Questioner: How, sir, may I fix my mind on God?
Sri Ramakrishna: Repeat God’s name and sing His glories, and now and then visit God’s devotees and holy men. The mind cannot dwell on God if it is immersed day and night in worldliness, in worldly duties and responsibilities; it is most necessary to go into solitude now and then and think of God. To fix the mind on God is very difficult, in the beginning, unless one practices meditation in solitude. When a tree is young it should be fenced all around; otherwise it may be destroyed by cattle.
There are three ways of meditating: think of God while doing your duties, or meditate on Him in a secluded corner of your house, or meditate on Him in a wood. And you should always discriminate between the Real and the unreal: God alone is real, the Eternal Substance; all else is unreal, that is, impermanent. By discriminating thus, one should shake off impermanent objects from the mind.
Questioner: How ought we to live in the world?
Sri Ramakrishna: Do all your duties, but keep your mind on God. Live with all — with wife and children, father and mother — and serve them. Treat them as if they were very dear to you, but know in your heart of hearts that they do not belong to you.
A maidservant in the house of a rich man performs all the household duties, but her thoughts are fixed on her own home in her native village. She brings up her master’s children as if they were her own. She even speaks of them as “my Rama” or “my Hari.” But in her own mind she knows very well that they do not belong to her at all.
The tortoise moves about in the water. But can you guess where her thoughts are? There on the bank, where her eggs are lying. Do all your duties in the world, but keep your mind on God.
If you enter the world without first cultivating love for God, you will be entangled more and more. You will be overwhelmed with its danger, its grief, its sorrows. And the more you think of worldly things, the more you will be attached to them.
First rub your hands with oil and then break open the jack-fruit; otherwise they will be smeared with its sticky milk. First secure the oil of divine love and then set your hands to the duties of the world.
But one must go into solitude to attain this divine love. To get butter from milk you must let it set into curd in a secluded spot: if it is too much disturbed, milk won’t turn into curd. Next, you must put aside all other duties, sit in a quiet spot, and churn the curd. Only then do you get butter.
Further, by meditating on God in solitude the mind acquires knowledge, dispassion, and devotion. But the very same mind goes downward if it dwells in the world. In the world one only thinks of “worries” and “gold.”
The world is water and the mind, milk. If you pour milk into water they become one; you cannot find the pure milk any more. But turn the milk into curd and churn it into butter. Then, when that butter is placed in water, it will float. So, practice spiritual discipline in solitude and obtain the butter of knowledge and love. Even if you keep that butter in the water of the world the two will not mix. The butter will float.
Together with this you must practice discrimination. “Woman” and “gold” are impermanent. God is the only Eternal Substance. What does a man get with money? Food, clothes, and a dwelling-place — nothing more. You cannot realize God with its help. Therefore money can never be the goal of life. That is the process of discrimination. Do you understand?
Questioner: Yes, sir.
Sri Ramakrishna: Consider: What is there in money or in a beautiful body? Discriminate and you will find that even the body of the most beautiful woman consists of bones, flesh, fat and other disagreeable things. Why should a man give up God and direct his attention to such things? Why should he forget God for their sake?
Questioner: Is it possible to see God?
Sri Ramakrishna: Yes, certainly. Living in solitude now and then, repeating God’s name and singing His glories, and discriminating between the Real and the unreal — these are the means to employ to see Him.
Questioner: Under what conditions does one see God?
Sri Ramakrishna: Cry to the Lord with an intensely yearning heart and you will certainly see Him. People shed a whole jug of tears for wife and children. They swim in tears for money. But who weeps for God? Cry to Him with a real cry.
Longing is like the rosy dawn. After the dawn out comes the sun. Longing is followed by the vision of God.
God reveals Himself to a devotee who feels drawn to Him by the combined fore of these three attractions: the attraction of worldly possessions for the worldly man, the child’s attraction for its mother, and the husband’s attraction for the chaste wife. If one feels drawn to Him by the combined force of these three attractions, then one can attain Him.
The point is, to love God even as the mother loves her child, the chaste wife her husband, and the worldly man his wealth. Join together these three forces of love, these three powers of attraction, and direct them all to God. Then you will certainly see Him.
It is necessary to pray to Him with a longing heart. The kitten knows only how to call its mother, crying, “Mew, mew!” It remains satisfied wherever its mother puts it. And the mother cat puts the kitten sometimes in the kitchen, sometimes on the floor, and sometimes on the bed. When it suffers it cries only, “Mew, mew!” That’s all it knows. But as soon as the mother hears this cry, wherever she may be, she comes to the kitten.”
~ From The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna