Great Spirits of Our Time
Edgar Cayce, Ramana Maharshi, George Washinton Carver, Sai Baba (of Shirdi), Pak Sabuh and Ramakrishna
These are excerpts from a book by Tony Crisp. For the lives of the men dealt with here, explain the teachings with an impact theorizing could never do. That these are all men living within, or near to our own times, and well authenticated, lends added weight to the impact. I will let their own deeds and words explain them.
|Carrie was sitting in her living room when Edgar Cayce entered. Her husband, Dr House, had asked him to come because of the emergency. As they entered, Carrie nursed her baby on her lap. The baby was quiet now, but not for long. Its convulsions had begun to come every twenty minutes. Two other doctors were already in the room. One of them, recognizing Cayce, said, “If you’re going to fool with that faker, I’m through.”
He went. Dr House and his remaining colleague, Dr J. B. Jackson followed Edgar into the bedroom across the hall. Once there, Cayce loosened his collar, lay on the bed and went to sleep. Sitting nearby, and watched by Dr Jackson, Dr House read from a slip of paper,
“Now the body is assuming its normal forces, and will give the information that is required of it. You will have before you the body of Thomas Burr House, Jnr. You will go over the body carefully, telling us the condition you find there, and what may be done to correct anything which is wrong. You will speak distinctly, at a normal rate, and you will answer the questions which I will put to you.” After a pause, Cayce, still asleep, said in a clear voice,
“Yes, we have the body.” There followed a minute description of the baby’s illness, its causes, and what could be done to help. When Edgar woke, only Dr House remained in the room with him. Dr Jackson had gone back to Carrie and was arguing with her. “Mrs House, please don’t do as this man suggests. What he has prescribed for your baby is poison.”
Carrie’s reply came as Edgar and Dr House came into the room. “When I was pregnant with my baby, you were one of the doctors who diagnosed my condition as a tumor of the abdomen, and wanted to operate. It was Edgar who said that I was pregnant and had a locked bowel. Well, here is my baby to prove you and the other doctors wrong, and Edgar right. Again you tell me not to trust him, but I’m going to do whatever he says.”
Her husband, now sitting near her said, “What Edgar prescribes is an overdose of belladonna. You know yourself how poisonous that is. Of course, he gives an antidote, but what if it doesn’t work?”
Carrie sighed. “The baby is dying. We must do something, and what else is there for us to do to save him except Edgar’s suggestions? Go and get the belladonna, I’ll give it to him myself!”
When it arrived, Carrie administered it. Quickly the baby relaxed and fell asleep, while Dr House prepared the antidote. Edgar looked on tensely. Dr Jackson, also watching, said, “You mentioned something else, a peach tree poultice, whatever that is.” Glad of something to do, Edgar went to prepare it. Picking green shoots from a peach tree, he prepared a brew with hot water, dipped towels in it, and swathed the baby.
The hours seemed endless as they bathed and watched the baby. Then, as he arrived with yet another fresh towel, Carrie looked up smiling. “He’s better Edgar. I knew if anybody could save him it would be you!”
Moved by this demonstration of his own strange power, Edgar walked cut into the garden. It was dark, and he looked at the sky. After a minute Dr House joined him. “Do you still have doubts?” he asked. “You cured Carrie, and now you have saved the boy’s life with this trance thing of yours. To most people it looks foolish, but it’s the most dependable foolishness I know. I have no other course now but to believe in it myself.”
Edgar Cayce is certainly one of the most amazing men in American history. Born in Hopkinsville, he died in his sixties in 1945, in Virginia. At an early age he discovered that he could put himself into a trance-like sleep at will. In this condition he could answer any question on any subject. His answers were couched in the terms of the question, i.e. medical, scientific, philosophical, historical, etc. Thus, although his education was little, and he was often described as illiterate, the answers given to questions were yet couched in technical terms unknown to his conscious mind.
Politicians, businessmen, scientists, priests, all visited him to see how he could help them while he was asleep. In this way, he dictated fourteen million words on thousands of different subjects. When asked during a trance how he could give such varied and amazing information, he said, “Edgar Cayce’s mind is amenable to suggestion, the same as all other sub-conscious minds, but in addition thereto it has the power to interpret to the objective mind of others what it has acquired from the subconscious state of other individuals of the same kind. The subconscious mind forgets nothing. The conscious mind receives the impressions from without and transfers all thought to the subconscious, where it remains even though the conscious be destroyed.”
