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PRABUDDHA BHARATA Let Ramakrishna Dance His Rapturous Dance  





               Let Ramakrishna Dance His Rapturous Dance



                   Swami Atmapriyananda




     Swami Brahmananda, a most intimate disciple of Sri Ramakrishna, once went into an ecstatic mood at the sight of an image of Lord Nataraja (dancing Shiva) at the Madurai temple in South India. Nataraja literally means the King of Dancers. Shiva is portrayed as a majestic dancer who dances his dazzling dance poised wonderfully on one foot in an act of supreme balancing. Usually, it is the left foot that He raises in the air, keeping the right foot on the ground, and thus he does his balancing act standing on one foot. The story goes that the Pandya king ruling over Madurai empathetically felt the Lords pain in the right foot and fervently pleaded with Nataraja to change His posture: to dance, for a change, with the left foot on the ground and the right one in the air. The compassionate Lord at once obliged and started dancing as requested! This image of Nataraja dancing the reverse way is seen only in Madurai and is considered a unique posture of the dancing Shiva. When Swami Brahmananda saw it, he at once went into ecstasy and exclaimed that he had seen Sri Ramakrishna dance exactly in the same posture!



     The Two Divine Dances



     Nataraja dances are of two kinds: one, in the overflowing divine joy of absorption in his higher Self; and the other, in a state of feeling great compassion for the world, which needs to be absorbed, with all its creatures, into Himself whence they sprang. Shiva means the Auspicious, the Blessed, the Good. But this auspiciousness, blessedness or goodness comes through a divine Power that destroys all evil, selfishness and smallness in one single sweep; hence the dance imagery. The first kind of dance is greatly enjoyable, adorable and soothing, while the second kind is terrible, too powerful to be calmly adored, and oftentimes, too devastating in its effect to be admired. Nevertheless, both of them conduce to the welfare of humanity. Nataraja is said to dance both kinds of dances in the chidambara, the space of Consciousness, or Awareness, also known as daharakasha, hridaya-guha and so on. While these concepts are too profound for ordinary mortals like us who have not yet discovered the existence or reality of a vast inner space, we could at least reverentially contemplate the goodness and auspiciousness flowing out of the Self-contented and Self-absorbed Shiva as Nataraja and pour our hearts devotion in a prayer for the destruction of our selfishness and egocentricity.



     The Destructive Power of Incarnations



     We do not really know how Shiva looks in his ecstatic divine dancing mood of Nataraja. Saints and sages who have had His darshan in the depths of their being have left some portraits. But in the case of Sri Ramakrishna, the picture is right there before us in the form of authentic photographs. If only video pictures were possible during Ramakrishnas lifetime, we would have had the great benefit of seeing live motion pictures of his ecstasies, dances and rapturous discourses with the devotees. Nonetheless, the still pictures and photographs, animated by the vivid descriptions of Mahendranath Gupta (who styled himself M), invade our being with such power that our vulnerable inner structure of the self begins to crumble at once. Christian mystics speak of Christ, the outwardly meek and humble Son of God, as the Hound of Heaven. Swami Vijnanananda, a mystic disciple of Sri Ramakrishna into whom the Master infused great spiritual power by a mere touch, used to described the Master as kancha kheko devata; the deity that devours raw flesh. Whereas the other deities are offered cooked meat and fish, Sri Ramakrishna, the outwardly meek and humble devotee of Kali, swallows up a person alive, flesh, blood and all, to transform him or her into a true divine being transcending the body, mind and the senses. Herein lies the power of the avatara, the divine Incarnation. While a Ramakrishna or a Krishna or a Buddha may look the picture of peace and calmness and overflowing inner joy, they are, in fact, powerful dynamos of spiritual power. They are a Power that destroys and devastates, rather than soothe or comfort. This Power destroys all smallness, littleness, self-centredness and egocentricity in ones personality. It would therefore be wise on the part of those who would like to fondly cling to their little individuality not to venture too near these Divine Incarnations!



     The Power That Was Sri Ramakrishna



     How quietly a Ramakrishna invades ones personality is a matter of experience and perception for any sincere spiritual aspirant. This illiterate priest of Bhavatarini Kali at Dakshineswar, clad for most part of the day merely in the apparel of bhakti (projjvala-bhakti-patavrita) rather than earthly clothes; with the almost contagious innocence of a five-year-old but ripe nevertheless with an ageless wisdom; with a disarming Krishna-like smile playing on his lips, his countenance beaming with the bliss of God-absorption (samadhi) and his ecstatic movements radiating the soothing splendour of a million moons; with a sweet stammer that is the very antithesis of shrill oratory, but with divine discourses pouring spontaneously from the very recesses of his being as in a torrential outpour of ambrosial waterfall; with an unparalleled compassion for the human being in bondage - how could one even conceive that this humble child of Kali was such a storehouse of spiritual power that devastated even a Vivekananda so proud of his mental strength and intellectual accomplishments! Swami Shivananda, one of Sri Ramakrishnas intimate disciples, once observed, We knew and thought of him as a very holy man, pure and innocent like a child. But how could we ever know that this little man contained within him millions of universes!


