“Mere Bread-winning Education”

Rāmkumār (Ramakrishna Paramahansa’s brother) did not at first oppose the ways of his temperamental brother. He wanted Gadādhar (future Ramakrishna Paramahansa) to become used to the conditions of city life. But one day he decided to warn the boy about his indifference to the world. After all, in the near future Gadādhar must, as a householder, earn his livelihood through the performance of his brāhminical duties; and these required a thorough knowledge of Hindu law, astrology, and kindred subjects.He gently admonished Gadādhar and asked him to pay more attention to his studies. But the boy replied spiritedly: “Brother, what shall I do with a mere bread-winning education? I would rather acquire that wisdom which will illumine my heart and give me satisfaction for ever.”

The anguish of the inner soul of India found expression through these passionate words of the young Gadādhar. For what did his unsophisticated eyes see around him in Calcutta, at that time the metropolis of India and the centre of modern culture and learning? Greed and lust held sway in the higher levels of society, and the occasional religious practices were merely outer forms from which the soul had long ago departed. Gadādhar had never seen anything like this at Kāmārpukur among the simple and pious villagers. The sādhus and wandering monks whom he had served in his boyhood had revealed to him an altogether different India. He had been impressed by their devotion and purity, their self-control and renunciation. He had learnt fromthem and from his own intuition that the ideal of life as taught by the ancient sages of India was the realization of God.

When Rāmkumār reprimanded Gadādhar for neglecting a “bread-winning education”, the inner voice of the boy reminded him that the legacy of his ancestors – the legacy of Rāmā, Krishna, Buddha, Sankara, Rāmānuja, Chaitanya – was not worldly security but the Knowledge of God. And these noble sages were the true representatives of Hindu society. Each of them was seated, as it were, on the crest of the wave that followed each successive trough in the tumultuous course of Indian national life. All demonstrated that the life current of India is spirituality. This truth was revealed to Gadādhar through that inner vision which scans past and future in one sweep, unobstructed by the barriers of time and space.

(Source: The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna)

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