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

The Wishing Tree

A man was sitting in the shade of a Wishing Tree.

First, he wished to be a king, and in an instant he was a king.

The next moment he wished to have a charming woman, and the woman was instantly by his side.

But then he thought to himself, "What if a tiger came and devoured me?" and alas! in an instant he was in the jaws of a tiger!

God is like that Wishing Tree: whoever thinks in God's presence that he is destitute and poor will remain so; but the one who believes that the Lord fulfils all his needs, will receive everything from Him.


The "Wishing Tree" is the Kalpa-vriksha, a standard item in Indian mythology (and many others).

Like many such "magic" items, however, it has a hidden danger; "be careful what you wish for..."

There are traces here of the so-called "Law of Attraction," but I suspect that Sri Ramakrishna would have found many modern statements of the LOA shallow and self-serving.

God in Us

As a plunger in a syringe, God dwells in the body. He is in the body, and yet apart from it.

As fishes playing in a pond covered over with reeds cannot be seen from outside, so God plays in the heart invisibly, hidden from human view by Maya.


I have joined together two sayings.

Maya is "illusion," the illusion that prevents us from seeing the reality of things.

This reminds me of Blake's famous saying:

"If the doors of perception were cleansed every thing would appear to man as it is, infinite. For man has closed himself up, till he sees all things through narrow chinks of his cavern."

God is the Snake and the Thief

God says, "I am the snake that bites and the charmer that heals; I am the judge that condemns and the executioner that whips."

God tells the thief to go and steal, and at the same time warns the householder against the thief.


I have combined two short sayings here.

The first half reminds me of a James Taylor song, "New Hymn," in which he refers to God as "source of all we hope or dread: sheepdog, jackal, rattler, swan," and Blake's "The Tyger," in which he asks, "Did he who made the lamb make thee?"

In the second, we see God as agent on both sides of every struggle, giving the lie to the "God is on our side" war cry.

Together, these two give us a much bigger picture of God than the one most of us grew up with.

The Human Body is a Boiling Pot

The human body is like a boiling pot; the mind and the senses are like its contents.

Put the pot with its ingredients on the fire; it will be so hot it will burn your finger when you touch it. But the heat does not belong to the pot, nor to its contents, but to the fire.

So it is the fire of God in a person that causes the mind and the senses to perform their functions, and when that fire is put out, the mind, the senses, the organs, also stop.


A brilliant concept. This pot, the body, produces no heat of its own. Its contents only "cook" because of the energy provided by the "fire" which is God.

The name used for "God" here is "Brahman," the Supreme God whose body is the universe.

A Lamp without Oil

As a lamp cannot burn without oil, so we cannot live without God.


The Bible, too, uses oil as a symbol for God (spirit).

Think of the old-fashioned lamp. What made the wick burn, giving light to all?


No oil, no light.

No God, no life.

Taste the Snow

Many have merely heard of snow but have not seen it. So, many "spiritual teachers" have only read about God in books, but have not realized God in their lives.

Many may have seen snow but have not tasted it. So, many "spiritual teachers" have glimpsed the Divine Glory, but have not understood its real essence.

One who has tasted snow can say what it is like. One who has communed with God in different aspects, now as a servant, now as a friend, now as a lover, now absorbed in God, that one alone can talk knowledgably of the essence of God.


Joseph Campbell makes a distinction between the "priest," a social functionary who has been trained to perform his role, and the "shaman," who mediates a direct experience with God.

All teachers, Ramakrishna says, should be shamans.

And they should know God in many aspects. Some say that Hinduism teaches five kinds of love for God, allueded to in this saying:

  • servant for master
  • friend for friend
  • parent for child (not child for parent!)
  • spouse for spouse
  • illicit love, the highest of all, that throws away everything for love.

One who loves God in all these ways is ready to teach.

Everything is God

Everything is God. Human or animal, sage or scoundrel, in fact, the entire universe, is God, the Supreme Spirit.


The name of God used here is Narayana, meaning Vishnu, whose avatar Krishna is one of the best-loved in India. It is surprising to think that a "scoundrel" (the original text that I am paraphrasing uses "knave") is also the beloved "Supreme Spirit."

Again, to cast it in Christian terms, there would be no more of God in Jesus than in the criminals between whom he hung on the cross.

God, Scripture, Devotees

God, his scripture, and his devotees, are all to be regarded as one, that is, in one and the same light.


This short but profound saying is manifold in meaning. There is no distinction between God and his scriptures (specifically the Bhagavad Gita in this saying). There is no distinction between the scriptures and the believer; or between the believer and God.

In Christian terms, Jesus is the Word of God, as is the Bible. But take one more step: so are we.

The Voice of God

A Master told his pupil: "Everything that exists is God."
The pupil took it literally, not in the true spirit. While he was walking down a street, he met with an elephant. The mâhut (the driver) shouted aloud from his high seat, "Move away, move away!"
The pupil argued in his mind, "Why should I move away? I am God, and the elephant is also God. What need has God to fear Himself?"
Thinking this he did not move.
Finally the elephant picked him up with his trunk, and dashed him aside.
Severely hurt, he went back to his Master, and told him the whole story.
The Master said, "All right, you are God. The elephant is God also. But God in the shape of the elephant-driver was warning you also from above. Why did you not pay heed to his warnings?"

As Pope wrote, "A little knowledge is a dangerous thing." And so a student with limited understanding can become worse off than one with no knowledge at all.