Om Sri Gurubhyo Namah !!!
Shri Ramakrishna Paramhansa Deva
[ A Rishi, Saint, Vedantic Teacher, a Guru and a Devotee of the Goddess Kali]
Here are some of his teachings:
“Women are, all of them, the veritable images of Shakti.”
“Knowledge leads to unity, but Ignorance to diversity.”
“Lovers of God do not belong to any caste.“
“Never get into your head that your faith alone is true and every other is false. Know for certain that God without form is real and that God with form is also real. Then hold fast to whichever faith appeals to you.”
“Through selfless work, love of God grows in the heart. Then, through His grace, one realizes Him in course of time. God can be seen, one can talk to Him, as I am talking to you.”
“Many are the names of God, and infinite the forms that lead us to know Him. In whatsoever name or form you desire to call Him, in that very form and name you will see Him.”
“Rain-water never stands on high ground, but runs down to the lowest level. So also the mercy of God remains in the hearts of the lowly, but drains off from those of the vain and the proud.”
“As you pray to God for devotion, so also pray that you may not find fault with anyone.”
“Men are like pillow-cases. The colour of one may be red, that of another blue, and that of the third black; but all contain the same cotton within. So it is with man; one looks beautiful, another is ugly, a third holy , and a fourth wicked; but the Divine Being dwells in them all.”
“It is the mind that makes one wise or ignorant, bound or emancipated.“
“It is easy to talk on religion, but difficult to practice it.”
Shri Ramakrishna Paramhansa Deva
Born: February 18, 1833
Died: August 16, 1886
Indian religious leader and mystic
Sri Ramakrishna was an Indian monk (one whose religious beliefs are based on spirituality and practices outside of traditional religion), reformer, and saint who, in his own lifetime, came to be hailed by people of all classes as a spiritual embodiment (taking on the physical form) of God.
Shri Ramakrishna Paramhansa is still the most celebrated mystic in India, respected for his devotion, loved for his kindness, adored for his eccentricity.
He rejected all efforts to worship him personally; rather, he suggested that his presentation of man’s spiritual potential serve as a guide and inspiration to others.
The simplest of men, with a childlike enthusiasm, Ramakrishna was known to explain complex spiritual tales in the most lucid manner.
He practised different facets of Hinduism as well of other religions like Islam and Christianity, and said that religions are but different paths that lead up to a single goal – God
Above all, Ramakrishna had a “grass-roots” appeal equaled by few others in any religious tradition, marked by his love of all men and his enthusiasm for all forms of spirituality.
Born in a rural Bengal village in India, Sri Ramakrishna was the fourth of five children.
His parents were simple but traditional deeply committed to the maintenance of traditional religious piety, or religious devotion.
Legend has it that when Ramakrishna’s father, Khudiram, made a pilgrimage (religious journey) to the holy place of Gaya, he had a vision of the Hindu god Vishnu, who told Khudiram he would be reincarnated (take the form) of his next son.
Likewise, Ramakrishna’s mother, Chandra Devi, had visions that her next born would be a divine (god-like) child.
But from a very early age, people could see that Gadadhar ( the child hood name of Paramahasa) was spiritually inclined and many had seen him experience episodes of spiritual ecstasy quite often.
During certain religious performances, dramas, or pujas, Gadhadhar would slip into a deep trance and that’s when his family and neighbours figured that he was no common little kid.
At the age of six, he experienced the first ecstasy while watching a flight of white cranes moving against the background of black clouds.
This tendency to enter into ecstasy intensified with age. He was a truant student who was quite reluctant to learn Sanskrit or Mathematics at school and would listen in awe to all folk tales his mother told him as stories.Ramakrishna did not like routine schoolwork and never learned to read or write.
Instead, he began to demonstrate spiritual qualities well beyond his years, which included experiencing intensely joyful experiences, long periods of thought, and spiritual absorption in the sacred (holy) and traditional Indian plays, especially with the roles of the gods Shiva and Krishna.
His father’s death when he was seven years old served only to deepen his introspection and increase his detachment from the world.
During his formal initiation ceremony (an Indian social class), he shocked his high-caste relatives by openly accepting a ritual meal cooked by a woman of low caste.
Though Ramakrishna resisted traditional priestly studies, at the age of sixteen he went to Calcutta, India, to assist his brother, who was serving as a priest for a number of local families.
He was disturbed by the gross business practices and inhumanity of the city environment.
However, when his brother was asked to become a priest at a large temple complex at Dakshineswar near the Ganges River outside Calcutta, Ramakrishna found a new and ultimately permanent environment for his spiritual growth and teaching.
