CHENNAI: The difference between lay people and saints is in their perception of God. It is possible to visualise the Supreme Being in three ways: as the Absolute, immanent within, and as manifest in all creation. While the majority relegate the Almighty to His divine abode (which is beyond their reach), saints stay attuned to Him all the time and see Him everywhere. This fact was observed by the disciples and devotees of Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa when his body was suffering from cancer. In spite of the pain he would remain in spiritual communion and stated that he saw the Supreme everywhere distancing himself totally from his bodily affliction.

In his discourse, Swami Gautamananda said it was possible to develop the mystical insight to envision God if a spiritual seeker changed his outlook by looking upon the Almighty during ritualistic worship as dear to himself instead of distancing Him. Moreover, love of God should permeate all his actions just as engagement in human relationships. When one of his devotees beseeched Sri Ramakrishna to ask the Divine Mother to let him stay on in this world, he replied that She knew when his work was over here. He cautioned them that they should not remain complacent that their Guru would look after their spiritual growth and that they should also make the necessary effort to realise God.

He then related the famous Upanishadic analogy of two birds sitting on different branches of the same tree. While one of them ate the fruits, the other looked on. This is an illustration to drive home the truth that the bonded soul (Jivatma) engages in the world and thereby reaps Karma, which is responsible for rebirth but the Lord who is also present in every being remains a spectator. Man suffers because he fails to remember that God is always with him. Sri Ramakrishna wondered like many savants before him as to how many would have really understood his teachings. One can appreciate this by considering how many would have understood Einstein when he explained his theory. Only few who have the required knowledge of the fundamentals of physics can understand Einstein’s work. So also are the teachings of great masters.