Chapter 5: Going beyond Time
A hippy-style devotee
Was devoutly praying to God,
Obstinately remaining in front of his statue,
Obstinately standing on just one foot,
Until the Lord was well pleased with him.
Having to honor his indebtedness for such devotion,
God was compelled to appear.
“O devotee,” saith the Lord,
“I am happy with you,
“I stand here, before you.
“Wake up this very moment,
“And whatever you desire,
“Ask for it with one var, one wish.”
Replied the devotee, “O my Lord,
“Be thou not deceived
“By my bell-bottom trousers and long hair.
“I myself am a var, a bridegroom,
“So please just find me a bride.”
But whenever you have asked for something, whatever you have been asking for is just as ridiculous, just as laughable. To demand something from the divine only shows your lack of intelligence. What you ask for makes no difference.
Vivekananda lived with Ramakrishna. When Vivekananda’s father passed away, he left things in a pretty bad state. The family was deeply in debt, and there was no way to pay back what they owed. At home, there was not enough flour to make bread twice a day. When Ramakrishna saw that Vivekananda was sad, distressed and hungry, he said, “You fool, there is no need for you to be distressed. Why don’t you go and ask the Mother Goddess? Go inside the temple and ask for what you need. You will get whatever you ask for.”
Vivekananda went into the temple because Ramakrishna had told him to go, but he was still very hesitant. He couldn’t say no, because Ramakrishna had told him to go. He had to go.
After an hour or so he returned, ecstatic. Ramakrishna asked him, “Did you ask for what you wanted?”
Vivekananda replied, “What was I supposed to ask for?”
Ramakrishna said, “You fool, I sent you into the temple because you were so distressed. You should have asked for what you needed.”
Vivekananda said, “Oh Paramahansa, I forgot!”
“Go back again,” said Ramakrishna.
Vivekananda replied, “I will forget again.”
Ramakrishna said, “Your memory is not that bad. Why should you forget?”
Vivekananda explained, “I am sure I will forget again. As soon as I went in there, tears began to fall from my eyes. As soon as I went in, my meditation began to ripen. I started swaying. In that ecstasy, I was not hungry, I was not poor, I was not needy, I was not poverty-stricken. I was an emperor. The divine began to shower upon me. It seemed so petty to ask for anything, let alone money! When the divine is showering on me, how can I ask for money? I can’t do it.”
Because Ramakrishna didn’t want to listen to him, Vivekananda went back inside again. But once again he came out empty-handed and very ecstatic. Ramakrishna sent him in three times, and he came back three times. He couldn’t make the request to ask for money. He prayed, he drowned, he was overwhelmed with ecstasy, but he didn’t beg. In that moment Ramakrishna embraced Vivekananda and said, “If you had begged today, your relationship with me would have been broken for ever. The test is over - you have been tested and proved authentic, true. To beg is to spoil your prayer.”