Devotees would often confess to Sri Ramakrishna that although they often think of some extraordinary ideas related to spiritual life, in reality they live at a far lower level. It seemed impossible to translate such ideas into actual living. Sri Ramakrishna would agree with them and explain to them how one should be realistic in spiritual life. He would explain the idea using a beautiful analogy.
A man was walking over a bushy area and suddenly the sole of his foot was pricked by a sharp thorn. He was grimacing in pain, but when someone asked him as to what had happened, he immediately said that nothing had really happened and that he was quite alright. Every now and then he was showing signs of being in deep pain, but was always trying to put up a brave front. Thus he was living in a false world. So, Sri Ramakrishna would say that one should be realistic in spiritual life. It is good to know about the higher truths and have an intellectual grasp of such ideas. But it is not always possible to live at that level except through intense spiritual practice or Sadhana.
He would not approve of the idea of people talking about the state of unitary consciousness or oneness or the realization of the idea of Atman or Brahman. He would say that this idea is too difficult to practice and is certainly not desirable for householders who cannot get rid of the idea of the body. Such boastings would be similar to the fate of the man who was constantly feeling the prick of the thorn, but was trying to pretend that he was alright.
But, then what is the way out? Sri Ramakrishna would say that by being humble and prayerful and by a spirit of surrender to God’s will and power it is possible to progress slowly in spiritual life and ultimately get rid of all the bondages including the idea of body consciousness.