     To say the least, all this would naturally sound funny to most people. It would appear to be rhetoric and verbal jugglery at best, or downright oriental hyperbole (unsubstantiated, unverified and unverifiable panegyric) at worst. That is how it sometimes appeared to Sri Ramakrishnas own disciples - from the highly intellectual, agnostic Naren, who alone knew the Master most intimately, to the highly unsophisticated, illiterate Latu, who felt a spontaneous attraction for the Master but knew not why. In fact, Sri Ramakrishna himself did not care to understand much of himself and his uniqueness in the realm of spiritual tradition: he was just content with getting more and more absorbed in Truth in Its multifarious manifestations, from the apparently lowest so-called idolatry to the highest flights of Advaitic awareness of Oneness.


     Speaking about himself, he said that he was a glutton in the spiritual realm, the insatiable hunger of his soul driving him to savour the spiritual essence in ever so many ways. He was an adventurous mountaineer of the Spirit who tirelessly set out to scale newer and higher peaks of spiritual sublimity in a mad pursuit of an irrepressible inner urge. He was an expert diver into the ocean of the inner Spirit who joyously delved into the depths of that ocean of both the formless Reality as well as that with form, and brought out the gems of spiritual wisdom to be shared with the entire humankind in a rapturous rapport of universal kinship.


     Nevertheless, Sri Ramakrishna was intensely human, simple and unsophisticated, freely accessible to all without distinction and so overwhelmingly compassionate. We could feel free to talk to him - yes, to him who is now dead and gone for more than a hundred years, in gross physical terms, but very palpably alive in his subtle spiritual Ramakrishna form, a fact vouchsafed by his disciples; we could feel the vibrations of his assuring response in the depths of our hearts. When our minds become boggled and we stand dumbfounded by the sheer profundity of his amazing spiritual sadhanas followed by the unending procession of his breathtaking realizations, his trances and ecstasies and samadhis and rapturous sports in the spiritual field; when we tend to feel ashamed of our own littleness, impurities of heart, lack of spiritual fervour - it is then that his voice of compassion speaks to us, as it did to Arjuna: Verily, verily, I say unto you, whosoever contemplates my form and my teachings shall inherit my wealth, even as a son does inherit his fathers wealth. All that ye need to do therefore is to strive to get absorbed in such a contemplation; as to the rest, I shall take care of everything. Sri Ramakrishna repeatedly gave this assurance to M, Sri Mahendranath Gupta, the recorder of the Gospel. M mentioned it to his intimate circle of devotees and disciples, and one among the latter, Swami Nityatmananda, records this Great Assurance, this Divine Command, this Singular Promise of the Lord in his immortal books of Ms conversations.1 M himself seems to have couched this Great Assurance in biblical language and style to add grandeur and gravity. M then adds, very significantly and touchingly: And what does his wealth consist of? Jnana-bhakti, viveka-vairagya, shanti-sukha, prema-samadhi (Knowledge and devotion; discrimination and dispassion; peace and bliss; divine love and God-absorption). What a promise and how very assuring for us present-day humans caught in the rat race of what Sri Ramakrishna used to call kama-kanchana (lust and gold)!



     The Real Dharma-glani



     An avatara manifests Himself whenever there is dharma-glani (virtue getting overpowered by vice). (2) At the inner (microcosmic) level, it is only when an aspirants heart is overpowered by a deep anguish and enveloped, as it were, by an anirvacaniya glani (indescribable sorrow) that the divine Lord chooses to manifest in his heart. And this too, when the aspirant has come to the end of his tether, having tried and tried and tried, but just finding it unable to penetrate into the realm of Light; helplessly attempting but unable to deliver that last punch, that final blow, that would make the unconscious explode and get annihilated at one stroke - the final stroke that would ignite and illumine the whole inner being. When the aspirant is at the brink of such a psychological and spiritual crisis (this being the real dharma-glani), the Divine Lord chooses to manifest in his heart. The joy and rapture of a Ramakrishna then become the property, the inherited wealth, of the aspirant. Describing such a coming of the Divine into ones heart, Swamiji wrote in his famous poem Kali the Mother: Who dares misery love,/ And hug the form of Death,/ Dance in Destructions dance,/ To him the Mother comes. (3)


     The dance of destruction is the annihilation of the self - of all smallness, littleness, self-seeking, egocentricity. When all these get burnt up in jnanagni, the fire of divine Wisdom, then, and only then, does the Mother come. Swamiji ends his famous Bengali poem Nachuk Tahate Shyama, translated into English under the title, Let Shyama Dance There with the following immortal lines: Shattered be little self, hope, name, and fame;/ Set up a pyre of them and make thy heart/ A burning-ground./ And let Shyama dance there. (4)



     Ramakrishnas Rapturous Dance



     If we want Ramakrishna to come into our hearts, we need to burn away all desires, vasanas, without the least trace and in that cremation ground of the heart that then becomes the seat of nirvasana upasana, Ramakrishna would come and dance his joyous dance - the dance of Nataraja in the chidambara, the cave of our Heart (hridaya-guha). And may it be our great good fortune that in this very life we shall witness in our Heart of hearts this divine dance of Ramakrishna!


     With the darkness of ignorance dispelled and all vasanas burnt in the divine Fire of jnana in the secret chamber of the Heart irradiated by the Light supreme - in that divine Illumination of the daharakasha let Ramakrishna dance his rapturous dance!






     1. Swami Nityatmananda, M, the Apostle and the Evangelist (Chandigarh: Sri Ma Trust, 1967), 1.400-1.

     2. Bhagavadgita, 4.7.

     3. The Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda, 9 vols. (Calcutta: Advaita Ashrama, 1-8, 1989; 9, 1997), 4.384.

     4. Ibid., 4.510.

International Yoga Day 21 June 2015
International Yoga Day 21 June 2015










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