International Forum for NeoVedantins
Immediate Previous Articles:
Samkhya and Vedanta
More About Guru
Life of Ramakrishna and Its Relevance
Advaita Vedanta as the Quest for Knowledge
Related to Swami Vivekananda
Swami Vivekananda: Short Biography
At The Parliament of Religions: Chicago 1893
Swami Vivekananda and Madame Calve
Nature of India's Contribution
Related to Ramakrishna
Sri Ramakrishna: A Brief life sketch
The Game of Ladder
Glory of Sri Ramakrishna
Related to Hinduism
What is Hiduism?
Gita: An Introduction
Path of Devotion in Gita
Karma Yoga in the Gita
Introduction to Katha Upanishad
Introduction to Isha Upanishad
Religious Social Movements
Related to Vedanta
Yoga: Part 1 | Yoga: Part 2
The Impressive Life Sketch of 'Thakur'
Sri Ramakrishna - out of reverence and love his devotees call him 'Thakur' - was the living encyclopedia of religions. A faithful record of his many life-events including his sadhana, visions, and spiritual moods is very well preserved.
Let us shift our focus to the village of Kamarpukur, near Calcutta, where on 18th February 1836 was born the great spiritual hero and the magician, Sri Ramakrishna. His birth was ordained by no other than Lord Vishnu Himself who told Khudiram that He would be born as his son. As I listen to these words of the monk, the narrative illumines Ramakrishna's visions and states of samadhi in his early childhood.
In 1852 Sri Ramakrishna accompanies his elder brother to Calcutta and soon takes up the responsibility of officiating as a priest in the famous Kali temple at Dakshineswar. Here, as a yearning sadhaka, start the dramatic series of events in his life. Curiosity and faith combined together propel Sri Ramakrishna to fathom the real nature of the Mother. Is she just an idol of stone, or is she a living Goddess?
With love and intensity unknown in the realm of spiritual history, Sri Ramakrishna calls on the Mother to reveal Her true nature. He is even pushed to the point of taking his own life, when the gracious Mother shows Herself as his living Mother. His love for the Mother thus strengthened, Sri Ramakrishna begins to see Her in other living and non-living beings. He sees no difference between himself and the Mother or between a cat and Her.
But how to authenticate the truth of his visions, and disperse his rare fruits of sadhana? For this comes Bhairavi Brahmani, a nun well versed in various Tantras and Vaishnava sadhana. Ramakrishna, as her disciple, engages and experiences the ultimate truths of the sixty-four Tantras as well as of dasya and madhur bhava. Bhairavi's face beams with contentment as she sees her conviction upheld, on the basis of scriptural evidence, by the two most learned pundits of the time, Shashadhar and Vaihanavacharan, proclaiming Sri Ramakrishna to be an avatar.
Soon, Tota Puri, the great Advaita teacher, reaches Dakshineswar and initiates Sri Ramakrishna to the fold of sannyasa to enable him to undertake the sadhana of Advaita Vedanta. Initially, Tota Puri scoffs at Sri Ramakrishna's simplistic way of worship of the Mother, and advocates 'royal path of transcendental realization of the Absolute'. However, one day he himself suffers from abdominal pain that does not allow him to transcend the limitation of the and mind. This puts Tota Puri to such an utter disgust about his that he decides to drown himself in the Ganges.
However, to his great astonishment, even after crossing the river to the other bank he does not encounter enough water to submerge him! He now understands the Maya of Kali, and thereafter, bowing down to Sri Ramakrishna accepts Kali as the Supreme authority. This episode of interaction between Sri Ramakrishna and Tota Puri was indeed very nicely narrated that left many an eye wet with a tear.
After the departure of Tota Puri, Sri Ramakrishna engages himself to reach the state of nonduality through other religious disciplines viz. Islam and Christianity. He sees a radiant person with a long beard, and also a God-man of remarkable beauty and a very fair complexion. Thereupon, from the depth of pure heart of Sri Ramakrishna come out the words, 'Jesus Christ! The great Yogi, the loving Son of God... !' Having tasted the bliss of Absolute Consciousness he now settles down as a calm, collected, wise, and witty man of Dakshineswar. He had burnt all the worldly desires of name and fame, of lust and gold in the flame of absolute knowledge.
Now he has but one desire: to distribute the fruits of his labour and experiences to the aspirants. He ascends to the rooftop of the Kali temple and exhorts them to come to him. Many devotees throng to Dakshineswar, and soon comes into the picture greatest of all the disciples: Swami Vivekananda.
The story continues. The story teller vividly depicts the scenes, mixing the narration with sweet melodies and tales from the Bengali folklore, and thus adds novelty and curiosity to the epic story of this great Paramhamsa. The creative scholar in the narrator, combined with his devotion to his spiritual guide, stimulates him to portray with great nicety 'the man who was the consummation of two thousand years of spiritual life of three hundred million people'.
Implication for the Modern World
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.
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. Mahendra Nath Gupta, '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.
The Holy Ganges has carried spiritual aspirations of millions of Hindus to the 'Ocean of Bliss'. She has nourished and nurtured many Divine souls of past ages down to Sri Ramakrishna of the present age; and ferried thousands of scorched souls across the 'Ocean of Worldliness'. Sri Ramakrishna was the epitome of spirituality. Humanity has not yet recognized the true import of the descent of this rare soul on the earth. It has become more humane and spiritual on 18th February 1836 with the advent of this noble soul on this earth. His special mission, as God-incarnate, in today's world of strife and strike, terrorism and fanaticism, poverty and hunger, greed and corruption, will be recognized in due course of time. Sri Krishna, Lord Buddha, Jesus Christ also went largely unrecognized during their life-time, but a wave of spirituality was generated decades and centuries after them to lift the masses from ignorance and dreariness of mundane existence to the light of divinity.
Books on the life of Sri Ramakrishna :
1) The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna
2) Sri Ramakrishna, the Great Master
Published by and available at Sri Ramakrishna Math, 16 R. K. Math Road, Mylapore, Chennai (Madras) India, 400006
Also at: Vedanta Press, 1946 Vedanta Place, Hollywood, California, 90068-3996, USA.
Complete Series on Sri Ramakrishna
C S Shah