna Order: Sources of Inspiration
Ramakrishna: His Name and Japa
When we study Sri Ramakrishna and His Divine Play and The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna, we find that the Master practiced various kinds of sadhana as described in various scriptures. He also practiced some new disciplines that he invented himself. For example, he said to the devotees: “During meditation, think that your mind has been tied to the feet of your Chosen Deity with a silk thread, so that it cannot run away. Why do I say a silk thread? Because those feet are extremely soft and delicate. It would hurt the deity if a different type of string were used.” Again, he said: “Should one think of the Chosen Deity during meditation only and then forget Him? Always try to keep part of your mind on the deity. You have seen how a vigil lamp is kept burning during Durga Puja. One should always keep a lamp near the deity; it should not be allowed to go out. It is inauspicious if a householder’s lamp goes out. Likewise, after placing the Chosen Deity in the lotus of the heart, one’s meditation should be like the flame of a vigil lamp. While performing household duties one should look inside from time to time to see if the lamp is still burning.”
Sri Ramakrishna once said: “During my sadhana, before starting meditation on the Chosen Deity I would first imagine that I was washing the mind thoroughly. You see, there are various kinds of dirt and dross [bad thoughts and desires] in the mind. I would imagine that I was flushing out all impurities and placing the Chosen Deity there. Adopt this method.”
Ramakrishna in the Streets and Meadows
Just as Ramakrishna loved to travel through the streets of Calcutta and along village roads, he also enjoyed traveling along various religious paths. He showed people how to move through this impermanent world. However, his body was very delicate, so he lamented: “Gaur and Nitai carried the message of God from door to door, and I cannot go anyplace without a carriage.” Driven by his desire to rescue people from the whirlpool of maya, he visited his devotees, walking or travelling by palanquin, bullock cart, horse carriage, and train. Whenever he heard of anyone who had a sincere longing for God, he would rush to see that person. He did not care about formal invitations, and he disregarded social etiquette. His attitude was: “Hello! You are a devotee and think of God, so I have come to see you.” He said: “If a man takes one step towards God, God comes a hundred steps towards him.” A devotee once said: “I did not take even one step, but the Master took hundreds of steps and came to me.”
Although Ramakrishna was mostly absorbed in a divine mood, he would move around to locate hungry souls. Once he said to M.: “You don’t want anything from me, but you love to see me and hear my words. My mind also dwells on you. I wonder how you are and why you don’t come. Could you give me your address?” Thus collecting the devotees’ addresses, the Master travelled through the streets of Calcutta to look after their welfare. Sometimes the devotees’ intense longing pulled Ramakrishna from Dakshineswar to Calcutta at night. If someone found it difficult to see him in Dakshineswar, when visiting another devotee’s home in Calcutta, he would send for that person.