The devotees of Sri Ramakrishna would often discuss with him about the real essence or significance of the shastras (scriptures). While elaborating on this topic Sri Ramakrishna would draw inferences from the experiences of daily life so as to enable the devotees to grasp the real importance.
Once, a person received a letter asking him to buy certain things. The letter contained other information about the well-being of the writer, his enquiries about the addressee and so on, besides the description of the items to be purchased. The recipient of the letter somehow misplaced it. As he had not fully read the letter, he searched for it desperately. Finally, he could find it and then he went through the letter calmly. His friend had asked him to buy certain sweets and a few other articles. Having understood the essential message of the letter, he no longer cared about preserving it safely. He knew that he had to go to the market and buy the items desired by his friend.
Similarly, Sri Ramakrishna would say, the shastras contain ever so many details, both the essential as well as the non-essential. Just as from a mixture of sand and sugar the ant has the capacity to separate the sugar and take it out leaving aside the sand, the shastras have to be read carefully so as to understand or grasp the essential message. After that there is not much of a need for studying these shastras again. Then starts the real journey of life. One has to practice diligently and assiduously what one has understood as the essence of the shastras. Ultimately, experience alone can reveal the truth of the shastras and transform one’s life.
Thus, Sri Ramakrishna would say that instead of wasting time pouring over endless books without understanding the real importance or meaning, it is better to read carefully and diligently, understand the essence of the shastras and practice. Ultimately, religion is realisation.
-by Swami Shantatmananda, Sunday Guardian, 18th Jan 2014