Sri Ramakrishna is one of the most prominent religious figures of India during the nineteenth century. Sri Ramakrishna was a mystic and a yogi who translated complex spiritual concepts into a lucid and easily intelligible manner.
Sri Ramakrishna was born on 18 February 1836 in the village of Kamarpukur about sixty miles northwest of Kolkata.
His parents, Kshudiram Chattopadhyaya and Chandramani Devi, were very pious and virtuous. The childhood name of Ramakrishna was Gadadhar. From his early days, he had a strong disinclination towards formal education and worldly affairs. Ramakrishna since child days oftentimes found to be absorbed in spiritual moods. At the age of six, he experienced the first ecstasy while watching a flight of white cranes moving against the background of black clouds. His father’s death when he was seven years old served only to deepen his introspection and increase his detachment from the world.
Ramakrishna visit Dakshineswar Temple
When Sri Ramakrishna was sixteen, his brother Ramkumar took him to Kolkata to assist him in his priestly profession. In 1855 the Kali Temple at Dakshineswar built by Rani Rasmani was consecrated and Ramkumar became the chief priest in that temple. When Ramkumar died a few months later, Ramakrishna was appointed the priest. Ramakrishna developed intense devotion to Mother Kali and spent hours in loving adoration of her image, forgetting the rituals of priestly duties. His intense longing culminated into the vision of Mother Kali as boundless effulgence engulfing everything around him.
Ramakrishna Married to Sarada
Sri Ramakrishna’s God-intoxicated state alarmed his relatives in Kamarpukur and they got him married to Sarada, a girl from the neighboring village of Jayrambati. Unaffected by the marriage, Sri Ramakrishna plunged into even more intense spiritual practices. 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.
Ramakrishna Practices with Gurus
The first teacher to appear at Dakshineswar (in 1861) was a remarkable woman known as Bhairavi Brahmani who was an advanced spiritual adept, well versed in scriptures. With her help, Sri Ramakrishna practiced various difficult disciplines of the Tantrik path, and attained success in all of them. Three years later came a wandering monk by the name Totapuri, under whose guidance 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. In this way, Sri Ramakrishna relived the entire range of spiritual experiences of more than three thousand years of Hindu religion.
Ramakrishna followed other Faiths
Ramakrishna’s unquenchable thirst for God led him to broke the frontiers of Hinduism, glided through the paths of Islam and Christianity, and attained the highest realization through each of them in a short span of time. He looked upon Jesus and Buddha as incarnations of God, and venerated the ten Sikh Gurus. He expressed the quintessence of his twelve-year-long spiritual realizations in a simple dictum: Yato mat, tato path “As many faiths, so many paths.”
Devotees visit to Ramakrishna
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. 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.
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.
Last Days of Ramakrishna
The intensity of Ramakrishna’s spiritual life and untiring spiritual ministration to the endless stream of seekers told on Sri Ramakrishna’s health. He developed cancer of the throat in 1885. He was shifted to a spacious suburban villa where his young disciples nursed him day and night. He instilled in them love for one another, and thus laid the foundation for the future monastic brotherhood known as Ramakrishna Math. In the small hours of 16 August 1886 Sri Ramakrishna gave up his physical body, uttering the name of the Divine Mother, and passed into Eternity.
Sri Ramakrishna Message
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 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 a greater manifestation of God. Women are special manifestations of the 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.
The most famous teaching of Sri Ramakrishna is “Jato math, tato path”
“As many as there are individuals proceeding, so many are the ways to God. All the ways work; they all lead to one and the same destination.”
Sri Ramakrishna legacy did not end with his death in 1886; his most prominent disciple Swami Vivekananda carried on his teachings and philosophy to the world through Ramakrishna Mission. In essence, his teachings were as traditional as ancient sages and seer, yet he remains contemporary throughout the ages.
Ramakrishna says – 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.
Glory to Sri Ramakrishna, Glory to Maa Sarada, Glory to Swami Vivekananda !!!
— Om Tat Sat —
The gist of the whole thing is that one must develop passionate yearning for God and practice discrimination and renunciation. You simply love God and don’t want anything from Him in return.