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Working in Ramakrishna Mission A new path for a new age

Working in Ramakrishna Mission A new path for a new age


I am very glad to be here today amidst all of you. I have been asked to speak to you all
for some time about spiritual life. I will speak to you about an idea that is very dear to me. I am
sure all of you too will like the ideas I will share here with you today. I say this because I am
going to speak to you about working inside a Ramakrishna Mission institution.
All of us work for a living. Of course, when I say all of us, I naturally mean you all who
are employed under Ramakrishna Mission. I dont include monks and brahmacharis, because
they are not employed here. But they too work. So, in any Ramakrishna Mission institution, we
have at least two types of workers those who are duly employed, and those who are monks &
inmates. Is there a difference in the work that they do?
The whole issue revolves around what we get out of our work. Why do we work at all?
And why do we work in Ramakrishna Mission? These two questions are to be answered.
Living requires money. Money comes from working. That is the main reason man works.
Man works so that he can earn money, which in turn brings him all he needs for living. So the
next question is How much money is required? We need to answer this because this will
determine how much work we have to do. But there is no single answer to this. No matter how
much we have, a little more would still be welcome! The nature of this world, the very nature of
money, the very nature of our life is that we can never be satisfied with a number! Look at the
daily newspaper. Vijay Mallya looted Indian banks through his company, and he is still not
satisfied with his life. What does he want? More money, naturally! But what he already has now
should certainly satisfy him, shouldnt it? Well, as it happens, it doesnt!
There is a wonderful book called The rise & fall of the Roman empire written by
Edward Gibbons. In that book, there is a record of a Roman Senator who committed suicide
because he found out that he had only 5 million denarius left! Why did he do that? Well, he was
depressed with his poverty. That is why he committed suicide. But he had 50 lakh silver coins,
you will say. How can he complain of poverty? Ah, but his daily expenses were 30 lakhs! So, it
is impossible to put a limit on the amount of money required to satisfy a person.
What do I mean to say here? Do I mean to say that we shouldnt seek to earn money?
That would be wrong. How will we eat if we dont have money? How will we protect ourselves
from heat & cold? We need money. There is no second thought about that; but, only to take care
of the basic necessities of life. It is very important to draw this line of distinction. Modern man
needs to be a little bit of a monk, no matter what his position in society is. It is essential for man
to learn to be satisfied with the minimum in this world.
If you have not learnt to prescribe this limit for yourself, working inside Ramakrishna
Mission will turn out to be frustrating. It is not possible to become rich by working in our
institutions. Will you be poor, below poverty line then? That is also not true. All of our
institutions strictly adhere to pay scales and fulfil all the Govt norms regarding PF, medical
benefits and statutory leave. But, you wont become rich by working here. If you have Spartan
habits, you can even save some amount every month.
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Working in Ramakrishna Mission A new path for a new age

One thing must have become clear to you all by now. Unless you have learnt how to
minimize your wants in life, you wont have satisfaction by working in our institutions. Sri
Ramakrishna used to narrate a beautiful parable. There was once a King. A certain barber would
come everyday morning and shave the King. This barber had a very jolly demeanor. He was
always happy. The King looked forward to beginning his day by meeting this jolly barber every
day. One day, however, the King found the barber lost in thought while he was shaving. The
King asked him, Is everything alright with you? The barber said, Yes, your Majesty. But I
think I need a raise. The King asked him, Did you by any chance get hold of the 8 th jar? The
barber was flabbergasted. The thing is like this: Everyday, the barber used to walk through a
jungle in order to come to the palace. One day, when he was crossing the jungle, he was accosted
by a genie who told him that under a particular tree there lay eight jars of gold. When the barber
dug under that tree, he did find those jars. He took them home and opened the jars. Seven of
them were filled to the brim. The 8th jar was just a little short from being full. He decided to fill
that jar too. Now, that was a magical jar. No matter how much gold he put into that jar, it would
always be a little short of being full! That started vexing the barber. That was when this
conversation took place with the King. So the King advised him, Throw away those jars. You
will be happy. So, with all of us, life invariably presents this 8th jar to us. No matter how much
we try to fill it up, we are always a little short. And the struggle goes on. There is no end to it, as
we see it!
It is perfectly alright to try to fill up this magical 8th jar. Go on and earn as much as you
can. This world provides all of us sufficient opportunity to do that. Sky is the limit for earning
money in this world. But, after spending a whole lifetime, we will still find that the jar is just a
little short. Money can fulfil all our needs is one of the most enduring illusions of our present
scheme of life in this world. It is very difficult to escape the clutches of this illusion. Very deep
inside our mind, we all feel that if only we had more money, all our wants would be fulfilled.
Unfortunately, that isnt true. At the same time, not having money also creates great problems.
So, we must quickly learn to minimize our needs and then have minimum money to take care of
our minimum needs. That is a great secret of living that needs to be taught urgently to the present
world.
Armed with this wonderful qualification, we must plunge into work. Why? If not for
earning money, why else should we work? In our Ramakrishna Mission institutions, an
employee can never rise to head the institution. The head will always be a monk. So, nothing
very promising on the promotions front either! So, if money is also left out, why should we work
here at all?
If you are interested in obtaining something beyond money and position from your work,
then you certainly ought to work in one of our Ramakrishna Mission institutions. What indeed
can that be which is beyond money, and which is obtainable through work? Let us look into that
aspect for some time.
Swami Vivekananda has initiated a new path for the spiritual growth of mankind. A new
Avatara opens up a new spiritual ideal for mankind. That new ideal can be reached by a new
path. This has been the scheme always. It is so now also. Just a little while ago, Sudip Maharaj
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Working in Ramakrishna Mission A new path for a new age

