A rare soul, Sri Ramakrishna, was born on 18 February 1836 in a small village of Kamarpukur in West Bengal, India. Meditative contemplation was the normal state of consciousness for him. While thousands of people, all throughout the ages, all over the world try to attain that state of consciousness, Sri Ramakrishna attempted to reject it for the welfare of humanity. This great soul prayed to Mother to keep him at the lower level of ordinary human consciousness. What a strange thing this is! Never in the history of religion, spirituality, or evolution such phenomenon is observed or recorded.
According to me, Sri Ramakrishna is the greatest scientist in the field of spirituality. One may call him a sage or a mystic of modern age, a Man of God, God- incarnate, etc. according to one's liking and everyone would be correct in his/her own way of understanding him. This is because he encompasses every aspect of religion and mysticism in his life and teachings. Every soul can take something from this perennial fountain of spirituality and nourish his/her heart with purity, holiness, and selflessness.
Sri Ramakrishna was the most 'rational mystic'. With scientific precision he put forward in most simple terms, as parables and stories, the eternal truth regarding God and God realization. Like a scientist in the field of other physical sciences, he talked about God only after directly experiencing the reality of God. He did not theorize or put forward philosophical conjectures to claim the divinity of each soul, but actually realized this truth that the true nature of man is Divine Consciousness.
Swami Vivekananda in his first encounters with Sri Ramakrishna asked: "Sir, have you seen God?"
To this Sri Ramakrishna had replied: "Why, yes! I see Him as I see you. I talk to Him as I am talking to you. He is nearer than any other thing. He can be perceived as one perceives an apple over a palm!"
This intuitive knowledge was based on his experiences during various spiritual practices he undertook in his young age. These practices included all traditional Hindu disciplines, and also sadhana of Muslim and Christian faith. During these spiritual practices, he got established in the highest non-dual consciousness and realized the same truth about the Reality, i. e. there is only one and only one Reality (or Truth) which is called as Brahman or God in Vedanta.
His flights in the divine states of altered consciousness would have been beyond description had Sri Ramakrishna himself not told his experiences to his disciples. These included one Mr. 'M' who chronicled his life, sayings, and experiences during the period 1882 to 1886 as The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna. The other one, the great Swami Vivekananda made the Vedantic teachings of Sri Ramakrishna broadcast to the both the East and the West by establishing the Ramakrishna Order in the year 1898.
Ramakrishna Math and Mission:
The motto is "Atmano Mokshrtham Jagad Hitayacha" - "For the liberation of self and the welfare of the world."
The aspirants who have no attachments, who are young, unmarried, healthy, and have faith in the Order are included as brahmacharins in the Math. They are initiated, and they initially wear white simple dress. After about 9 to 12 years of intense training which includes japa: repetition of the name of the God, meditation, study of scriptures, and doing every simple job - like cooking, cleaning, gardening, working in office, library, shrine; helping in relief works, dispensary, etc. -- at Belur and other Math, these brahmacharins qualify to become sannyasins.
Now they are initiated in sannyasa way of life and become Swami. They start wearing ochre-robe and take the vows of poverty and celibacy. They have overcome the sensual impulses, compulsions and attachments. They are beyond any caste or creed.
The persons who do not fulfill the criteria to become sannyasins but are impressed by the life and teachings of Sri Ramakrishna are initiated as householder disciples. They also do japa and meditation but cannot stay in the Math. They do visit the Sri Ramakrishna ashrams and can stay for a short period of time in the guest rooms.
1. It mainly centers around giving relief to the needy affected by natural calamities - earth quakes, floods, cyclones, epidemics, starvation, etc.
2. Hospitals and dispensaries - mobile and stationary - at ashrama premises or in villages. Particular attention is paid to serve the poor, aborigines, and the needy.
3. Spread of education to the poor and needy. Particular emphasis is given to make the person self employed and self sufficient. Discipline, prayers, and simple life style is advocated.
4. Publication, distribution, and sale of Literature on the life and teachings of Sri Ramakrishna, Swami Vivekananda and the Holy Mother; as well as on ancient Indian scriptures including the Gita, Upanishads, and Vedas.
5. The above description is very sketchy. This mission is most Ideal for spiritual progress of human beings. Its activities are well recognized by USA and many other countries including UK, France, Germany, Holland, Canada, Brazil, Argentina, Australia, Singapore, etc., etc.
Missionary activities are for all. The aim is not to see these activities as an end in themselves, but to understand them as the means to the end. Welfare of the world in the form of service to living God is one of the means to reach the aim of transcendental realization : LIBERATION.
The Mission has its Head Quarter at : Ramakrishna Mission, P. O. BELUR, DIST. HOWRAH, CALCUTTA, INDIA.
Additionally, there are many more Branches in India and abroad. Most in numbers are in USA, where these are known as Vedanta Societies.