Whether we question this or not, his life seems to prove that he tapped the knowledge of the ages. For the sick, he would prescribe drugs not yet on the market, but being released, or those of men long dead and obscure. Once, when working with a number of doctors, he prescribed a medicine none of them had heard of, or could find listed. They advertised in a medical journal seeking its prescription, but meanwhile asked Cayce to describe it while in trance. Later a letter arrived from France, from a practicing doctor. It said that no wonder they could not find the preparation, it had been invented by the man’s father, and never published. However, the enclosed details tallied exactly with those Cayce gave in trance.
First a hospital, then a large association, grew up around Edgar Cayce’s work. His life was spent helping the sick, and throwing light upon the mystery of life. His “readings” have now been collected, and are investigated by doctors, psychiatrists, priests, and thousands of laymen. Certainly his life demonstrated man’s emergence from the Timeless and Eternal.
|Ramana was born on December 29th, 1879, at Tiruchuzhi in South India. His father was an uncertified pleader, which is a sort of rural lawyer, and as a child, Ramana showed no sign of his later experiences. At school he was athletic; football, wrestling and swimming being his main enjoyments. He had an amazing memory, being able to repeat a lesson once heard, but was not thought of as bright.
Just after his sixteenth birthday, however, a strange experience came to him. Sitting alone he suddenly felt a violent fear of death. There was no sickness, only the thought, “I am going to die.” The shock of this drove him into an immediate self-analysis. He asked himself “What is it that is dying? This body dies.”
With this thought he dramatized the enquiry by laying with body stiff, holding his breath, imitating a corpse. He went on to ask himself, “But with the death of this body am I dead? Is the body I?” This drove his enquiry inwards until there awakened that consciousness of THAT. He says, “Fear of death vanished once and for all. Absorption in the Self continued from that time on.”
The results upon his outer life were quite marked, although he told no one of his experience. He says, “Whatever work was given, whatever teasing or annoyance there was, 1 would put up with it quietly. The former ego that had resented and retaliated had disappeared. I stopped going out with friends to play games, and preferred solitude. I would often sit alone especially in a posture suitable for meditation, and become absorbed in the Self, the Spirit, the force or current which constituted me.”
His everyday life suffered however, and on a remark from his brother that his home was no use to one who acted like a Yogi, he left home for Arunachala, which is a holy mountain. From this time, until his death in 1950, he stayed near or on the Holy Mountain of Arunachala. He sought no disciples and made no effort to go about preaching of his insight. For some length of time, day and night were spent in meditation, his whole consciousness immersed in that “current” of his being revealed to him earlier.
For many years he did not even speak, but sat quiet and still, immersed in that he had discovered within. This did not stop others noticing the blessedness of his presence, and soon crowds would visit just to see or sit near him, even though he never spoke or seemed to notice them. As time passed however, he began to answer questions in writing, and later on began speaking again.
Later, in describing this part of his life, he said, “Sometimes I opened my eyes and it was morning, sometimes it was evening; I did not know when the sun rose or when it set.” He compared this experience with a bucket being lowered by rope into a well, and then being drawn out. In other words, the ego dips into the unconditional, but can emerge again. His eventual condition was however, like the river entering the sea. That is, the ego is now merged into the unconditional, and yet one is still aware of the physical world, and can go about normal duties without loss of that consciousness. In the first one, the ego disappears only at deeper levels of consciousness. In the second, the unconditional bliss is felt at all times, in all situations.
With the growth in number of those who came as disciples to him, he took up residence on the slopes of Arunachala itself. He still maintained silence in these early years on the Holy Hill. So why did many make the long journey up the mountain to see him? Arthur Osborne, one of Ramana’s European disciples, says, “It was not only seekers after Truth who were drawn to him but simple people, children, even animals. Young children from the town of Tiruvannamalai would climb the hill to Virupaksha Cave, sit near him, play around him, and go back feeling happy. Squirrels and monkeys would come up to him and eat out of his hand.”
