At the Feet of Sri Ramakrishna
Finding wisdom for our everyday lives in the words of one of India's greatest saints
(more about Sri Ramakrishna)

Red or Green?

A man went into the forest, where he saw a beautiful red lizard on a tree.

Returning to town, he told his friend about it. "Where?" his friend asked. "I want to see it too."

So the first man told his friend it was on such-and-such a tree, in so-and-so a clearing. It would be easy to find, as a holy man often sat under that tree.

The friend returned, and agreed that it was a very beautiful lizard. "Except," he said, "it was not red. It was green!"

They discussed this, and soon the discussion became a violent argument.

So they agreed to return to the holy man, and ask him about the lizard.

The first man said to the holy man, "Sir, isn't the lizard who lives in that tree red?"

"Yes," said the holy man.

But the second man said, "What did you say? How is that? It is not red, it is green!"

The holy man again humbly replied, "Yes, sir, it is."

The holy man knew that the lizard, a chameleon, changes its color constantly, and so it was that he said "yes" to both of these conflicting statements.

The Sat-Chit-Ananda likewise has various forms. The devotee who has seen God in one aspect only, knows Him in that aspect alone, and will argue that this is the only form.

But he who has seen Him in all His manifold aspects, he alone can say, "All these are forms of one God, for God is multiform." He may be with form or without form, and many are His forms which no one knows.


This is the third saying in Max Muller's collection. Number 4 provides a perfect commentary:

"Many are the names of God, and infinite the forms that lead us to know Him. In whatsoever name or form you desire to call Him, in that very form and name you will see Him."

Let me remind you that "Sat-Chit-Ananda" is "Being-Consciousness-Bliss," the three key attributes of transcendent reality.

Also, Sri Ramakrishna refers to God as "with form and without form." These two categories, called "saguna and nirguna," are part of the genius of Indian thought. (One thinks of God the Father, "whom no man has seen," and Jesus Christ, the manifestation of God.)

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