Sri Ramakrishna on Doing Worldly Duties
M. (humbly): "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
"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 there is only one thought: 'woman 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, practise 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 practise discrimination. 'Woman and gold' is
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?"
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