That temple complex—one of the most impressive in the area—had been built by a wealthy widow whose spiritual ideal (standard) was the mother goddess Kali.
This Great deity (Kali) traditionally combines the terror of death and destruction with universal motherly security and is often represented in a statue of ferocious appearance. She represents an immense variety of religious and human emotions, from the most primitive to the highest forms, and therefore has a symbolic universality not easily contained within traditional religious forms.
Ramakrishna was selected to serve as priest in the Kali temple, and it was here that he had a series of important religious experiences in which he felt that Kali was calling him to a universal spiritual mission for India and all mankind.
His untraditional and often bizarre behavior during this period of spiritual transformation was interpreted by many as a sign of madness.
However, it clearly represented his struggles to free himself from routine religious patterns and to achieve a new and deeper spirituality.
He meditated in a sacred grove of five trees on the edge of the temple grounds seeking a vision of the goddess Kali.
At one point he became frustrated, feeling he could not live any longer without seeing Kali.
He demanded that the goddess appear to him. He threatened to take his own life with a ritual dagger (normally held in the hand of the Kali statue).
At this point, he explained how the goddess appeared to him as an ocean of light:
“When I jumped up like a madman and seized [a sword], suddenly the blessed Mother revealed herself. The buildings, the temple, and everything vanished from my sight, leaving no trace whatsoever, and in their stead I saw a limitless, infinite, effulgent Ocean of Consciousness. As far as the eye could see, the shining billows were madly rushing at me from all sides with a terrific noise, to swallow me up. I was caught in the rush and collapsed, unconscious … within me there was a steady flow of undiluted bliss, altogether new, and I felt the presence of the Divine Mother“.
His intense longing culminated into the vision of Mother Kali as boundless effulgence engulfing everything around him.
Impelled by a strong inner urge to experience the different aspects of God he followed, with the help of a series of Gurus, the various paths described in the Hindu scriptures, and realized God through each of them.
He imitated the actions of the god-monkey Hanuman (a sign of humility and service); he fed animals from the same food prepared for Kali (a disrespect to the traditionalists); he cleaned an outcaste’s hovel with his hair, a terrible insult for a Brahmin; he sang and danced wildly when the spirit moved; and he rejected his Brahminical status, believing that caste superiority lowered the character of his spirituality. All of these acts symbolized his inward spiritual transformation.
About this time, an elderly holy woman named Bhairavi Brahmani appeared and determined that Ramakrishna’s madness was “spiritual madness” rather than ordinary madness. He was literally mad for the vision of God.
She convened a group of respected religious leaders who examined Ramakrishna’s symptoms.
They concluded that this was a case of divine madness similar in nature to that of other famous saints such as Caitanya (a fifteenth century Bengali saint).
In 1861, Sri Ramakrishna practised various difficult disciplines of the Tantrik path, and attained success in all of them with the help of the first teacher known as Bhairavi Brahmani who was an advanced spiritual adept, well versed in scriptures.
The holy women stayed with Ramakrishna for some time teaching him yogic and tantric meditation techniques.
Three years later a yogin named Totapuri then became Ramakrishna’s mentor. Ramakrishna adopted the role of renunciant and learned a nondualist form of Vedanta philosophy from him.
In this system, God is understood to be the formless unmanifest energy that supports the cosmos.
Ramakrishna experienced a deep form of trance (nirvikalpa samadhi) under the guidance of this teacher.
Sri Ramakrishna attained Nirvikalpa Samadhi, the highest spiritual experience mentioned in the Hindu scriptures.
He remained in that state of non-dual existence for six months without the least awareness of even his own body.
This state can be described as complete absorption of the soul into the divine ocean of consciousness.
In this way, Sri Ramakrishna relived the entire range of spiritual experiences of Hindu religion.
When he was 23, He was married to the 5-year-old Saradamoni Mukhopadhyay, popularly known to us now as Maa Sarada
When Ramakrishna was twenty-eight his emotional confusion eased, and he began to study a wide variety of traditional religious teachings.
His teachers were impressed with his ability to learn, his amazing memory, and his remarkable talent for spiritual skill.
From this point on, people began to treat Ramakrishna with more respect though his unusual behavior in worship and meditation continued.
He was openly hailed as a supreme sage, one who is regarded for his wisdom and experience.
At the age of thirty-three he began to study Muslim tradition, and after a short period of instruction he had a vision of a “radiant figure”—interpreted as the founder of Islam Mohammed (c. 570–632) himself, which solidified his universal religious calling.