Outwardly from this time on, his life is empty of the exciting events one so often meets in famous biographies, but the richness of Ramana’s life, lived in the unconditional state, was one of inner relationships with the thousands who visited him. Unless we account these inner contacts he made with those who came, his life must appear empty and uneventful. For each day was spent seated, hardly speaking, or quietly performing every-day chores as in cleaning vegetables for the day’s meal.
H. Humphreys, writing to a friend in London about Ramana, says, “On reaching the cave we sat before him at his feet and said nothing. We sat thus for a long time and I felt lifted out of myself. For half an hour I looked into the Maharshi’s eyes, which never changed their expression of deep contemplation. I began to realize somewhat that the body is the Temple of the Holy Ghost; I could feel only that his body was not the man: it was the instrument of God, merely a sitting, motionless corpse from which God was radiating terrifically. My own feelings were indescribable.”
Paul Brunton, a journalist who had visited a number of so-called Masters, and had left each one still skeptical, also visited Ramana and wrote: “It is an ancient theory of mine that one can take the inventory of a man’s soul from his eyes. But before those of the Maharshi I hesitate, puzzled and baffled.
“I cannot turn my gaze away from him. My initial bewilderment, my perplexity at being totally ignored, slowly fade away as this strange fascination begins to grip me more firmly. But it is not till the second hour of the uncommon scene that I become aware of a silent, resistless change which is taking place within my mind.”
“I know only that a steady river of quietness seems to be flowing near me, that a great peace is penetrating the inner reaches of my being, and that my thought-tortured brain is beginning to arrive at some rest.”
One of those who stayed to serve him and become a disciple, arrived with a different problem than the quest for truth or understanding. Echammal had been a happy wife and mother, but before twenty-five she lost her husband, her only son, then her only daughter. Her grief and torture were such that she could not even stay in the vicinity of her previous home.
She traveled to Gokarnam to serve the holy men there, but found no respite from her agony. Returning home, friends told her that many had found peace in Ramana’s presence. Immediately she set out. She had relatives in Tiruvannamalai, but she did not visit them, knowing it would increase her suffering by reviving memories. She climbed the hill and stood before Ramana in silence, not telling her misery. For a whole hour she stood and looked. Then she turned, her burden lifted and gone.
George Washington Carver
|Dr Carver was not born great in the sense of family or opportunity. His mother was a colored slave on a Missouri plantation. While still a tiny baby, slave raiders rode down on the farm and carried off the mother and child. Moses Carver, the owner of the plantation, rode in pursuit all the way to Arkansas. The baby was eventually found, and returned in exchange for a horse. The mother was never heard of again.
Being a sickly child, he was given light housework to do, and allowed much time to wander along the path of his own interests. For some time he was not named. Eventually, however, he was called George Washington because of his characteristic of telling the truth. He was also given the name of Carver for want of another.
During the many leisure hours of his childhood, George wandered in the woods, drawn to all the plants and creatures he met there. Without any formal education he began to show many remarkable talents. The plant life of the woods was drawn and sketched. He became a fine cook and householder. He also had secretly established in the woods a small botanical garden, where he had collected many curious plants. Through the ability he showed in healing these plants of diseases or insect pests, he soon became known as the ‘plant doctor.’ This remained with him to the end of his life, people sending sick plants to him from enormous distances for his help.
Music and painting also came naturally to him, but the Carvers had no money to spend on his education. Finding an old blue speller, however, he spent hours with this learning to read, this being his only source of education until he was ten. At this age he discovered a log school in a nearby town, and working at chores and odd jobs, he attended. For one year he slept wherever he could find a sheltered spot, but at the end of that time had learnt all that the teacher could offer.
Still seeking education, for something now seemed to drive him on relentlessly, he moved to Fort Scott in Kansas. Here he washed dishes, laundered, cooked, kept house, to earn his keep for seven years while he worked his way through high school. Still pushed on by his drive for education, and having received the high school diploma, he wondered where to go next. All the southern colleges were closed to Negroes and having saved his rail fare because of an offered scholarship in a northern university, he was again disappointed on arrival—they also refused ‘coloreds’. Eventually he was accepted at Simpson College, and received his Bachelors Degree in Science at Iowa State College. In 1896 he received his Master’s Degree.
