Sri Ramakrishna would present before his devotees different facets of God during his conversations. Once he was talking to them about devotees who look upon God as someone very compassionate. He used to refer to his conversation with some devotees from the Sikh community. Once he said that one day some Sikhs met him in front of the Kali Temple (at Dakshineshwar) and told him that God was compassionate. He asked them as to whom was God compassionate. The devotees were surprised and they said that God was compassionate to everyone. Then Sri Ramakrishna told them, “We are all his children. Does compassion to one’s own children means much? The father must look after his children. Otherwise, do you expect the people of the neighbourhood to bring them up? Will those who say that God is compassionate ever understand that we are God’s children?”
The devotees then asked him that whether one should not say that God was compassionate. In reply Sri Ramakrishna said that one should do so as long as one is in the initial stages of spiritual evolution, i.e. during the days of sadhana. After realising God, one rightly feels that God is one’s own such as Father and Mother. Till one realises God, one feels that he or she is far away from Him and doesn’t belong to him in an intimate sense.
Thus Sri Ramakrishna would say that our idea of God evolves and reaches a higher and higher state as we progress in spiritual life. Initially, it starts with an idea of a powerful God sitting far away in the sky and ruling with a rod. The devotee obeys Him out of fear. But as one progresses in sadhana, fear slowly gives way to compassion. The devotee feels that God is compassionate and kind. Such a God protects His devotees. As one advances further slowly, the idea of a loving God emerges and finally the devotee understands His love as unconditional and all-embracing.
– by Swami Shantatmanandaji, published in the ‘Sacred Books of the East’ column, Sunday Guardian, 3rd Aug 2013