Sri Ramakrishna wanted to initiate his new pupil, Narendra, into Advaitha Vedanta (the teaching that all this is only the One) and so gave him several Advaitha treatises to read. But the earlier religious background of Narendra would not allow him to accept such teachings.
He would rebel saying “It is blasphemy, there is no difference from such philosophy and Atheism. There is no greater sin in the world than to think of oneself as identical with the Creator. I am God, you are God, these created things are God – what can be more absurd than this. The sages who wrote such things must have been insane.”
Sri Ramakrishna was amused at his pupil’s bluntness but told him to go on praying to the God of truth and to believe in whatever aspect of Him that was revealed to him. Narendra however, considered the teachings false and continued to resist and ridicule them. But Sri Ramakrishna knew that Narendra was on the path of Jnana (the higher knowledge) and therefore continued to espouse the Advaithic point of view to him. One day he tried to convince Narendra that he was identical with Brahmam.
Narendra left the room and began to discuss the situation with his friend Hazra. He said: “How can that be? This jug is God, this cup is God, whatever we see is God, and we, too are God! Nothing can be more preposterous!” Hazra joined in this criticism and both laughed. Sri Ramakrishna was in his room in a state partly in the Samadhi consciousness and partly in this world. Hearing Narendra’s laughter he came out to talk to them. “Hello! What are you talking about?” he said smiling and touched Narendra, who immediately plunged into full Samadhi. Narendra described the effect of the touch:
“That magic touch of the Master immediately brought a change over my mind. I was stupefied to find that really there was nothing in the universe but God! I saw it quite clearly but kept silent, to see if the idea would last. But that influence did not abate in the course of the day. I returned home, but there, too, everything I saw appeared to be Brahmam. I sat down to take my meal, but found that everything – the food, the plate, the person who served, and even myself – was nothing but That. I ate a morsel or two and sat still. I was startled by my mother’s words, ‘Why do you sit still? Finish your meal.’, and began to eat again. But all the while whether eating or lying down or going to college, I had the same experience and felt myself always in a sort of comatose state.
While walking in the streets, I noticed cabs plying, but I did not feel inclined to move out of the way, for I felt that the cabs and myself were of one stuff. There was no sensation in my limbs, which I thought were becoming paralyzed. I had no satisfaction from eating and felt as though someone else were eating. Sometimes I lay down during a meal and after a few minutes got up and began to eat again. The result would be that on some days I would take too much, but it seemed to do no harm.
My mother became alarmed and said that there must be something wrong with me. She was afraid that I would not live long. When this state altered a little, the world began to appear to me as a dream. While walking in Cornwallis Square, I would strike my head against the iron railings to see if they were real or only a dream. This state of things continued for some days. When I became normal again, I realized that I must have had a glimpse of the Advaitha state. Then it struck me that the words of the scriptures were not false. Thenceforth I could not deny the conclusions of the Advaitha philosophy.