Although he was then given a faculty at Ames, in charge of the bacteriological laboratory, greenhouse and systematic botany, his life work was still awaiting him. This began with a call back south to Tuskegee. It was here, with little salary, no equipment and in barren surroundings, that he became known as a saint and scientist—the “man who talks with flowers.”
The American South was at that time a devastated place. For years the farmers had continually planted cotton, until now, with boll weevils and impoverished soil and soul, many farmers attempted to keep their families on about $300 a year.
Seeing all this as his train carried him south, Dr Carver felt a spiritual inrush of purpose. Here was the task his whole ambitious drive had been leading to—the regeneration of the south that had rejected him. Also in the preceding years, as the flowering of his energy carried him through the difficulties of education, something else had opened in him. He had learnt how to pray.
Because of this, when he began his task of re-educating the South and traveled out with a mule and cart laden with plants and seeds, he gave more, much more, than agricultural information. Preaching crop rotation, and the planting of peanuts and sweet potatoes, he gradually led the way to rich fields and crops again, along with new spiritual harvests.
Jim Hardwick, talking about one of these lectures says, “One day he came to the town where I lived and gave an address on his discoveries of the peanut. I went to the lecture expecting to learn about science and came away knowing more about prayer than I had ever learned in the theological schools. And to cap the climax, when the old gentleman was leaving the hall he turned to me, where I stood transfixed and inspired, and said, “I want you to be one of my boys!”
But Jim Hardwick had come from Southern parents, whose family had owned slaves. He says, “For a ‘nigger’ to assume the right of adopting me into his family—even his spiritual family, as in this case—was brazen effrontery to my pride. I recoiled from it.” It took Jim several days of wrestling with this inbuilt pride before this barrier fell away, and he shared the inner life of Dr Carver. To quote him again, when that happened, “instantly it seemed that his spirit filled that room. . . . A peace entered me, and my problems fell away.”
However, a climax came in his work that extended it beyond the bounds of any expectation. So successful were his efforts and agricultural reform, that farm after farm hearkened. The soil change and crop production spoke for themselves, until one year the harvest of peanuts and sweet potatoes were so big, the market could not absorb them.
Shocked at this outcome of his work, and seeing the threat of a disaster, he went into his laboratory to pray. He did not ask for government aid, or demands to stop planting. In his own words, “I went into my laboratory and said ‘Dear Mr Creator, please tell me what the universe was made for?’ The Creator answered, ‘You want to know too much for that little mind of yours. Ask for something more your size.’
“Then I asked, ‘Dear Mr Creator, tell me what man was made for?’ Again the great Creator replied, ‘Little man, you are still asking too much. Cut down the extent of your request, and improve the intent.”
“So then I asked, ‘Please, Mr Creator, will you tell me why the peanut was made?”
“‘That’s better, but even then it’s infinite. What do you want to know about the peanut?”
“‘Mr Creator, can I make milk out of the peanut?”
“‘What kind of milk do you want, good Jersey milk or just plain boarding-house milk?”
“‘Good Jersey milk.”
“And then the great Creator taught me how to take the peanut apart and put it together again.”
The result was that for days and nights he locked himself in his laboratory. When he emerged he knew God and he had solved the problem. From that event came face powders, printers ink, butter, shampoo, creosote, vinegar, dandruff cure, instant coffee, dyes, rubberoid compound, soaps, wood stains, and hundreds of uses for the peanut and sweet potato. Dr Carver said that, “The great Creator gave us three kingdoms, the animal, vegetable and mineral. Now he has added a fourth, the synthetic kingdom.”
So what were this man’s secrets? Maybe his own words will explain once more. For on being asked how he talked with flowers he said, “When I touch that flower, I am not merely touching that flower. I am touching infinity.” He also said, “You have to love it enough. Anything will give up its secrets if you love it enough. Not only have I found that when I talk to the little flower or to the peanut they will give up their secrets, but I have found that when I silently commune with people they give up their secrets also—if you love them enough.”
Sai Baba (of Shirdi)
|It is not known when Sai Baba was born, where he came from, or who his parents were. The term Sai Baba means simply, Saintly Father. He appeared in Shirdi, which is a little village in India, at about the age of sixteen, and stayed there till the end of his physical life in 1918.