read out a beautiful passage from Holy Mothers life. Holy Mother said, Sri Ramakrishna has
made God-realization easier in this age. How exactly has Sri Ramakrishna made Godrealization easier? Can God-realization, the supreme goal of human life really be made easier? In
what sense did she say this?
We can get an elaboration of her statement from her own life. Recall the Shodashi Puja
that Sri Ramakrishna performed on her on the night of Phalaharini Kali Puja. Sri Ramakrishna
informed Holy Mother that she was to come to his room at around midnight. She went. He made
her sit on a stool, which he had duly consecrated. Then he invoked the presence of the Divine
Mother of the Universe in Sri Sharada Devi and worshipped her as one would ritually worship an
idol. She went into Nirvikalpa Samadhi. Around day-break, she came back to normal
consciousness and got up and went to her room in the Nahabat. This much information we find
in her biographies. I ask you to imagine a little bit here. Then you will understand what I am
trying to say. Remember that Holy Mother was an ordinary household lady, for all practical
purposes. Like you and me, she too had fixed duties to perform. So, when her husband asked her
to come to his room by midnight, how did she come? She had a household to run. That night, she
must have prepared food for quite a good number of people. She must have served them the
food. Then after that, there would have been the duty of cleaning the eating place and the vessels.
She must have done all these and only then would she have gone to her husbands room.
Similarly, next day morning, she goes back to her room, for what? For rest? Where is rest for a
lady of the house?! Early morning she must have collected milk for preparing cheese for her
husband (he needed it as a staple diet). Then would have begun the innumerable daily chores
such as preparing breakfast, washing clothes, drying them up, etc. She didnt claim any
privileges after her Nirvikalpa Samadhi! She didnt say, Look here, yesterday night, I had
Nirvikalpa Samadhi. So, I am a saint from now on. I cant do all these menial works. From now
on, I can only bless devotees. You all should take care of these household works. She didnt say
that!
There is one more aspect that we need to note here. You see, one becomes fit to
experience this kind of Samadhi only after the most rigorous Sadhana done for a long time. In
this instance we find this lady doing all her daily duties, and then she is fully ready for the
highest spiritual experience right after that! I wonder what must have been the attitude with
which she had been working, if her preparation for Nirvikalpa Samadhi was the daily chores she
performed! Doesnt it make you think?
That is the kind of attitude with which we ought to work. All these institutions were
started by Swami Vivekananda with this express idea in mind that they will all become the
ground for a replication of this type of manifestation. Imagine a person who works in one of
these institutions all day, and then he goes home at night and experiences Nirvikalpa Samadhi!
That is the goal of working in these institutions.
Of course, you may say Holy Mother was herself divine. Moreover, she too needed a Sri
Ramakrishna to invoke the Divine Mother in her through his unprecedented bhakti. Only then
did she experience Nirvikalpa Samadhi. What do we have? Almost in reply to such objections,
Swami Vivekananda formulated a wonderful philosophy based entirely on the experiences of Sri
Ramakrishna. This world is divine. This world isnt dry, dead matter. It is God itself. We interact
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Working in Ramakrishna Mission A new path for a new age

