Sri Ramakrishna

Sri Ramakrishna was born in 1836 at Kamarpukur about sixty miles from Calcutta. His parents, Khudiram and Chandramani, were pious and extremely religious but financially poor and made ends meet with great difficulty.

He was liked by one and all in the village because of his sweet nature and talents in various fine arts. He, however, was not too fond of going to school because his keen intellect found out that the so-called education is for earning money only and does not bring real wisdom. He lost his father at the age of seven. He became more serious and indrawn from then on. Also he was seen visiting monks who stopped at his village on their way to pilgrimage. He would serve them and listen with rapt attention to the discussions they often had among themselves over religious issues.

Meanwhile, the family's financial position worsened everyday. Ramkumar - his elder brother, ran a Sanskrit school in Kolkata and also served as priest in some families. He decided to bring Ramakrishna to Kolkata to study Sanskrit, do some priestly work and make some money of his own. Thus Ramakrishna came to Kolkata and started helping Ramakumar in carrying on his priestly duties.

About this time, Rani Rashmoni, a rich woman of Kolkata, founded a temple at Dakshineswar, a few miles away from Kolkata of those days (now it is part of Kolkata). She approached Ramkumar to serve as a priest at the temple of Kali and Ramkumar agreed. Thus he and Ramakrishna came to stay at the Dakshineswar temple. Soon after that, Ramakumar passed away and Ramakrishna then became the priest of the Kali temple there. When worshipping the deity, he began to ask himself if he was worshipping a piece of stone or a living Goddess who could respond to his worship? Nagged day and night by this question, he began to pray to Kali - "Mother, you've been gracious to many devotees in the past and have revealed yourself to them. Why would you not reveal yourself to me? " He would weep bitterly and sometimes even cry out loudly while worshipping. At night, he would go into a nearby jungle and spend the whole night praying. One day he was so impatient to see Mother Kali that he decided to end his life. He seized a sword hanging on the wall and was about to strike himself, when he saw light issuing from the deity in waves and was soon overwhelmed by those waves. He lost all external consciousness and experienced unspeakable Divine Bliss.

Not content with this, he prayed to Mother Kali for more religious experiences. He specially wanted to know what spiritual practices other religious systems taught. Strangely enough, teachers of those systems came to him when necessary as if directed by some Divine dispensation, and what is more surprising, he reached the goals of those religious systems in no time.

He married to an exceptionally pure lady - Sri Sarada Devi. Together, they demonstrated a married life of unspeakable mutual love and co-operation that was totally untarnished by any carnal desire. Sri Ramakrishna's life was the perfect example of renunciation of all worldly attachments and the ego.

Soon word spread about this remarkable man and people of all sections of society began to come to him. He taught the basic truths of religion through simple parables, metaphors, songs and above all, by his own life. His important teachings are -

  • Ramakrishna taught no creed or dogma. His only concern was man's uplift. There is infinite moral and spiritual potential in man. To develop that potential is man's foremost duty in life. He taught man to strive to develop that potential without wasting time over sense-pleasures or sectarian quarrels.
  • Sincerity and faith would make a person realize this immense spiritual potential.
  • Religions are like so-many paths leading to the same goal, i.e., God. Man reaches his religious goal when he attains his highest moral development.
  • God is both personal and impersonal. For most people, it is difficult to conceive an impersonal God, so to begin with, God is to be thought of as a person; otherwise God is impersonal and beyond thought and speech.
  • Be in the world but not of it. Perform your duties as well you can, but do not seek the fruits of your action. Try to feel as if you are only a tool in the hands of God.
  • Religion is an experience. Religion makes no sense unless its truths are experienced.
  • God is everywhere but He is most manifest in man. So serve man as God. That is same as worshipping God.

 He passed away in 1886, leaving behind his Divine Consort - Sri Sarada Devi and a devoted band of young disciples headed by the well-known scholar and orator, Swami Vivekananda - who would carry his message of practical Vedanta and the harmony of religions. Sri Ramakrishna's influence on the religious thought of the modern world is very deep and universal.

Courtesy Vedanta Society of Providence, Rhode Island, USA

Our Inspiration
 
Sri Ramakrishna
Sri Sarada Devi
Swami Vivekananda

 

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