(Last Updated on : 04/09/2009)
"The grace of God is a wind which is always blowing." - Sri Ramakrishna Paramhansa.
Sri Ramakrishna Paramhansa epitomises the very core of spiritual realisations of the seers and sages of India. Ramakrishna had in truth, interpreted Hindu religion in the true Vedantic spirit. His entire life was literally an undisturbed reflection of God. His life was a testament to truth, universality, love and purity. He was a Hindu religious teacher and an influential figure in the Bengal Renaissance of the nineteenth century. His teachings emphasised God-realisation as the highest goal of life, love and devotion for God, the oneness of existence, and the harmony of religions. He wished to bring about a synthesis among divergent faiths. Swami Vivekananda, most remarkable of the succeeding disciples of Ramakrishna and saint, was his disciple who founded the "Ramakrishna Mission".
A remarkable man of saintly character, Sri Ramakrishna Paramhansa represented a tradition of loving faith and service of humanity during the second half of the nineteenth century. He was a simple priest in the Kali temple at Dakshineswar near Calcutta (presently Kolkata). His simplicity was an emblem of wisdom and guide towards peaceful social life. Sri Ramakrishna was a man of faith and great virtue, who wholly believed in the Indian traditions. According to him all religions were alike and their decisive mission was realisation of God. Ramakrishna thus had adopted the modes of worship practiced by various religions.
Ramakrishna, in his quest for self-realisation even met Muslim and Christian mystics, some of whom also inhabited with him for some time. His extraordinary personality and character gradually attracted the attention of the multitudes. Laying stress on the essentials of religious faiths, Ramakrishna Paramhansa linked up the various aspects of Hindu religion and philosophy and seemed to symbolise all of them in his own personality. He also brought within his fold other religions and their thinkings. Ramakrishna was opposed to all kinds of sectarianism and emphasised that the ultimate destination of life lies in the adoption of the road that leads to peace. He denounced corporeal desire and money as the `twin evils` that put spiritual enlightenment beyond reach, rejected the caste system and held that all religions are in essence the same and that all are true.
Sri Ramakrishna possessed a magnetic style of presenting his ideas and thoughts, which could touch the sentiments of people, rendering them peace. The Paramhansa`s personal life is a story, full of inspiration to humanity, even for those who have never perceived him. An order of service was established in his name, called "Ramakrishna Mission" by his illustrious disciple, Swami Vivekananda. The Mission has an unparalleled record in humanitarian relief and social work. Ramakrishna always asserted that God sees no difference between a Brahmin and Chandala and at times he would even live like a Chandala.
Seekers of God of every religion feels overpoweringly drawn to Ramakrishna`s life and teachings. Sri Ramakrishna Paramhansa, as a silent force, heavily determines the spiritual thought currents of present times. The God-man of nineteenth-century India did not establish any cult, nor did he show a new path to salvation. His message was his simple theory of `God-consciousness`. During those times the very cornerstone of religion, faith in God, was collapsing under the unrelenting blows of materialism and scepticism. Sri Ramakrishna then, through his burning spiritual realisations, demonstrated the reality of God and the strength of time-honoured teachings of prophets and saviours of the past, thus restoring the declining edifice of religion on an inviolable foundation.
Drawn by the irresistible charm of Sri Ramakrishna`s divine personality, people flocked to him from far and near. Men and women, young and old, philosophers and theologians, philanthropists and humanists, atheists and agnostics, Hindus and Brahmos, Christians and Muslims, seekers from all races, creeds and castes became household to the Paramhansa. Everyone who came to him experienced an upliftment by his unfathomed God-consciousness, infinite love and universal outlook. By coming near Ramakrishna the impure turned to pure, the pure turned purer and the sinner was metamorphosed into a saint.
The greatest contribution of Sri Ramakrishna Paramhansa to the modern world is his message of harmony of religions. To Sri Ramakrishna all religions were revelations of God in His varied aspects to fulfil the manifold demands of human minds. Thus he had magnificently declared, "As many faiths, so many paths." The paths differ, but the goal stays the same.
Early Life of Ramakrishna
: Born in the early half of 19th century, Ramakrishna`s early life was spent in an archetypal Bengal village, in a Hindu Brahmin family. Ramakrishna`s father was a priest, who had named his son Gadadhar. Since early childhood Ramakrishna was attracted to spiritual entities in nature, never being for once fascinated to go to school. Endowed with a mellifluous voice, he had won the hearts of villagers by singing in different plays. However, in his early days, Ramakrishna had suffered sudden bouts of supra-consciousness by being transferred into a frenzy of rapture.
