Ten Commandments for Sri Ramakrishna Devotees by Revered Swami Ranganathanandaji Maharaj
1. Be regular and steady in your spiritual practices. This is the best way of serving one’s Guru.
2. Keep in touch with the Ramakrishna Sarada Devi Vivekananda literature as much as you can.
3. Visit the Math regularly, at least once a week and take part in the prayers and discourses. Do not miss the important celebrations.
4. Try to keep in personal touch with the monks by seeking interviews with them, once in a while, and make the best use of it and not fritter away the time in worldly talks.
5. Kindly remember to keep a percentage of your income for the service activities of the Math and thereby help the Math in rendering its services effectively.
6. Try to visit Belur Math, Dakshineshwar, Kamarpukur and Jayarambati at least once in your lifetime, if not more, by properly planning your pilgrimage.
7. Though you are free to visit other religious centres and persons, please remember that it should be without prejudice to your own way of life adopted as per the Ramakrishna Vivekananda traditions. It is better, therefore, you consult the local Head before doing so.
8. Avoid all occult practices and magic and miracles that will harm your spiritual life.
9. Co-operate with the activities of the Ramakrishna Math and Mission, as much as you can, whole heartedly.
10. Make it a point to present only Ramakrishna–Vivekananda literature as gifts on happy occasions to your relatives and friends. This is the best form of spiritual practices for this age.
The five commandments of Bhagavan Sri Ramakrishna for Householders
The topic of my talk today is the ‘Five commandments of Sri Ramakrishna Paramhansa’ for householders. While you have all heard of ‘The Ten Commandments’ of The Bible, it is really interesting to note that it is probably the first time that we are talking of these ‘Five Commandments’ of Sri Ramakrishna. I shall read out the relevant portions from the fifth Chapter of the first volume of ‘Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna’ (in English) or Vachanamrita (in Hindi) or ‘Sri Ramakrishna Kathamrita’ (in Bengali).
In this chapter, Master Mahashay (in short ‘M’) the author of Kathamrita raises four questions before Sri Ramakrishna.
It is in the reply to the first two questions, that we find these ‘Five Commandments’.
The first question is ‘How to keep the mind on God’. Our mind is so fickle that it is very difficult to keep it concentrated on God. It keeps wandering to worldly things, in extroversion rather than intro-spection. God resides in us, as Bhagavan Sri Krishna tells Arjuna in Gita – “Isvarah Sarvabhutanam, hrddeserjuna tisthati” – but we do not look inwards towards this God residing within; we are all the time engrossed in our family, friends, and worldly pleasures. God resides in us, but alas! We do not reside in Him. So the mind keeps wandering, and ‘M’ wants to know from Sri Ramakrishna how to keep the mind focused on God. In reply to this first question, Thakur gives the first four commandments.
The First commandment
‘Keep on chanting the name of God all the time and talk of his Glory.’ In the words of Sri Ramakrishna in Bengali – ‘Ishwarer naam guna gaan sarbada korte hoy.’ So we must all the time keep remembering God’s name, his greatness and glory, to help us concentrate on him.
The Second Commandment
‘Do Satsanga, Sadhusanga’. Go to Godly people, spend time with them, listen to their discourses, and spend time at places where people are engrossed in God?s name, in Kirtan etc.
The Third Commandment
‘Spend time in solitude, and think of him’. We are all the while caught up in worldly thoughts, being surrounded completely by this materialistic world. It is therefore necessary once in a while to get away from all this and spend some time in solitariness, thinking about God, thinking about the purpose of life, thinking about what one is doing, and what one should do. It is the time when one is totally with oneself, without any distractions so that the mind can focus on the God within. Thakur further elaborates this by saying that when the plant is tender, It needs to be protected from cattle etc. by putting a fence around it. Likewise, we have to protect our nascent inclination towards God, by getting away from the things that distract us. Thakur is not saying that all must renounce the world and go to mountains or forests. No! you are householders and you must discharge your duties towards your family, society etc. as a father, mother, husband, wife, son or daughter and so on. What Thakur says is that it is important to spend some time amidst your all activities solitariness, to think about God, to meditate, to chant his name, do Japam. Thakur says that mediate on Him in your heart, in a corner, in a forest.
The Fourth Commandment
Continuously discriminate between Right and Wrong, Nitya and Anitya’. God alone is true, God alone is permanent. Everything else is untrue, impermanent. Whatever we see around is all untrue; all this is going to perish sooner or later. Nothing of this is going to accompany us when the eternal call comes. All this will remain behind. It is only the God’s name and our good deeds, that will go with us. You never know when the eternal call comes. So start on your journey towards God today itself, right away. Do not put it off for tomorrow. Who knows whether you or me would be there in the next moment or not.
One of our devotees did a recording of my discourse on ‘Chhandogya- Upanishad’ on the 12th Dec. 2001 and promised to give me a transcript so that other devotees would benefit from it. She wrote it down too, but could not give it to me herself, as she died in a tragic car accident on the 24th Dec. 2001. This is an example of the uncertainties of life, as I was explaining earlier. So, do not wait for tomorrow, start rightaway on the path of God. While discriminating (Vichar), between the true and untrue, Nitya and Anitya, Sat and Asat, gradually detach yourself from the untrue, ‘Anitya’, ‘Asat’ and move towards ‘Nitya’, ‘Sat’, the truth, the God.
