Sayings of Sri Ramakrishna




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Sayings of Sri Ramakrishna
Sri Ramakrishna Math, Mylapore, Chennai.

Uniqueness of Sri Ramakrishna’s teachings and message

The sayings of Sri Ramakrishna stand on a unique pedestal. Sri Ramakrishna possessed not only a great intellect and an artistic mind, but had the additional qualification that he had ‘seen God face to face; talked with Him’ and shared the Divine life. Hence Sri Ramakrishna’s words on these transcendental themes come with a weight of authority derived from the Supreme Being Himself.

There are more than 1100 sayings and parables of Sri Ramakrishna. The manner and method of his teaching, as well as his relationship with his disciples, were in many respects unique. He never undertook the work of teaching in an egoistic sense. He was the humblest of men, without any sense of ego in him, and he attributed all that he achieved to the Divine Mother of the universe. And it was because of this very fact of his having surrendered his ego completely to the Divine that the Guru Shakti (the redeeming power of the Lord) manifested itself through his body and mind in so remarkable a degree, sanctifying and enlightening all that came within their influence.

Sri Ramakrishna had the strange capacity to make himself interesting and intelligible to people of diverse temperaments and stages of intellectual developments. He could astound learned Pandits like Sasadhar and Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar by the profundity of his wisdom, and he could also bring himself to the intellectual level of the ignorant village woman, to have her simple doubts cleared.

Sri Ramakrishna preached no particular dogma, creed or philosophy. What he did was convey to people a spirit that transformed their outlook on life and gave them an insight into the ultimate nature of the world and of human personality. In doing this, he relied not on formal sermons and discourses, but on loving contacts, illustrations drawn from Nature, a life of purity and self-control, and above all the practice of silent Japa and meditation. His instructions, whether on philosophy, devotion or conduct would take the form of witty sayings, striking analogies and illuminating parables.

Question: What is Jnana Yoga?

Sri Ramakrishna: Jnana Yoga is communion with God by means of knowledge. Knowledge (Jnana) varies in degree and kind from person to person. There is first the Jnana or insight of men of the world – ordinary mortals. This knowledge is not sufficiently powerful. It may be compared to the flame of a lamp, which illumines only the interior of a room. The Jnana of a Bhakta (devotee) is a stronger light. It may be compared to the light of the moon which reveals things both inside and outside a room. But the Jnana of the Avatara is still more powerful, and may be likened to the sun. He is the sun of Divine knowledge whose light dispels the accumulated ignorance of ages.

Methods of Jnana Yoga: The Ego:

If a man knows his own self, he knows other beings and God. What is my ego? Ponder deeply, and you will know that there is no such thing as ‘I’. As you peel off the skin of an onion, you find it consists only of skin; you cannot find any kernel in it. So too on analysing the ego, you will find that there is no real entity that you can call ‘I’. Such an analysis of the ego convinces one that the ultimate substance is God alone. When egotism drops away, Divinity manifests Itself.

Bhakti(Devotion) The path of Love

Nothing can be impressed on smooth glass, but when the surface is coated with proper chemicals, pictures can be impressed upon it, as in photography. In the same way, on the human heart coated with the chemicals of Bhakti, the image of Divinity can be impressed.

Unless one screens the eyes of unbroken horses, they will not move a single step. Is it possible to realise God unless one’s passions have already been controlled? In a sense not. But that is true only of Jnana Yoga, the path of Knowledge. The knowing one says, “One must first be pure if one desires to see God. One must first control one’s passions. First self-discipline, then knowledge of God.”There is however, another path leading to God – the path of devotion (Bhakti Yoga). If one man gains love of God, if once the chanting of His holy name begins to thrill the devotee with joy, what effort is needed for the control of passions afterwards? The control comes of itself. Can a man suffering from intense grief be in a mood to enter into a quarrel, or to enjoy a feast, or to give his mind up to the pleasures of the senses? So one absorbed in the love of God cannot think of sense-pleasures.

A poet has compared devotion to God to a tiger. As the tiger devours animals, devotion also swallows up all the ‘arch-enemies’ of man, such as lust, passion and the rest. Once the devotion to God is fully awakened, all evil passions like lust and anger are completely destroyed.

Why does a Bhakta (devotee) forsake
everything for the sake of God?

The insect flies from darkness as soon as it sees a light. The ant loses its life in the syrup without leaving it. So does the Bhakta cling to God forever, and leaves all.

The Master: Does the moth seek darkness once it has seen light?

Questioner: It does not - it will rather rush into the flame and perish.

The Master: But such is not the case with the true worshipper of God. The Divine Light to which he is drawn does not burn and cause death. It is like the lustre of a gem, shining yet soft, cool and soothing. It burns not, but illumines the heart with peace and joy.

Worship of Images

While raising a building, the scaffolding is indispensable; but when the work is completed, no one feels the necessity of it. So also image-worship is necessary in the beginning but not afterwards.