Between the years of his appearance at Shirdi, and his transition, his life was an extraordinary succession of miracles and deep communion with his pupils. Like Ramana, he had no need to enter a trance to experience the Unconditional state, but was constantly aware of all things. Through this he would often describe a stranger’s whole life in detail. As the Unconditional is in all things, so Sai Baba was in all life.
As an example of this, there is the experience of Adam Dalali, a pupil of Sai Baba. “Some time previously a poor Malwari had come to his house to ask for food and he gave him four annas and sent him to a Malwari hotel. When he went to Shirdi, Sai Baba immediately said ‘I went to this man’s house and he sent me to a Malwari hotel.’” (From “The Incredible Sai Baba” by A. Osborne. Rider & Co.) In such cases he usually spoke in the first person as if physically involved in the incident. His life illustrated the saying of Christ, “Inasmuch as you do it to one of the least of these, you do it also to me.”
One day a lady asked Sai Baba to come and eat with her. Having prepared special dishes with all her love and capability, she was horrified to see a stray dog just about to eat from the table. She drove it away and left to tell Sai Baba the meal was ready. When she asked him to come he said, “No, you drove me away when I wanted it; now I don’t want it.”
Curing the sick and childless in miraculous ways happened constantly. One old man, grandfather of a pupil, when led before Sai Baba bowed and said, “Baba, I can’t see.” “You will,” Sai Baba replied. He laid his hands on the old man’s head and he could immediately see.
He would, and still does, appear to people in their dreams, either requesting them to visit him at Shirdi, or giving them spiritual instruction. Often these people had never seen or heard of him before, yet came under his influence. As his consciousness had realized its timeless eternal nature, he is still as powerful to help those who turn to him today, as he ever was in his physical body. But the Master, whether in the body or out of it, demands something of us—namely surrender of self to his divine will. Very often, in curing people, he would ask them to let go of their prejudices or self-will.
One colorful illustration of this is the experience of Dada Kelkar. Being a strict Brahmin he would not touch onions. Not only this, he hated the sight of them. Having visited Shirdi with a party of people, Dada became enraged when one lady began to cut up onions for her meal. This very much upset the woman. Some hours later Dada’s granddaughter developed a pain in her eyes, and began to cry. Dada immediately went to Sai Baba and asked him to cure it. Sai Baba, who knew nothing of the argument, told him to rub the girl’s eyes with onion. When he asked where he could get the onion from, Sai Baba pointed to the woman he had argued with.
To Sai Baba, however, his miracles were only a means of developing trust and faith in people. He said, “I give people what they want in the hope that they will begin to want what I want to give them.” These other gifts, were of the Spirit. Mrs Manager, one of his devotees, says of him;” One’s first impression of Sai Baba was of his eyes. There was such a power and penetration in his gaze that no one could long look him in the eyes. One felt that he was reading one through and through. Soon one lowered one’s eyes and bowed down. One felt that he was not only in one’s heart but in every atom of one’s body. A few words or a gesture would reveal to one that Sai Baba knew all about the past and present and even the future and about everything else. There was nothing else to do but to submit trustfully and surrender oneself to him.”
As one was not bowing down to a man, but to the divine acting through a man, one was thus relating to God. Sai Baba said, “I shall remain active and vigorous even after leaving this earthly body. I am ever living to help those who come to me and surrender, and seek refuge in me. If you cast your burden on me I will bear it.”
Out of those men mentioned here, whose veils obscuring their divine nature have been to some extent removed, Pak Subuh is the only one still alive in the body (1970). He was born on 22nd June, 1901 in Semarang, Java. During his own life, that influence which has expressed through him, has become a world wide experience. This movement is called SUBUD, and is dedicated to passing on to those who seek it, the same influence that Pak Subuh has passed to them.
In his youth, Pak Subuh sought out numerous spiritual teachers. He went from one to another until he met Kjai Abdurrahman, whose pupil he became, though the teacher would give him no practices to perform, and no initiation, maintaining that his initiation (inner revelation of wider consciousness) would come from a non-human source. Pak Subuh eventually left this teacher, but sought no more. He married at about the age of twenty-six, and while no longer seeking a guru, as a Moslem he still practiced his religion.