The Fifth Commandment
The Fifth Commandment of Thakur comes in response to the second question of ‘M’ – ‘How to spend our time in the household, in this world’. ‘M’ being a householder himself asks this question, that many house-holders keep asking. Do we have to leave everything, renounce the world and go to forests to realize God? Is it possible to realize God while remaining within our households? The apparent presumption is that only Monks have access to God. I am telling you that nothing could be farther from truth. And I am saying it with conviction because I have had the good fortune to come across at least two householders who realised God in this life, who were full of Brahmananda.
There was a mother, an elderly lady, in Digboi (Assam), whom I used to visit often, because I loved to do so. Imagine an old lady, afflicted by paralysis, confined to her bed, reduced to a skeleton that she was. But every time I asked her “Mother, how are you?” Her face would get lit up with a divine glow and she would reply with a smiling face – “I am fine Maharaj, as Thakur has kept me. How are you Maharaj?” There was not an iota of self-pity or of any nagging or complaint towards God for her sorry physical state. She had surrendered completely to God and was therefore in that ever-blissful state, residing in Thakur.
The other person I came across was when I once want to Cossipore Bungalow, even before I joined the Ramakrishna Order. A person was singing some devotional song which enchanted me. As I like songs very much, I approached him later and struck a friendship with him. I came to know that he was Sri Pramathanath Ganguli, who had composed about two hundred devotional songs, on the inspiration of Sri Ramakrishna as he used to say. Thereafter, I invited him several times to my place and enjoyed his singing. Towards the end of his life, he was ‘inspired’ to compose a song which prays to God that “O the Divine, when the call from the other world will come, I do not know whether I would be able to take your name. Even if I forget, you please do not desert me. Please be with me and take me with you”. After he composed this song, he was so enamoured with it that Pramatha Babu would on his own sing this song at the end of each of his recitals. And every time he sang this, tears would stream down his eyes and one would get a feeling as though Pramatha Babu was actually seeing God in front of him and singing out for Him from his heart. When he died in a hospital, he asked the nurse to prop him up on the bed saying that Sri Ramakrishna had come to take him, and he didn?t want to receive Him lying down. So he sat up and breathed his last chanting – ‘Ramakrishna, Ramakrishna —–‘. I even wonder how many of us would die such a glorious death.
Therefore, I speak with full conviction that householders have as much claim over God realization as the monks who have renounced the world. In fact merely becoming a monk does not entitle one to a claim to Godliness, unless one practices spiritual disciplines. A householder can realise God if he or she is fully convinced of the utterly unreal character of the world. Thakur says – ‘Discharge all your duties but keep your mind on God. Consider all family members ? father, mother, spouse, children as your own, but remember in your heart of hearts that it is only God, who is your own, and none else’. I am reminded of a song that was a very favourite of Thakur- “O my mind, in this world no one is your own, so do not forget to remember Dakshina Kali by getting entangled into this Mayajal, this illusion of your world”. We are under the illusion that my beloved loves me so much but the moment one is dead, no one wants to spend time with the dead body, they want to dispose it off as soon as possible. So long as one is a big officer everyone salutes him. But the moment he dies, all that is reduced to ashes and everyone starts saluting the next person who occupies that chair. Today I am Secretary, Delhi Center – all of you come to my discourses, pay me your respects. As soon as I die, someone else will occupy this position, and all of you would start paying your obeisance to him. Gokulananda would become just a handful of ash and some distant memory.
Therefore, all of us must learn to detach ourselves from these worldly strings, affections, bondages. These become a block between us and self realization, realization of God. As Thakur says, discharge your duties like the housemaid. She moves around with the master?s son in her lap, saying ‘My son, my darling! etc.’ but she knows in her heart of hearts that they are none of hers. The moment she is off the job, all this is forgotten and there are no strings that bind her to this house. We have to discharge our duties, with full responsibility, but always keeping in mind that God alone is true, God alone is permanent, God alone is ours, and all the other things are untrue, unreal, impermanent and not belonging to us.
To recollect once again, the ‘Five Commandments’ of Sri Ramakrishna for householders are :
1. Keep chanting the God’s name, thinking of his glory.
2. Do Sadhusanga, Satsang, being with holy people; visit places where there are holy thoughts.
3. Go to a solitary place once in a while and meditate. Protect and nurture your godly feelings and thoughts.
4. Constantly deliberate and discriminate about right and wrong, true and untrue, real and unreal, right and wrong, ‘Nitya’ and ‘Anitya’, ‘Sat’ and ‘Asat’. God alone is true, ‘Nitya’, permanent, real, ‘Sat’, Right.
5. Discharge your duties as a householder with full responsibility but always keep in mind that none of this belongs to you.
If we can follow these ‘Five Commandments’ there is no doubt that we can realize God in this life itself. Time is running out every moment, so we must start immediately and continue practising these commandments all the time. May Lord Sri Ramakrishna help and bless us.