20 October 2006

Clay image

While some of Ramakrishna’s story makes me nervous – or more precisely, incredulous – when I read something like the passage below, I know I’ve been paying attention to the wrong thing.

This is from a book called
The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna which is actually a compilation of anecdotes written down by one of this most devoted followers, Mahendranath Gupta, who wrote the collection under the simple letter “M.”

Sri Ramakrishna:
You have faith in God without form
. That is very good. But never get it into your head that your faith alone is true and that every other is false. Know for certain that God without form is real and that God with form is also real. Then hold fast to whichever faith appeals to you.

M (a devotee):
But, sir, assuming it is true that God has form, he is surely not identical with the clay image of him?

Sri Ramakrishna:
Why say the image is clay? The image is composed of spirit.

M:
But those who worship the clay image should be made to understand that the clay image is not God, and that while they are bowing down before the image they must remember that they are worshipping God. They must not worship the clay.

Sri Ramakrishna:
Making others understand – giving them lectures – that’s all you Calcutta people think about! You never ask yourselves how you can find the truth. Who are you to teach others? It is the lord of the Universe who teaches mankind. Will he who has done so much for us fail to bring us to the light? If
we need to be taught, he will teach. He knows our inmost thoughts.

Supposing it is a mistake to worship God in the image – doesn’t he know he alone is being worshipped? He will certainly be pleased by that worship. Why should you get a headache over that? It would be better if you struggled to get knowledge and devotion yourself.

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