Then to quote H. Rofe, his first European pupil: “One night, about the year 1925, he was out walking alone when he had a vision of a bright ball of light above him, resembling the sun.
While he was contemplating this vision the ball touched his head and he began to quiver and shake as if attacked by the ague. He recalled the predictions of his early death, and it seemed to him that he had now reached the fatal age.
He returned home, lay down on his bed and prepared to die peacefully. But as soon as he lay down in a state of complete relaxation a strange force raised him up to a standing position beside the bed and impelled him to go through the ritual of the Muslim prayer, quite independently of his own will or intention.” This, apart from the leading to prayer, is almost exactly like Ramana’s experience at sixteen, but it is the release of this force, or inner power, outside of the human will or intention that Pak Subuh passes on to his pupils, and is passed on to others in Subud.
At the time of this experience he was employed as a book-keeper by the Kasjumi Muslim political party. Each night after the first, through surrendering to it, this power that Pak Subuh calls the Universal Life Force, led him through many spiritual experiences of a cleansing nature, for a 1000 nights. At the end of this time he had a climactic experience. His consciousness in a vision ascended to the sun (source of life—Prana), and he saw that the sun only reflected its light from beyond our solar system (Prana or life force is only an aspect of our dual being, it has its source beyond duality in the unconditional). In the centre of the sun yawned a great hole through which he was about to pass, when a voice warned him that if he went beyond, he would not return to his body. This he should do, as he had a task of giving something to the world. Gradually his awareness returned to the body, which had been cataleptic, but which now gradually revived.
From that time on he was completely changed, his ego having died to his divine self. Although at the time he had six small children, he was bade from within to cease work to give his life to the inner work. When his relatives kept on at him to think of his wife and children he ignored them, but his wife, upset by their criticism talked with him about this decision. He said, “It was a Divine command that I should no longer accept paid employment from men; the onus of caring for our welfare has been assumed entirely by God. Have faith and you will see that we will be well provided for; we shall lack nothing essential. But if you force me to choose between God and you, then we shall have to part.”
That was in 1932, when Pak Subuh began passing on to others the spiritual current he had received. Again it is interesting that Ramana also used the word current. Like those who came in contact with Ramana, Sai Baba or Dr Carver, Pak Subuh found that it was enough for him to stand or sit quietly in the presence of those who were totally relaxed for them to feel the stirring of the force within them.
H. Rofe says that “The training implies the growth of new organs which can apprehend what is already present but unperceived: it does not mean that something formerly absent will arise.”
The movement of Subud that has grown out of this, through Husein Rofe, has spread throughout the world. Although Pak Subuh is a Muslim, the movement has no religious training, dogma, or philosophical tenets that have to be believed, it is open to all. It is only necessary to be able to completely relax, and give way to that which arises from beyond one’s own desires, mentality and self.
It does however, imply the being of God, or a divine source though it does not attempt to define this. In Indonesia, a prominent communist argued that Subud must be a hoax, as it suggested the presence of God, which was disproved by science. After the man had finished his long talk, Pak Subuh asked simply, “Do you want to know the Truth, whatever it may be?” The outcome was that the man said he did, and agreed to open himself to the force. He was thereby so profoundly shaken by his experience, that he came again and again, and became a devoted member of Subud.
Long before Rofe visited Java in 1950, Pak Subuh had prophesied that the movement would spread around the world. Even before 1937 he told this to his pupils, and said that before he died he would have 200,000 pupils. Yet even when Rofe first met him, he had only about 50. Now they can be counted in thousands. As with all the great teachers from whom a movement originates, Pak Subuh says he gives nothing that is new. That which is experienced, has always been, in the life of men. And, like Sai Baba or Ramana, to receive the grace of the guru, one still has to surrender self-will.
|Ramakrishna was born in 1836 in Bengal. His parents were poor but very pious, his father having been dispossessed of all he owned because he had refused to bear false witness for a great landowner. Ramakrishna is said to have been a very beautiful child, whose first spiritual experience came at the age of six. He tells us that while wandering along between rice fields, eating puffed rice, “I raised my eyes to the sky as I munched my rice. I saw a great black cloud spreading rapidly until it covered the heavens. Suddenly at the edge of the cloud a flight of snow-white cranes passed over my head. The contrast was so beautiful that my spirit wandered far away. I lost consciousness and fell to the ground. The puffed rice was scattered. Somebody picked me up and carried me home.”
