Sri Ramakrishna would emphasise again and again about the preparatory steps for spiritual awakening, in particular, purity of heart. He used to narrate a beautiful story in this connection.

There lived in a village a young man by name Padmalochan, whom people used to call affectionately Podo. In that village there was a temple in a very dilapidated condition. It did not contain any image of God. Bats lived inside and the floor was covered with dust and the droppings of bats. The people of the village had stopped visiting the temple. One day after dusk, the villagers heard the sound of conch-shell coming from the direction of the temple. They thought that someone had installed an image and was performing the evening worship. One of them reached the temple, softly opened the door, to see what was happening. He saw Padmalochan standing in a corner blowing the conch. The temple had not been swept or cleaned and no image had been installed. He chided Padmalochan for creating confusion:

You have set no image here

Within the Shrine, O fool! Blowing the conch, you simply make

Confusion worse confounded. Day and night eleven bats

Scream there incessantly…

According to Sri Ramakrishna there is no use in attempting to establish the deity in the shrine of one’s heart without proper preparation. God can be established only if the heart is pure. One cannot bring a holy image into the temple without cleaning it or removing the droppings of bats, etc. The 11 bats refer to our 11 organs, namely 5 organs of action, 5 organs of perception or knowledge and the Mind. To realise God one needs to perform intense and serious sadhana. Purification of the heart or getting rid of the attractions of the senses is the first step in that direction. That is why Jesus said, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.”


Published in the ‘Sacred Books of the East’ column, Sunday Guardian, 9th Mar 2013

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