Script and image courtesy to ‘Vaibhav Shinde‘
It happened in Ramakrishna’s life:
Ramakrishna was a great devotee, and the path of devotion is full of imagination. Mind has the capacity to hypnotize itself and can see the object of imagination just standing before it.
Ramakrishna was a devotee of the Mother Goddess of Calcutta. An enlightened man, Totapuri, was just passing by. He looked at Ramakrishna and he felt great compassion for the poor fellow. He told
Ramakrishna, ”You think that you have experienced the Mother Goddess.”
Ramakrishna said, ”See, I have talked with her, and not one day but every day.” He was an honest man, and what he was saying was absolutely true.
Totapuri laughed and he said, ”Listen, that Mother Goddess is nothing but pure imagination. Unless you drop that you will never become enlightened. So sit down. I will remain here for three or four days, just for you. I have to help you in somehow dropping the Mother Goddess.”
Now that was a very difficult matter. Ramakrishna had loved the Mother Goddess his whole life, danced before her. And he was not a traditional fellow; he was very untraditional, very loving, very innocent – so much so that twice the trustees of the temple in which he used to worship, where he was the priest, had to call him saying, ”This is strange what you are doing….”
First he would taste the food that was to be offered to the goddess, and then he would offer it. Now this is absolutely wrong according to the Hindu tradition. First you should offer it to the god and then you can distribute it, you can eat it.
But Ramakrishna said, ”My mother always used to taste it first and then she would give it to me. I don’t care about anybody, I know what the reason was. The reason was whether it is worth giving. Is the taste right? Is the sweetness not too much or too little? I cannot offer it without tasting it first.”
He used to fight with the Mother Goddess. Nobody could understand what was happening. He would lock the temple for three or four days and would tell the Mother Goddess, ”Remain inside the temple, because you are not doing anything for your devotees. So many people come and they ask you and their prayers are not answered. I am the priest here; it is my duty to take care. Now remain locked up. After three or four days I will see you again.”
The trustees said, ”You are here as the salaried priest. Your work is to worship every day.”
He said, ”That is not the question. The question is that the Mother Goddess has to listen to me. When she listens I prepare such good food for her and bring so many roses and so many flowers. When she is really listening to the prayers I dance the whole day. But when she is not listening, becomes adamant, then I am also a man of some dignity….”
Totapuri said to Ramakrishna, ”You sit in silence. You don’t have any other ropes that I can see, just this one rope. So when you see the Mother Goddess arising in your imagination, just take the sword and cut the mother in two pieces. They will fall, and with them will fall the last barrier.”
Ramakrishna said, ”From where am I going to get the sword?”
Totapuri said, ”From where have you got this Mother Goddess? – from the same place. It is your imagination. That is also your imagination; only imagination is needed to cut it.”
It took three days, because he would go into meditation and the Mother Goddess would be standing there, and he would forget all about Totapuri. He would forget all about the sword, and tears would start flowing from his eyes, and Totapuri would shake him saying, ”What are you doing?”
Ramakrishna said, ”What to do? – because once I see her, she is so beautiful…. Don’t force me to cut her.”
Totapuri said, ”Listen, I can see even from the outside: your face immediately changes when you see the mother. I have brought a piece of glass, and the moment I see that you are seeing the mother – because your tears start flowing, your face becomes so beautiful – I will make a cut just on your third eye center with the glass. I have to do this because tomorrow I leave. I cannot waste any more time. This is the last chance: either you do it or I am finished with you.”
And Totapuri said, ”When I cut your forehead and blood starts flowing, don’t hesitate, just take the sword and cut the mother.”
Ramakrishna cut the mother and he remained silent for six days. Totapuri remained for six days, and when Ramakrishna opened his eyes he thanked Totapuri and said, ”If you had not come, I would have lived my whole life with the hallucination. My last barrier has fallen away.”
Ramakrishna became enlightened after he had cut the last barrier. But even the followers of Ramakrishna don’t mention this incident, because this incident makes the whole effort of worshipping futile. If you have finally to cut it, why start it in the beginning?
Neither understanding is needed – because understanding is intellectual – nor not-understanding, because that too is intellectual. You can be a theist, you can be an atheist, that does not matter; both are intellectual standpoints. You have to drop them both and you have to see without any prejudice, without any hypothesis, without any belief system. Only then… then you don’t see the truth, you become the truth. And unless you become the truth you are not enlightened.
So see the difference: it is not a question of seeing God, it is not a question of seeing Buddha. It is a question of being a buddha. There are not three, the one who sees, the one who is seen, and the process of seeing; there is only one. You are it.
This is the greatest understanding Gautam Buddha brought into the world.