Ramakrishna, Priest at Dakshineswar Temple
: Ramakrishna served as a priest of Dakshineswar Temple in Calcutta during his late teens to early twenties. He together with his nephew Hriday were assigned as assistants to Ramakrishna`s elder brother Ramkumar to worship Goddess Kali, the patron Goddess in Dakshineswar. Contrary to other orthodox Brahmin priests, who had opposed Ramakrishna`s method of worshipping, he was always anguished with the idea about how to reach God in his own manner. Almost on the verge of rejecting his post of priest profession, Ramakrishna one day received a momentous revelation of the Goddess Herself as if in a vision. From then on, he almost everyday had a vision of the Goddess, making people comprehend in simple terms the meaning of Almighty and how to attain his benedictions.
Married Life of Ramakrishna
: While into the profession as a priest in Dakshineswar temple, during his early twenties, Ramakrishna married a 5-year-old girl by the name Sarada Devi. The marriage was duly solemnised, owing to much hurry from the part of Ramakrishna`s mother. Sarada Devi was Ramakrishna`s first disciple. He taught her everything he learnt from his various Gurus. She had mastered every religious secret as quickly as Ramakrishna has done. Impressed by her great religious potential, he began to treat her as the Universal Mother. Ramakrishna made Sarada Devi feel as if she was not only the mother of his young disciples, but also of the entire humanity. At first, Sarada Devi was shy about playing this role, but slowly, she fulfilled that role with courage. After the passing away of Ramakrishna she even became a religious teacher in her own rights.
Religious Teachings Of Ramakrishna
: Ramakrishna`s religious teachings are legendary worldwide for their lucidity in language and clarity of thought. He had always insisted on the fact that separatist religion is nothing compared to oneness within the Almighty. After comprehending several religious discourses, he had come to the conclusion that the Supreme is one and the same; with absolute devotion and faith one can be merged with the Omnipotent. However, according to him, in order to reach that state, it is extremely necessary that an individual abstains from money-making, ill-feelings and other sense of lust and jealousy. Ramakrishna had indeed attained `Nirvikalpa Samadhi`, laying down various ways to make oneself humble and regard each being as one and the same.
Tantra Sadhana Of Ramakrishna
: Ramakrishna was introduced to Tantra sadhana by his very ardent disciple, Bhairavi Brahmani. In spite of several odds and harsh comments that Ramakrishna had to face from his own community, Bhairavi had stood by her guru, calling him the `Mahavaba`. Ramakrishna with Bhairavi Brahmani`s help was inducted into the various arts and architects of Tantra sadhana, like the sixty-four Tantric sadhanas, the `Vamachara` mode of worship taking up five tattvas from everyday life existence. Deviating from specific streams of Tantar sadhana, Ramakrishna followed tantric practices to the hilt, also apprehending the style of `Kumari Puja`.
Vaishnava Bhakti of Ramakrishna
: Vaishnava Bhakti of Ramakrishna was aroused while into his tenure as a priest in Dakshineswar Temple. Vaishnava Bhakti entails five aspects of Santa, Dasya, Sakhya, Vatsalya and Madhura. Ramakrishna used to venerate both Lord Rama and Lord Krishna in their various manifestations, from which he discovered that he indeed sensed a vision of both these Lords. While being transformed into a special state of rapture, Ramakrishna sensed each Vaishnavi sadhana modes through Rama and Krishna.
Sanyasaa of Ramakrishna
: Ramakrishna was induced into the Sanyasaa mode of worship by a ferocious Vedantic spartan, Totapuri. While in Dakshineswar temple and engrossed with Maa Kali and her various visions, Totapuri had admonished Ramakrishna to abstain from any worldly prayers of Gods. Hence, in deep reverence, Ramakrishna practiced Advaita Samadhi for a prolonged stretch of time.
Later life of Ramakrishna
: In his later life, Ramakrishna came to be known as Ramakrishna Paramhansa and with tremendous magnetic force began to attract real seekers of God. He taught ceaselessly for fifteen years or so through parables, metaphors, songs and above all by his own life, the basic truths of religion. In the meantime, Ramakrishna had developed severe throat cancer. He was transferred to Shyampukur near Calcutta, where some of the finest physicians of the time, including Dr. Mahendralal Sarkar, were employed. Sarada Devi, Ramakrishna`s better half attended zealously to her husband in his last days. Finally, Ramakrishna attained Mahasamadhi at a Garden House in Cossipore on 18 August, 1886. The Paramhansa had left behind a committed band of 16 young disciples headed by the distinguished saint-philosopher and orator, Swami Vivekananda and host of householder disciples. Among his contemporaries, Keshav Chandra Sen and Pandit Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar, who were known to be against Hindu iconolatry, were his admirers.