Sri Ramakrishna: "In this creation of God there is a variety of things: men, animals, trees, plants. Among the animals some are good, some bad. There are ferocious animals like the tiger. Some trees bear fruit sweet as nectar, and others bear fruit that is poisonous. Likewise, among human beings, there are the good and the wicked, the holy and the unholy. There are some who are devoted to God, and others who are attached to the world.
"Men may be divided into four classes: those bound by the fetters of the world, the seekers after liberation, the liberated, and the ever-free.
"Among the ever-free we may count sages like Narada. They live in the world for the good of others, to teach men spiritual truth.
"Those in bondage are sunk in worldliness and forgetful of God. Not even by mistake do they think of God.
"The seekers after liberation want to free themselves from attachment to the world. Some of them succeed and others do not.
"The liberated souls, such as the sadhus and mahatmas, are not entangled in the world, in ‘Lust and Greed’. Their minds are free from worldliness. Besides, they always meditate on the Lotus Feet of God.
"Suppose a net has been cast into a lake to catch fish. Some fish are so clever that they are never caught in the net. They are like the ever-free. But most of the fish are entangled in the net. Some of them try to free themselves from it, and they are like those who seek liberation. But not all the fish that struggle succeed; A very few do jump out of the net, making a big splash in the water. Then the fishermen shout, 'Look! There goes a big one!' But most of the fish caught in the net cannot escape, nor do they make any effort to get out. On the contrary, they burrow into the mud with the net in their mouths and lie there quietly, thinking, 'We need not fear any more; we are quite safe here.' But the poor things do not know that the fishermen will drag them out with the net. These are like the men bound to the world.
"The bound souls are tied to the world by the fetters of ‘Lust and Greed’. They are bound hand and-foot. Thinking that ‘Lust and Greed’ will make them happy and give them security, they do not realize that it will lead them to annihilation. When a man thus bound to the world is about to die, his wife asks, 'You are about to go; but what have you done for me?' Again, such is his attachment to the things of the world that, when he sees the lamp burning brightly, he says: 'Dim the light. Too much oil is being used.' And he is on his death-bed!
"The bound souls never think of God. If they get any leisure they indulge in idle gossip and foolish talk, or they engage in fruitless work. If you ask one of them the reason, he answers, 'Oh, I cannot keep still; so I am making a hedge,' When time hangs heavy on their hands they perhaps start playing cards."
There was deep silence in the room.
A DEVOTEE: "Sir, is there no help, then, for such a worldly person?"
Sri Ramakrishna: "Certainly there is. From time to time he should live in the company of holy men, and from time to time go into solitude to meditate on God. Furthermore, he should practise discrimination and pray to God, 'Give me faith and devotion.' Once a person has faith he has achieved everything. There is nothing greater than faith.
(To Kedar) "You must have heard about the tremendous power of faith. It is said in the Purana that Rama, who was God Himself — the embodiment of Absolute Brahman — had to build a bridge to cross the sea to Ceylon. But Hanuman, trusting in Rama's name, cleared the sea in one jump and reached the other side. He had no need of a bridge. (All laugh.) "Once a man was about to cross the sea. Bibhishana wrote Rama's name on a leaf, tied it in a corner of the man's wearing-cloth, and said to him: 'Don't be afraid. Have faith and walk on the water. But look here — the moment you lose faith you will be drowned.' The man was walking easily on the water. Suddenly he had an intense desire to see what was tied in his cloth. He opened it and found only a leaf with the name of Rama written on it. 'What is this?' he thought. 'Just the name of Rama!' As soon as doubt entered his mind he sank under the water.
"If a man has faith in God, then even if he has committed the most heinous sins — such as killing a cow, a brahmin, or a woman — he will certainly be saved through his faith. Let him only say to God, 'O Lord,! will not repeat such an action', and he need not be afraid of anything."
From the Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna