Rice husking

Rice husking in rural Bengal and Odisha

Sri Ramakrishna would often explain to the devotees, in his own simple and inevitable style, how to fix their mind on God. He would explain this in various ways using instances from daily life as illustrations. He was born in Kamarpukur, a village in rural Bengal. He had a keen power of observation. He would often refer to the following incident.

There was a village grocery shop managed by a woman. She would be performing several activities at the same time. She would be breast feeding her child and would also be talking to her customers, reminding them about their dues even while supplying their requirements. Simultaneously, she would be helping another woman in the process of husking paddy. It is a mechanical device used in rural Bengal where one woman would be operating the machine with her foot while another woman would churn the paddy which is being husked. The woman, using her hand, has to be extremely careful and alert to avoid hurting her hand. When the husking machine is operated, a pestle which is made of iron, strikes hard the paddy stored in a hole at the centre of the machine. At that time the paddy has to be churned constantly to ensure proper husking. But if the person performing the task is not totally attentive the pestle can land on her hand and hurt it badly.

Thus Sri Ramakrishna would draw the attention of the devotees to the alertness of the woman managing the shop. Although she was indulging in several activities at the same time, her real concentration would be on the husking machine and being alert so as to not to hurt her hand. In the same way, Sri Ramakrishna would say that people living in the world may indulge in several activities, but should essentially fix their mind on God. Otherwise, they are likely to get burnt in the fire of worldliness.

-by Swami Shantatmananda, Sunday Guardian, 14th Jun 2014