Sri Ramakrishna would extol the extraordinary beauty and immense benefit of the knowledge of oneness. He would say that such awareness carries one beyond sorrow and suffering. He would narrate an incident that happened in his room at Dakshineswar one day.

Two sadhus, who were related to each other as father and son in their pre-monastic lives, came to meet Sri Ramakrishna one day. The son was far more advanced in the path of sadhana and had attained true knowledge. But the father was yet to progress that far. Both of them were sitting in the room where Sri Ramakrishna lived and were talking to him. All of a sudden, a cobra came out of a rat-hole and in the twinkling of an eyelid bit the son. Seeing this, the elderly monk was terribly frightened and began to weep and wail. But the younger monk was unperturbed and sat quietly. Seeing his calmness the elderly monk was extremely puzzled. He asked the younger monk whether he was not frightened by the snake. He also asked him whether he was not worried about the effects of the poison that had been injected into his blood through the snakebite. But the son laughed and in a nonchalant tone blurted out as to where the snake was and whom it had bitten. This was because he had realised that the ultimate truth was oneness or unitary consciousness and all that one experiences was due to maya or delusion. He was not bothered by distinctions such as snake or man and hence was not worried about the effects of poison or the prospect of death. He knew that everything in the world was perishable and oneness or Advaita alone was the truth.

Thus, Sri Ramakrishna would explain that the surest way to overcome sorrows and miseries of the world was to realise one’s own real nature as Brahman or consciousness.

– by Swami Shantatmananda, published in the ‘Sacred Books of the East’ column, Sunday Guardian, 7th Dec 2013