Do you believe in a God with form or in a formless God?"

"In the formless aspect," was the reply.

The Master asked: But how can you grasp the formless aspect all at once? When the archers are learning to shoot, they first aim at the plantain tree, then at a thin tree, then at a fruit, then at the leaves, and finally at a flying bird. First meditate on the aspect with form. This will enable you to see the formless later.

As a boy begins to learn writing by drawing big scrawl before he can master a smaller hand, so we must acquire the power of concentration by first fixing the mind on forms; and we have attained success therein, we can easily fix it upon the Formless.

You see many stars in the sky at night, but not when the sun rises. Can you therefore say that there are no stars in the heaven during the day? O man, because you cannot find God in the days of your ignorance, say not that there is no God.

Adopt adequate means for the end you seek to attain. You cannot get butter by crying yourself hoarse, “There is butter in the milk!” If you wish to make butter, you must turn the milk into curds, and churn it well. Then alone you can get butter. So if you long to see God, practise spiritual exercises. What is the use of merely crying, “Lord! Lord?”

Satsang -Company of the holy - Benefits of Pious Company

When going through spiritual exercises do not associate with those who never concern themselves with matters spiritual. Such people scoff at those who worship God and meditate upon Him and they ridicule piety and the pious. Keep yourself aloof from them.

As many people warm themselves in the fire kindled by someone else who has taken the trouble of collecting the firewood and other necessary things, similarly many fix their mind on the Lord by associating with and following the instruction of holy men who have come to know the Lord after many a hard penance.

God is one, but His aspects are many. As the master of a house is father to one, brother to another and husband to a third, and is called by different names by different persons, so the one God is described in various ways according to the particular aspects in which He appears to particular worshippers.

The Destiny of Man

The digit one may be raised to a figure of any value by adding zeros after it; but if that one is omitted, zeroes by themselves have no value. Similarly so long as the jiva (individual soul) does not cling to God, Who is the One, he has no value, for all things here get their value from their connection with God. So long as the Jiva clings to God, Who is the value-giving figure behind the world, and does all his work for Him, he gains more and more thereby; on the contrary, if he overlooks God and adds to his work many grand achievements, all done for his own glorification, he will gain nothing there from.

First gain God, and then gain wealth; but do not try to do the contrary. If, after acquiring spirituality, you lead a worldly life, you will never lose your peace of mind.

Do you talk of social reform? Well, you may do so after realising God. Remember, the Rishis of old gave up the world in order to attain God. This is the one thing needful. All other things shall be added to you, if indeed you care to have them. First see God, and then talk of lectures and social reforms.

A newcomer to a city should first secure a comfortable room for his rest at night, and after keeping his luggage there, he may freely go about the city for sightseeing. Otherwise he may have to suffer much in the darkness of night to get a place for rest. Similarly, after securing his eternal resting place in God, a newcomer to this world can fearlessly move about doing his daily work. Otherwise, when the dark and dreadful night of death comes over him, he will have to encounter great difficulties and sufferings.

Man in Bondage

There are three dolls- the first made of salt, the second made of cloth, and the third of stone. If these dolls are immersed in water, the first doll made of salt will become dissolved and lose its form. The second doll made from cloth will absorb a large quantity of water but retain its form. The third doll, made of stone, will remain impervious to water. The first doll made from salt represents the man who merges his self in the universal and all-pervading Self and becomes one with It. He is the liberated man. The second doll from cloth represents the Bhakta (devotee) or the true lover of God, who is full of Divine bliss and knowledge. And the third doll made of stone, represents the worldly man who will not admit even a particle of true knowledge into his heart.

Death and Reincarnation

When an unbaked pot is broken, the potter can use the mud to make a new one; but when a baked one is broken, he cannot do the same any longer. So when a person dies in a state of ignorance, he is born again but when he becomes well baked in the fire of true knowledge and dies a perfect man, he is not born again.

A grain of boiled paddy does not sprout again when sown. Only unboiled paddy sends forth the shoot. Similarly when one dies after becoming a Siddha, a perfect man, he has not to be born again, but an Asiddha, an imperfect man, has to be born again until he becomes a Siddha.


The hereditary peasant does not give up tilling the soil though it may not rain for twelve years; but a merchant who has recently taken to agriculture is discouraged by one season of drought. The true believer is never discouraged even if he fails to see God in spite of lifelong devotion.


A stone may remain in water for numberless years; yet the water will never penetrate into it. But clay is soon soaked into mud by the contact of water. So the strong heart of the faithful does not despair in the midst of trials and persecutions, but the man of weak faith is shaken even by the most trifling cause.

Sri Ramakrishna taught more by his life than by words. He never wrote or lectured, but imparted all his teachings in the shape of informal conversations, some of which have been faithfully recorded by his disciples.

Related articles
Touched by God

Single-minded Devotion
The Teachings of Sri Ramakrishna

God can be seen
Ideal behind the idol
Silent Teachings and Satsang

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