Sri Ramakrishna would often say that a teacher has to set very high standards if he has to command the respect of his students. He would say that if the teacher is found wanting in any way, the disciples would also be like that. In this connection, he would talk about the acharyas immersed in worldly activities and who from the pulpit teach that God alone is real and all else is illusory.

He would ask who would believe them. One could very well understand the condition of their disciples. He would say that even if a sanyasi renounces lust and lucre mentally and lives in apparent circumstances of luxury outwardly, he would not be fit as a teacher of men. People would say that he enjoyed molasses secretly.

The reference is to the case of a doctor who would keep jars of molasses in his chamber, but would advise his patients not to taste molasses. Obviously, such advice would not have any effect on the patients. He quoted an incident from his own life. Once, Mahendra Gupta of Sinthi gave five rupees to his nephew Ramlal. Sri Ramakrishna did not know about it. When Ramlal told him about the money, Sri Ramakrishna asked him for whom was the money given. Ramlal said that it was for Sri Ramakrishna.

At first the latter thought that the money could be used to pay off the money owed for milk. But the gift had a terrible effect on him. He could hardly sleep that night and he suddenly woke up writhing in pain as if a cat was scratching his chest. He went to Ramlal then and there and asked him to return the money and only after that was done that he could sleep in peace. Such was Sri Ramakrishna’s power of renunciation. In thought, word and deed, he was truly established in tyaga. That is why he could become a worthy world teacher.

Published in the ‘Sacred Books of the East’ column, Sunday Guardian, 15th Jun 2013