The Gospels of Swami Ramakrishna Paramahansa is the detailed record of informal conversations Swamiji used to have with the visitors to the Dakshineshwar temple. This work was very elaborately compiled by one of his close disciples. The original work was in Bengali and was subsequently translated and published in two volumes by the Ramakrishna Mission. They make very lucid reading and give in depth, the philosophy of Sri Ramakrishna through informal chats. While posted at Calcutta, I got these volumes and went through them.
One of the commonly used phrases in these volumes is ‘Women and Gold’. Swamiji often used to advise his visitors to shun both of them. According to him, these two are the main causes of man’s downfall. Those who did not understand the significance of these two words and took them literally were often wonderstruck. They could not think of giving up their wealth or wife and many even stopped visiting him on this account. Those who understood the true import of these words were greatly benefited.
Here the two words indicate two tendencies, namely ‘lust’ and ‘greed’. Woman is a symbol of ‘lust’ while ‘gold’ is that of 'greed'. These two are the main weaknesses of man and are responsible for his downfall. Therefore, there is a need to guard oneself from them, though not necessarily to shun them. Lust and greed have to be shunned and once we do it, both of them can be useful instruments in our inner growth. This is what Sri Ramakrishna meant while warning against 'Women and Gold’. In fact, the word used by him was ‘Kamini Kanchan’, a literal translation meaning ‘Woman and Gold.’
Here a clarification is necessary, as some may draw an inference that the woman is being looked down upon. This is not true, even remotely. Hinduism, in particular, has given a very high place to women. It is only when a woman becomes an object of lust that the society gets degenerated. This is very evident in today’s context when lust for women has given rise to many social evils. Swami Ramakrishna meant only to warn against this fact.