God With and Without Form – Ramakrishna

God With and Without Form

Sri Mahendra Nath Gupta is familiary known to the readers of the “Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna” by his pen name M.  He kept a diary of all his meetings and experiences with Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa and later wrote them in a book. This first, full-fledged volume of  the “Gospel” was  published in Chennai in 1907.

God With and Without Form

Master: “Well, do you believe in God with form or without form?”

M., rather surprised, said to himself: “How can one believe in God without form when one believes in God with form? And if one believes in God without form, how can one believe that God has a form? Can these two contradictory ideas be true at the same time? Can a white liquid like milk be black?”

M: “Sir, I like to think of God as formless.”

Master: “Very good. It is enough to have faith in either aspect. You believe in God without form; that is quite all right. But never for a moment think that this alone is true and all else false. Remember that God with form is just as true as God without form. But hold fast to your own conviction.”

The assertion that both are equally true amazed M.; he had never learnt this from his books. Thus his ego received another blow; but since it was not yet completely crushed, he came forward to argue with the Master a little more.

God and the clay image

M: “Sir, suppose one believes in God with form. Certainly He is not the clay image!”

Master (interrupting): “But why clay? It is an image of Spirit.”

M. could not quite understand the significance of this “image of Spirit”. “But, sir,” he said to the Master, “one should explain to those who worship the clay image that it is not God, and that, while worshipping it, they should have God in view and not the clay image. One should not worship clay.”

God the only real teacher

Master (sharply): “That’s the one hobby of you Calcutta people – giving lectures and bringing others to the light! Nobody ever stops to consider how to get the light himself. Who are you to teach others?

He who is the Lord of the Universe will teach everyone. He alone teaches us, who has created this universe; who has made the sun and moon, men and beasts, and all other beings; who has provided means for their sustenance; who has given children parents and endowed them with love to bring them up. The Lord has done so many things – will He not show people the way to worship Him? If they need teaching, then He will be the Teacher. He is our Inner Guide.

Suppose there is an error in worshipping the clay image; doesn’t God know that through it He alone is being invoked? He will be pleased with that very worship. Why should you get a headache over it? You had better try for knowledge and devotion yourself.”

This time M. felt that his ego was completely crushed. He now said to himself: “Yes, he has spoken the truth. What need is there for me to teach others? Have I known God? Do I really love Him? ‘I haven’t room enough for myself in my bed, and I am inviting my friend to share it with me!’ I know nothing about God, yet I am trying to teach others. What a shame! How foolish I am! This is not mathematics or history or literature, that one can teach it to others. No, this is the deep mystery of God. What he says appeals to me.”

This was M.’s first argument with the Master, and happily his last.

Master: “You were talking of worshipping the clay image. Even if the image is made of clay, there is need for that sort of worship. God Himself has provided different forms of worship. He who is the Lord of the Universe has arranged all these forms to suit different men in different stages of knowledge.

“The mother cooks different dishes to suit the stomachs of her different children. Suppose she has five children. If there is a food item to cook, she prepares various dishes from it to suit their different tastes and powers of digestion. “Do you understand me?”

Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna
By Mahendranath Gupta (“M”), His Disciple
Translated from the Bengali by Swami Nikhilananda

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