In 1868 Ramakrishna undertook an extensive pilgrimage; but despite the honors given to him he was saddened by the griefs (extremely poor conditions) of the masses and began living with outcaste groups to bring awareness to their situation, insisting that his rich patrons (supporters) make formal efforts to improve their condition.
He was always a man of the people: simple, full of warmth, and without snobbishness or religious dogma (system of beliefs).
Worshipping His Wife
In 1872, his wife Sarada, now nineteen years old, came from the village to meet him.
He received her cordially, and taught her how to attend to household duties and at the same time lead an intensely spiritual life.
Ramakrishna’s greatness lies in the fact that he believed every man and woman is holy, and he never once claimed to be greater, but just a common man who viewed Kali as a common woman, truant, playful and benign.
One night he worshipped her as the Divine Mother in his room at the Dakshineswar temple.
Ramakrishna even proclaimed his wife Saradamoni as the embodiment of the Divine Mother and performed the Shodashi Puja with her in the seat of Goddess Kali — and that’s how revolutionary he was.
Although Sarada continued to stay with him, they lived immaculately pure lives, and their marital relationship was purely spiritual.
It should be mentioned here that Sri Ramakrishna had been ordained a Sannyasin (Hindu monk), and he observed the basic vows of a monk to perfection.
But outwardly he lived like a lay man, humble, loving and with childlike simplicity.
As bees swarm around a fully blossomed flower, devotees now started coming to Sri Ramakrishna.
He divided them into two categories. The first one consisted of householders. He taught them how to realize God while living in the world and discharging their family duties.
The other more important category was a band of educated youths, mostly from the middle class families of Bengal, whom he trained to become monks and to be the torchbearers of his message to mankind.
Some of the most noted followers of Shri Ramakrishna Paramhansa are noted poet, playwright, theatre director Girish Ghosh, Swami Vikenanda, Zamindar Rakhal Chandra Ghosh, who later became Swami Bramhananda, etc.
The foremost among them was Narendranath, who years later, as Swami Vivekananda, carried the universal message of Vedanta to different parts of the world, revitalized Hinduism, and awakened the soul of India.
Vivekananda also promoted a more activist form of Hinduism, which focused on education, feeding the poor, and developing libraries and other institutions.
His works were a way of showing Hindus that it was not only the Christian missionaries that could benefit society, but that Hindu religion was also valuable with respect to improving society and combating social ills.
Vivekananda (1863–1902), who was destined to organize and promote Ramakrishna’s teachings throughout India, Europe, and the United States. In 1886, when Ramakrishna was near death, he formally designated Vivekananda his spiritual heir, or one who takes over his teachings.
Swami Vivekananda, philosopher, mystic and one of India’s greatest thinkers, founded the Ramakrishna Mission as a dedication to the Paramhansa.
The Mission was founded as a non-profit organisation which forms the core of a worldwide spiritual movement known as the Ramakrishna Movement or the Vedanta Movement, greatly propagated by Vivekananda.
In the beginning of 1885 Ramakrishna suffered from clergyman’s throat, which gradually developed into throat cancer.
He was moved to Shyampukur near Kolkata, where some of the best physicians of the time, including Dr. Mahendralal Sarkar, were engaged.
When his condition aggravated he was relocated to a large garden house at Cossipore on 11 December 1885.
During his last days, he was looked after by his monastic disciples and Sarada Devi.
Ramakrishna was advised by the doctors to keep the strictest silence, but ignoring their advice, he incessantly conversed with visitors.
Before his death, Ramakrishna transferred his spiritual powers to Vivekananda and reassured Vivekananda of his avataric status.
Ramakrishna asked Vivekananda to look after the welfare of the disciples, saying, “keep my boys together” and asked him to “teach them“.
Ramakrishna also asked other monastic disciples to look upon Vivekananda as their leader.
Ramakrishna’s condition gradually worsened, and he died in the early morning hours of 16 August 1886 at the Cossipore garden house.
According to his disciples, this was Mahasamadhi. After the death of their master, the monastic disciples led by Vivekananda formed a fellowship at a half-ruined house at Baranagar near the river Ganges.
This became the first Math or monastery of the disciples who constituted the first Ramakrishna Order.
After Ramakrishna’s death, Sarada Devi began her pilgrimage through North India, accompanied by a party of women disciples including Lakshmi Didi, Gopal Ma, and Ramakrishna’s householder and monastic disciples.
The party visited the Vishwanath Temple of god Shiva at Banaras and the city of Ayodhya, which is associated with life of god Rama. Later, she visited Vrindavan which is associated with Lord Krishna.
