Glen Lodge monthly retreat, 9 March 2013

The shrine room here, where Swami Ambikananda left his body 16 years ago, still carries such a powerful vibration. You could feel it strongly at the monthly retreat hosted by Satchitananda last Saturday. And Glen Lodge is a treasure trove of  ashram material – there are DVDs of 20 years’ worth of kirtans plus hundreds of books annotated by Swamiji, notes, pamphlets, relics, images etc. At this Lenten season of repentance, the retreat included, besides songs, readings and meditation, a discourse from Swamiji featuring his characteristically original take on repentance:

‘Jesus and Ramakrishna, they both wanted people to be perfect. Jesus said, “Be perfect.” Ramakrishna said, “Be perfect, go beyond perfection.” Jesus rebuked greed and possessiveness. So did Ramakrishna rebuke “woman and gold” [i.e. lust and greed].  But people lack repentance. When I was a child I couldn’t repent. When I was a vigorous youth I was proud of my heroic acts and I couldn’t repent. Yet every time I believed I was winning I was conquered. Goodness has conquered and defeated me. Pride lies under the foot of wisdom… But you have to go through the squares; a few falls are allowed. We don’t judge and condemn, and say, “I am just perfect and you are imperfect.” Any time you can fall…

‘When I was a child I did as a child does; when I was a youth I “fledged” right and left. But now I am in middle age I think the words of the wise people are right. They said: “Repent.” I know what that means now: Be in Truth. Sri Ramakrishna says, “Truth is the tapasya, the austerity, of this age.” And Truth is God, it is Guru itself. Truth, words, deeds, honesty: this is liberation. And practice on top of that, is beyond…

‘God sees the true heart. He dwells in the heart. He sees true repentance. So repentance is realization to me, True repentance is the light of God, it’s unspeakable, it’s God for me. Though still in darkness, I can tell you that much. It may not work now, but one day you may play the tape and think: “That was missing in me. I tried hard, many things, but never repentance, personal repentance.”

‘True repentance is in the heart, cutting the thorns from the good trees. Bad thorns and brambles have been wrapped into the heart. Now you are going in with glove and sickle, removing all the thorns that have been hurting. Then there is nothing but orchard. If the thorn of bad deeds is in my heart, I find another thorn, says Ramakrishna, I take the bad thorn out, then throw both away, and go beyond them. So, in the prayer of Sri Ramakrishna, “Here is Thy good, here is Thy bad, take them both and give me pure love alone” … Then, after you have enjoyed the loose rope of free will, you don’t want any more. So let us have some repentance now. Pray, “O Durga Mai, I will not do it again, now, I am calling on you, I am making a vow…”

‘But man is weak; a hundred times he will fall. Yet what is there in temporary pleasure?  Try to conquer all these things. It’s not easy; you need the grace. But true repentance brings grace. If there is true repentance and deeds in your daily life, God cannot resist. And a little natural singing too!

‘Keep the company of those who are detached, those who really mean what they say. This world is just a temporary place, a restaurant; so eat your fill, be satisfied, don’t be gloomy. You are children of God, children of immortality, you are the very God inside…And kirtan is the mother of the devotees. Mother talks there, at kirtan.  So become the child….

‘Time, work, place, rest. Therefore we close down, so that you can feel, reform yourself, become Christian – and Christian devotees help us a lot. Our Guru Dev Sri Ramakrishna  realized Christianity as well. And Hinduism gives wings, Hindu hands are helping Christianity for you. So you are “fencing with two swords” …

‘Guru Dev has put everything in the dictionary of our life, in his Gospel. Sarada Devi has said: “Whatever you want to know, anything, read the Gospel.”  My master was pure. I have never seen one like him. For the year 1986 or 1886 – he’s still live with me, with us…

‘But you must practise. I practise in my bed, a thief in my bed snatching time. But that’s not enough, I have to be ready… And if you meditate on God you develop a pure mind, a pure heart, a pure sight, a pure love, a pure body …What you are eating, that you will belch. If the grace is given, the grace is given. Then you can eat your cake and have it as well. Or share it left and right.’

From Ambikananda’s  discourse at Ramakrishna Loka,          24 March 1986





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