with this world through our work. So, our interaction with the world (which is in fact divine, as
Sri Ramakrishna saw) ought to be nothing less than worship of the deity inside a temple! Our
daily work ought to be equal to worship of the deity. Do you notice that this college is called
Vidyamandira? My college is called Shilpamandira. Why Mandira? Why not Vidya Kendra
or just College? The name itself suggests the vital change I have been trying to explain. There
is a difference between maintaining accounts in a Calcutta University College and doing the
same here. We bring in a unique attitude when we work here.
Let me try to elaborate that attitude a little for you all. As I said before, we have no
choice of the work we do. The work we do will be decided by society for us. We obey the
hierarchy implicitly, blindly. We will be told to do something. We will do it, as efficiently, as
quickly, and as perfectly as possible. No questions asked. But mere working efficiently isnt
what Swami Vivekananda wanted his people to do. What is the self-identity from which we
work? That is the question. We will try to remember that we are pure consciousness all through
the time. We shall also remember that everything we see around us, the furniture, the people, and
the things we work with, is pure consciousness. We, the pure consciousness, worship this world
(in other words, this College) which is pure consciousness, through our work. This is worship of
the spirit by the spirit, which Jesus speaks of in the Bible. If we have trouble dealing with the
concept of pure consciousness, (many have trouble dealing with the abstract!) we can imagine
our Ishta Deva as continuously present near us when we work. He is pure consciousness. So are
we pure consciousness. With this mental imagination, we shall have to work. The work may be
something very mundane, very ordinary. It may also be something very high profile, on the other
hand. In other words, it doesnt matter what the actual profile of the work is. What matters is this
attitude.
This attitude has to be maintained day after day, for a long period of time, say, eight to
ten years. In the beginning it isnt easy. We often fall back from the attitude to our old, confused,
warped outlook. No worries; just pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and start with this new
attitude again. What do you look upon yourself as? That is the clincher here.
Let me put in a few words of caution here. I was myself a volunteer for over 12 years in
Bangalore Math before I joined Ramakrishna Mission. So, I have seen both sides of working in a
Mission institution. What happens is, we are workers here, not just devotees. Devotees come, do
pranams, have Prasad and go away with holy thoughts. We have to deal with nitty-gritties. Most
often, we have to deal with details with monks. There will naturally be differences of opinion.
Slowly, unknown to ourselves, we start judging the monks. The ideal of monkhood goes down in
our mind! That is a clear & present danger of working in a Ramakrishna Mission institution as a
volunteer or employee. Swami Vivekananda used to say, Do not ever lower the ideal. That is
death. So, when I joined as a monk, what I started doing was I used to have intense arguments
with my colleagues, who were volunteers or employees. Sometimes, their arguments were right,
and I used to be wrong. So, after the whole issue is over, before we parted for the day, I would
ask them to do pranams to me! You hear me? I would demand that they offer pranams to me.
Else, there was the danger that they would start under-valuing the institution of monkhood,
looking at my inefficiency!

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Working in Ramakrishna Mission A new path for a new age

Another common problem we face as beginners in this path is we start judging the
quality of work being done by our colleagues. They are also volunteers or employees like us, not
monks. And we start judging them. It isnt our job to keep a track of their work. But we do it.
Why? Because any change in attitude is tough work. And we keep failing in maintaining it. So,
we need a self-booster. Repeated failures undermine our self-confidence, and as an ego-defense,
we start feeling good by looking at others around us. This is totally counter-productive. We need
to be cautious against such developments within us.
Now, what happens as a result of working with this attitude?
Gradually, we find that our self-conception changes. We start feeling that we are
something beyond the body and the mind. We actually start feeling that we are a distinct center
in ourselves, a center of pure awareness.
When this sense deepens, there is an unmistakable experience of joy. This joy spurts
spontaneously within us, uncaused by anything we do. This style of working is designed to lead
us to the experience of Vijnana, which Sri Ramakrishna discovered as the goal of the modern
man.
Let me end my rather long lecture by telling you a story, a wonderful story1 from the
Tamil literature that elaborates this conception of working. You see, the Tamil region had many
Shaiva saints called Nayanars. One of them was a stone-cutter, a sculptor called Pusalar. During
that time, there was a Pallava King called Raja Narasimhavarman. He was a great devotee of
Lord Shiva. He decided to build a grand temple for his Ishta Deva. So he called hundreds of
sculptors for the job. You must remember that temple construction in those days was done in
stone, not brick & mortar, as is done today. Pusalar was one of those sculptors. Now, this Pusalar
too was a staunch devotee of Lord Shiva, and he too had a great desire to build a grand temple
for his Lord. But, he was an ordinary stone-cutter. He couldnt build a temple for the Lord. So he
decided that he would build one inside his heart! Every day he would work on the temple site of
Raja Narasimhavarman. He would gather all the details of that grand temple, and incorporate it
in the temple he was building inside his heart. Imagine the intensity of his meditation! It took
some three & a half years for the temple to get completed. The King consulted some Brahmins
and fixed a holy day for consecration of the temple. Great arrangements were made. The night
before the day of consecration, the King had a dream. Lord Shiva appeared in his dream and told
him to defer the date since he was going to another greater temple built by a greater devotee! The
King was flabbergasted. Who could have built a greater temple than this one? He asked his
ministers to find out the details. A sage with great powers of insight finally found out that Lord
Shiva was going to the temple that Pusalar had built! What had happened was Pusalar was
mirroring everything that the King was doing. So, when the King announced the date of
consecration of the temple, Pusalar too fixed that date as the consecration day of his temple,
which was now complete inside his heart.
This is the kind of working that we are attempting to do in Ramakrishna Mission. I
sincerely pray to Sri Ramakrishna that our attempts in this direction become successful.
1

This story has many versions. In some, Pusalar is a stone-cutter. In some, he is a Brahmin priest. I have chosen the stone-cutter
version.

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