At Vrindavan, she experienced nirvikalpa samadhi and began her role as guru. She initiated several of Rama krishna’s disciples including Mahendranath Gupta, Yogen with a mantra.
According to her traditional biographers and disciples, to call her “Mother” was no mere expression of respect and all those who met her became aware of a maternal quality in her.
Sarada Devi received the highest reverence from the Ramakrishna Order and its devotees.
Ramakrishna had bade her continue his mission after his death and wanted his disciples not to make any distinction between himself and her.
According to her devotees and traditional biographers, the hospitality of Sarada Devi was unique and was characterised by motherly care and solicitude.
The devotees recount the mystical experiences of her devotees. Some dreamt of her as a goddess in human form though they had never seen her picture before. Others reportedly received their initiation from her in their dream.
One such example is of Girish Chandra Ghosh, the father of Bengali drama, who reportedly saw Sarada Devi in a dream when he was nineteen years old and received a mantra.
When he met her many years later, to his astonishment she was the same person in the dream.
Sarada Devi spent her final years moving back and forth between Jayrambati and Calcutta. In January 1919, Sarada Devi went to Jayrambati and stayed there for over a year. For the next five months she continued to suffer.
Shortly before her death, she gave the last advice to the grief-stricken devotees, “But I tell you one thing—if you want peace of mind, do not find fault with others. Rather see your own faults. Learn to make the whole world your own. No one is a stranger my child: this whole world is your own!”
This is considered as her last message to the world. She died at 1.30 am on Tuesday the 20 July 1920 at Mayer Badi (in the first floor of the Shrine Room), Kolkata.
Her body was cremated at the Belur Math, opposite side of River Ganga where her husband Sri Ramakrishna’s body was cremated at Kashipore, Baranagroe, Ratan, Babu ghat.
The place where she was cremated is now known as Holy Mother’s ghat at Belurmath. Today a temple stands at that spot.
The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna
Sri Ramakrishna did not write any book, nor did he deliver public lectures. Instead, he chose to speak in a simple language using parables and metaphors by way of illustration, drawn from the observation of nature and ordinary things of daily use.
His conversations were charming and attracted the cultural elite of Bengal. These conversations were noted down by his disciple Mahendranath Gupta who published them in the form of a book, Sri Sri Ramakrishna Kathamrita in Bengali.
Its English rendering, The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna, was released in 1942; it continues to be popular to this day on account of its universal appeal and relevance.
Books on Ramakrishna:
The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna by Mahendranath Gupta
Ramakrishna the Great Master by Swami Saradanananda
The Great Swan: Meeting with Ramakrishna by Lex Hixon
Life of Ramakrishna by Romain Rolland
Ramakrishna and His Disciples by Christopher Isherwood
Message of Sri Ramakrishna
The message of Sri Ramakrishna to the modern world, which he gave through his life and through his recorded conversations, may be briefly stated as follows:
The goal of human life is the realization of the Ultimate Reality which alone can give man supreme fulfilment and everlasting peace. This is the essence of all religions.
The Ultimate Reality is one; but it is personal as well as impersonal, and is indicated by different names (such as God, Ishvar, etc) in different religions.
The Ultimate Reality can be realized through various paths taught in world religions. All religions are true in so far as they lead to the same ultimate Goal.
Purity of mind is an essential condition for the attainment of the Ultimate Reality; real purity is freedom from lust and greed. External observances are only of secondary importance.
Through spiritual practices man can overcome his evil tendencies, and divine grace can redeem even the worst sinner. Therefore one should not brood over the past mistakes, but should develop a positive outlook on life by depending on God.
God realization is possible for all. The householders need not renounce the world; but they should pray sincerely, practise discrimination between the Eternal and the temporal and remain unattached. God listens to sincere prayer. Intense longing (vyakulata) is the secret of success in spiritual life.
God dwells in all people but the manifestation of this inner Divinity varies from person to person. In saintly people there is greater manifestation of God. Women are special manifestations of Divine Mother of the Universe, and so are to be treated with respect.
Since God dwells in all people, helping the needy should be done not out of compassion (which is an attitude of condescension) but as humble service to God.
Egoism, caused by ignorance, is the root-cause of all suffering.
Life is an expression of the spontaneous creativity (Lila) of God. Pleasure and pain, success and failure, etc are to be borne with patience, and one should resign oneself to God’s will under all circumstances.