From the age of twenty he became a priest of the Temple of Kali at Dakshineswar. Kali is the Divine Mother, the wife of God who brings forth all form. To her worship Ramakrishna gave himself in a way it is difficult to imagine. Carried away by visions, frenzies, fevers and trances, he was almost lost to the world for ten years. After many years, there came to him a woman known as the Bhairavi Brahmani (Brahmin Nun) who taught him to untangle the meaning of his visions and experiences.
Then having found a stability within his revelation, another teacher came, Tota Puri (the naked one). Until the coming of Tota Pun, Ramakrishna had worshipped as a Bhakti, through forms and images of the gods, not so much outwardly, but through contact with the living forces emerging as forms within. Tota Puri taught him how to go into the formless.
Ramakrishna says of this, “Tota Puri taught me to detach my mind from all objects and to plunge it into the heart of the Atman (self). But despite all my efforts, I could not cross the realm of name and form and lead my spirit to the Unconditional state. I had no difficulty in detaching my mind from all objects with the one exception of the too familiar form of the radiant Mother, the essence of pure knowledge, who appeared before me as a living reality. I said to Tota Puri in despair, ‘It is no good, I shall never succeed in lifting my spirit to the “Unconditioned” state and find myself face to face with the Atman.’ He replied severely, ‘What! You say you cannot? You must!’ Looking about him, he found a piece of glass. He took it and stuck the point between my eyes, saying, ‘Concentrate your mind on that point.’ Then I began to meditate with all my might, and as soon as the gracious form of the Divine Mother appeared I used my discrimination as a sword, and I clove Her in two. The last barrier fell and my spirit immediately precipitated itself beyond the plane of the ‘conditional’, and I lost myself in Samadhi (unconditioned bliss).
“The Universe was extinguished. Space itself was no more. At first the shadows of ideas floated in the obscure depths of the mind. Monotonously a feeble consciousness of the ego went on ticking. Then that stopped too. Nothing remained but Existence. The soul was lost in Self. Dualism was blotted out. Finite and infinite space were as one.”
In this state, Ramakrishna remained as rigid as a corpse for days on end, much to the astonishment of Tota Puri, to whom he had now become, not the pupil, but the master. He stayed in the cataleptic state so long, that his body all but died. He himself says that he tempted providence. When he returned he was ill with dysentery for six months. Yet even before he was well, he began an investigation of all the great religions, and found that they all led to the same path.
It was not until 1867 that he began to communicate with the world again, and unfold deeps of wisdom, love and power. And not until 1874 that he began to preach, and slowly attract sincere disciples to him. The first of these were two cousins, one a medical student and complete atheist, the other a family man.
The results of his presence upon his close disciples, as with the other Masters, acted powerfully upon their inner nature. Vivekananda, his greatest propagandist, describes his second visit to Ramakrishna as follows: “I found him sitting alone on his small bed. He was glad to see me, and called me affectionately to sit near him on one side of the bed. But a moment later I saw him convulse with some emotion. His eyes were fixed upon me, he muttered under his breath, and drew slowly nearer. I thought he was going to make some eccentric remark as on the previous occasion. But before I could stop him he placed his right foot upon my body. The contact was terrible. With my eyes open I saw the walls and everything in the room whirling and vanishing into nothingness…. The whole universe and my own individuality were at the same time almost lost in a nameless void, which swallowed up everything that is. I was terrified, and believed I was face to face with death. I could not stop myself from crying out, ‘What are you doing? I have parents at home ‘ Then he began to laugh, and passing his hand over my chest, he said, ‘All right. Let us leave it at that for the moment! It will come, all in good time!’ He had no sooner said these words than the strange phenomena disappeared.
Another disciple said of him. “There he lived without any book-learning whatsoever; this great intellect never learnt even to write his own name, but the most brilliant graduates of our university found in him an intellectual giant.”
He lived until August 15th, 1886. At nightfall he became unconscious, and all thought him to be dead. But towards midnight he awoke and was sat up. He talked for a while, then in ringing tones called out the name of the Divine Mother and lay back. Passing into an ecstasy he stayed in the body for another half hour, then passed on.