It happened in an amazing way: when Totapuri asked, “Are you ready wholeheartedly?,” Ramakrishna replied, “Let me go to the temple and ask the Mother, the goddess Kali, whether I can renounce her. Let me have her permission to renounce her.”
Totapuri said, “Then all talk is meaningless. If you want to renounce her, why do you feel the necessity of asking permission? What then is the need to ask her permission to leave?
Ramakrishna replied, “I no longer exist, so how can I renounce anything? Only she remains – to renounce something or not, that is all up to the Mother. I am not, so I cannot make this decision. The day I left everything up to her even this decision was included. If she doesn’t give me her permission I will die ignorant, but there is no other way.”
This is the feeling of someone who keeps thou at the center – he even agrees to die ignorant. Not even this much space is available to the I that it can choose to decide even in favor of an opportunity for ultimate knowing.
In their songs devotees say that they do not long for liberation, for freedom, for nirvana, just to be on the streets where Krishna walked is enough, because liberation is for the I, and dancing on the streets of Vrindavan is something to do with the thou. That is why the devotees have said, “We don’t want liberation, because liberation means my liberation – after all, it is not the divine who needs any liberation. Remember it: liberation is for me, nirvana is for me, the wisdom of knowing is for me. So they sing, “I do not want liberation, nirvana or the wisdom of knowing, just let me wander on the pathways where the divine once walked, that is enough.” This is the feeling of the one who accepts thou at the center.
There are many reasons for calling the pure consciousness thou. One of them is that to accept the nature of pure consciousness as thou is helpful for the seeker – it is a very helpful hypothesis. If consciousness is perceived to have the nature of I, it could at times be dangerous. If pure consciousness is accepted as having the nature of I, there is a ninety-nine percent chance that instead of eliminating the ego, the ego will become stronger.
The Upanishads are right when they proclaim “Aham brahmasmi, I am the divine.” But this proclamation has happened only once in a while, to one out of a hundred realized beings. This declaration is the exception. It is the statement of those who dissolved everything into their I, whose I became so vast that even all distinctions of the other, the thou, became contained within it. This is extremely difficult because the I is very satisfying, and the whole pleasure for the I lies in the contrast with thou – otherwise it loses its charm. What is the purpose in proclaiming I, if I am alone and no thou, no other exists in the world?