Contributions of Sri Ramakrishna to World Culture
Spiritual Ideal : One of the important contributions of Sri Ramakrishna is the reestablishment of the ideal of God realization in the modern world. In a world in which people’s faith in traditional religions has been considerably reduced by the relentless attack of the forces of atheism, materialism and scientific thinking, Sri Ramakrishna established the possibility of having direct experience of transcendent Reality. His life has enabled thousands of people to gain or regain faith in God and in the eternal verities of religion.
As Mahatma Gandhi has stated: “His (Ramakrishna’s) life enables us to see God face to face. No one can read the story of his life without being convinced that God alone is real and that all else is an illusion.”
Harmony of Religions : Sri Ramakrishna, however, is more well known all over the world as the Prophet of Harmony of Religions. He did not say that all the religions are the same. He recognized differences among religions but showed that, in spite of these differences, all religions lead to the same ultimate goal, and hence they are all valid and true.
This view is nowadays known as “Pluralism”: Sri Ramakrishna is its primary originator.
The uniqueness of Sri Ramakrishna’s view is that it was based, not on speculation, but on direct experience gained through actual practice.
Since conflicts among religions and the rise of religious fundamentalism are a major threat to the peace, prosperity and progress of humanity, Sri Ramakrishna’s doctrine of harmony of religions has immense importance in the modern world.
Regarding this, the distinguished British historian Arnold Toynbee has written: “… Mahatma Gandhi’s principle of non-violence and Sri Ramakrishna’s testimony to the harmony of religions: here we have the attitude and the spirit that can make it possible for the human race to grow together into a single family – and in the Atomic Age, this is the only alternative to destroying ourselves.”
Bridge between the ancient and the modern : Sri Ramakrishna is the real link between the ancient and the modern. He showed how the ancient ideals and experiences could be realized even while following the normal modern way of life.
Boost to moral life : Sri Ramakrishna’s emphasis on truthfulness and renunciation of lust and greed has given a great boost to moral life in modern times. He also cleansed religious life of immoral practices, external pomp, miracle mongering, etc.
Divinization of love : Sri Ramakrishna elevated love from the level of emotions to the level of the unity of all Selves in God. Although the principle of oneness of the Supreme Self and its immanence in all beings is a central point in the Upanishads, it was seldom applied in practical life. Sri Ramakrishna saw the Divine in his wife, in his disciples, in others, even in fallen women, and treated them all with respect.
The famous dictum of the New Testament, “God is Love”, found its verification in Sri Ramakrishna. Divinization of love and human relationships is another contribution of Sri Ramakrishna which has immense significance for the welfare of humanity.
Some sayings of Sri Ramakrishna
He is born in vain who, having attained the human birth, so difficult to get, does not attempt to realize God in this very life.
You see many stars in the sky at night, but not when the sun rises. Can you therefore say that there are no stars in the heavens during the day?
O man, because you cannot find God in the days of your ignorance, say not that there is no God.
One cannot have the vision of God as long as one has these three – shame, hatred, and fear.
Be not a traitor in your thoughts. Be sincere; act according to your thoughts; and you shall surely succeed. Pray with a sincere and simple heart, and your prayers will be heard.
Do not let worldly thoughts and anxieties disturb your mind. Do everything that is necessary in the proper time, and let your mind be always fixed on God.
You should remember that the heart of the devotee is the abode of God. He dwells, no doubt, in all beings, but He especially manifests Himself in the heart of the devotee. The heart of the devotee is the drawing room of God.
Pure knowledge and pure love are one and the same thing. Both lead the aspirants to the same goal. The path of love is much easier.
Who is the best devotee of God? It is he who sees, after the realization of Brahman that God alone has become all living beings, the universe, and the twenty-four cosmic principles. One must discriminate at first, saying ‘Not this, not this’, and reach the roof.
After that one realizes that the steps are made of the same materials as the roof, namely, brick, lime, and brick-dust. The devotee realizes that it is Brahman alone that has become all these — the living beings, the universe, and so on.
Live in the world like a waterfowl. The water clings to the bird, but the bird shakes it off. Live in the world like a mudfish. The fish lives in the mud, but its skin is always bright and shiny.
I tell you the truth: there is nothing wrong in your being in the world. But you must direct your mind toward God; otherwise you will not succeed. Do your duty with one hand and with the other hold to God. After the duty is over you will hold to God with both hands.
The breeze of His grace is blowing day and night over your head. Unfurl the sails of your boat (mind), if you want to make rapid progress through the ocean of life.
One should constantly repeat the name of God. The name of God is highly effective in the Kaliyuga. The practice of yoga is not possible in this age, for the life of a man depends on food. Clap your hands while repeating God’s name, and the birds of your sins will fly away.