Ever since its foundation in February 1969, devotees of the Universal Independent Ashram have commemorated with particularly joyful kirtans the birthday of our Guru Dev Sri Ramakrishna. This one, given by Mahayogini at her house on February 16, was no exception.
After a delicious meal devotees gathered in the beautifully decorated shrine room to sing the names of God, chant Om, and listen to music and readings. There was lovely singing from Hari Om, Mahayogini, Sri Lakshmi, Gayatri and others. Gopal Christ read from the Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna. Shiva Shakti gave us another chapter from her ongoing book about Swami Ambikananda entitled ‘Jai Ho!’, vividly describing Swamiji’s unique methods of instruction. there was also the following passage from a discourse by Swamiji given at Madonna’s house in 1992:
‘Life is a binding. Even the good are bound, even Vivekananda was bound, not to mention ordinary individuals. There are the bound, the free, and the ever-free, but he who is ever-free is told to be bound. Now what is the state of the ordinary individual? As long as you are ignorant, you have a chance because you don’t know. God forgives you because you didn’t know. Who said, “Forgive them for they know not what they do”? Jesus said that, on the cross. Forgiveness is one of the most beautiful flowers you can bring here. It’s a seed that you sow on earth and harvest in heaven. As you forgive so you will be forgiven. As you have sown so will you reap. So those who are married may harvest it with their companion. For God made man and woman in a very loving way; with excess of love He created us.
‘But earthplane is a bit of a bitter quinine. You find yourself here, whether you like it or not. But you are the luckiest people because you have come to know a few incarnations. And still, for 22 years, though you keep one ear on the ringing of the phone, you keep the other on the ringing of Lord Shiva’s bell. So you are split for the time being, because your life is half here and half in godliness. You are a being here and a semi-being there. But you have to find out how much more the weight of your being weighs there in love. Love is the greatest and the first commandment. Love removes thorns. Love squeezes the essence of goodness into a family. Love is the essence of light, the requisite; first there must be love in a being. Then there is light. Love is light. Through love you can see light. Otherwise in darkness you knock about, you hit, you damage. Without love you cause more damage, more confusion.
‘Stubbornness is a part of darkness, and it causes sorrow. If you don’t know, you just don’t know, and there’s not so much suffering afterwards. But if you do know, if you have been taught and still you are stubborn, then you suffer twice. You can’t have God and Mammon, you can’t have good and bad, light and darkness. You can’t have both. But it’s also true that darkness manifests the glory of light. “Let there be light!” He said. What happens to darkness then? It vanished. Didn’t Sri Ramakrishna say, “Though you are kept in darkness a thousand years, the minute you strike a light the thousand years of the darkness of ignorance is removed.” But the matchstick you strike has to be dry and not soaked in worldliness.
‘The world is money and possessiveness and attachment. Detachment is when you live in the world but you are not of the world. You may be part of the world, but you are in it in order to leave the world far behind, to pull yourself out by force if possible; or else you will have to come back tediously, birth after birth. Hinduism believes in birth and rebirth, and also release for you and for the rest, your friends. For a friend is a friend maybe for ever, if he is a true friend. And if one human being can be so faithful and dutiful and lovable to another human being, how much greater would Shiva be to save the battered image of one who has fallen into the hand of the corruptor, the denier, the seducer? He even comes down to earthplane. And if he saves someone he is so happy.
‘To be good needs bloody active will power! Free will can be a damn nuisance. Ramakrishna said about Girish Chandra Ghosh that the only way to liberate that wretch of a soul was for it to surrender completely. And Jesus also said, “Not my will but Thine.” But due to the little freedom of free will, we have been subject to this coming and going in the world, and have allowed Satan to dance incognito in both our two lives – the one of the devotee and the other life when you don’t want to be a devotee, when you are in the world, when you pass by the church, and you say, “No I’m not going to think of that.”
‘You have to look after the body. This body is such a maya, such a trap, but it’s divine also, because both your lives are in the same body. It depends on a man’s evolution. After a man has gone through a few squares he becomes aloof from himself, he detaches from himself. He says, “My heart will not be psychologically weak – that’s a tepid, pathetic state.”
‘You may think you’re well, you’re strong. But God alone is strength, God alone is health. God’s light is health, so bring the light into you. Have strong will power. You may want to be good, but if you’re not active, if you’re not awake in your goodness, you are still falling, you are still buried in the mud of the world. How can someone who is also in the mud help you? You and he will both be bogged down! So have strength, get up after the fall. God allows that fall, He lets the man go through a few squares. So pray and have faith, for prayer is a mighty force. But you must have perseverance. A man says, “Oh, I have prayed and nothing happened!” But Rome was not built in a day. If everything was done in the twinkle of an eye you would be more deluded that you are now. Your duty is to unite your mind in oneness, in unison with Me, nobody else. But you have a “loose rope” of free will, a chain that doesn’t fit properly, that goes clang-clang-clang.
‘Your soul is divine, your life is naturally divine, so we want you to hear that invisible voice, that invisible Michael [Swamiji’s secular name was Michael], that invisible microphone in the macrocosm. We’re all little microbes here – at most that invisible virus has become a microbe. Some are allergic, some are not, some have greater faith. The secret is the Name of God. The Name of God is bliss. The blood is purified by the vitamin of God energy.
‘Study is very good in one way because it helps you to know. But even in knowledge there are robbers who blur the truth. There is the power of light and also the power of darkness. Nor does darkness have to be visible – it can be hidden. But “Let there be light!” From the unreal lead us to the real, from darkness lead us to light. This is the Hindu prayer. And Jesus said, “I am the Way, the Light.” As long as the light is with you, walk in the light.
‘He who is weak is subject to the power of darkness. So it’s a pity, it’s a shame that when you ask him what he has studied he goes, “A-a-a-a-a”, like a hen laying an egg of forgetfulness. “A-a-a-a I can’t remember, just a minute, give me a chance, another chance.” But memory is gone – the robber has taken everything out of his memory and into forgetfulness. So he forgets the past – and there are robbers everywhere, even in the shrine, even in the temple of God. Everyone has been tempted, Jesus was tempted, Virgin Mary, Sri Ramakrishna. All have been tempted.
‘So we have to peg these beings by force, even if it’s a bit of a forcing study. Voluntary study and forcing study are two different things. A man who voluntarily studies something learns much more; he studies the study itself. But one who has been made to study by force is subject to yawning, cup of tea, anything except that study – headache, aspirin, whatever – because he doesn’t want to. When you want to do something it’s easier to find the essence, you discover the seed, the origin. And that will tell you whether it is worth it or not. Because God is knowledge. Know one thing, it is said, and many things shall be added, even everything you want to know, if need be. But not knowing also is no good because you are in ignorance. You have to have a balancement. To be merely knowledgeable causes pride, which is another destruction of spirituality, the very foundation of evil. Nothing is worse than pride. So he who knows does not know just through greedy desire for knowledge.
‘Consciousness! We breathe consciousness, so breathe consciously. Breath is itself a mantra in Hinduism. It’s So Ham, So Ham, So Ham: I am He, I am She. If you know how to breathe properly you are constantly and continuously liberated, because you are not conscious of anything but the Beloved. You breathe That and you become That. You become what you breathe. As you think so you become, and there is a mystery in the invisible more than in the visible. When you become non-existent, when He dwells in you. and you are “Not I but Thou”, an imagination of Him, then you become the real image, and know that you are only breathing because He has given you breath.’
 Sri Ramakrishna compares free will to the illusory freedom of being tethered by a long rope