18th February 1836 (Born) 16th August 1886 ( Died) Shri Swami Ramkrishna Paramhans

Ramakrishna

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For other uses, see Ramakrishna (disambiguation).
Ramakrishna
Ramakrishna.jpg

Ramakrishna at Dakshineswar
Born Gadadhar Chattopadhyay
18 February 1836
Kamarpukur, Bengal Presidency, British India
(now in West Bengal, India)
Died 16 August 1886 (aged 50)
Calcutta, Bengal Presidency,British India
(now Kolkata, West Bengal,India)
Nationality Indian
Spouse(s) Sarada Devi
Titles/honours Paramahamsa
Guru Totapuri
Philosophy Vedanta
Prominent Disciple(s) Swami Vivekananda and others
Quotation He is born in vain, who having attained the human birth, so difficult to get, does not attempt to realise God in this very life.
** Ramakrishna’s birthday is observed on Phalgun Shukla Dwitiya as per Hindu lunar calendar.

Ramakrishna (About this sound Ramkṛiṣṇo Pôromôhongśo ) (18 February 1836 – 16 August 1886), born Gadadhar Chattopadhyay[1] (Gôdadhor Chôṭṭopaddhae), was an Indian mystic during 19th-century.[2] His religious school of thought led to the formation of the Ramakrishna Mission by his chief disciple Swami Vivekananda.[3][4][5] He is also referred to as “Paramahamsa” by his devotees, as such he is popularly known asRamakrishna Paramahamsa.

Ramakrishna was born in a poor Brahmin , Vaishnava family in rural Bengal. He became a priest of the Dakshineswar Kali Temple, dedicated to the goddess Kali, which had the influence of the main strands of Bengali bhaktitradition.[1] The most widely known amongst his first spiritual teachers was an ascetic woman, called Bhairavi Brahmani, who was skilled in Tantra and Vaishnava bhakti.[6] Later an Advaita Vedantin ascetic taught him non-dual meditation, and he experienced nirvikalpa samadhi under his guidance.

Biography[edit]

Birth and childhood[edit]

Ramakrishna was born on 18 February 1836, in the village of Kamarpukur, in the Hooghly district of West Bengal, into a very poor, pious, and orthodoxbrahmin family.[7] Kamarpukur was untouched by the glamour of the city and contained rice fields, tall palms, royal banyans, a few lakes, and two cremation grounds. His parents were Khudiram Chattopadhyay and Chandramani Devi. According to his followers, Ramakrishna’s parents experienced supernatural incidents and visions before his birth. In Gaya his father Khudiram had a dream in which Lord Gadadhara (a form of Vishnu), said that he would be born as his son. Chandramani Devi is said to have had a vision of light entering her womb from Shiva’s temple.[8][9]

The small house at Kamarpukurwhere Ramakrishna lived (centre). The family shrine is on the left, birthplace temple on the right

Although Ramakrishna attended a village school with some regularity for 12 years,[10] he later rejected the traditional schooling saying that he was not interested in a “bread-winning education”. [11]Kamarpukur, being a transit-point in well-established pilgrimage routes to Puri, brought him into contact with renunciates and holy men.[12]He became well-versed in thePuranas, the Ramayana, theMahabharata, and the Bhagavata Purana, hearing them from wandering monks and the Kathaks—a class of men in ancient India who preached and sang the Purāṇas. He could read and write in Bengali.[13] While the official biographies write that the name Ramakrishna was given by Mathura Biswas—chief patron at Dakshineswar Kali Temple, it has also been suggested that this name was given by his own parents.

Ramakrishna describes his first spiritual ecstasy at the age of six: while walking along the paddy fields, a flock of white cranes flying against a backdrop of dark thunder clouds caught his vision. He reportedly became so absorbed by this scene that he lost outward consciousness and experienced indescribable joy in that state.[14][15]Ramakrishna reportedly had experiences of similar nature a few other times in his childhood—while worshipping the goddess Vishalakshi, and portraying god Shiva in a drama during Shivaratri festival. From his 10th or 11th year on, thetrances became common, and by the final years of his life, Ramakrishna’s samādhi periods occurred almost daily.[15]

Ramakrishna’s father died in 1843, after which family responsibilities fell on his elder brother Ramkumar. This loss drew him closer to his mother, and he spent his time in household activities and daily worship of the household deities and became more involved in contemplative activities such as reading the sacred epics. When Ramakrishna was in his teens, the family’s financial position worsened. Ramkumar started a Sanskrit school in Calcutta and also served as a priest. Ramakrishna moved to Calcutta in 1852 with Ramkumar to assist in the priestly work.[16]

Priest at Dakshineswar Kali Temple[edit]

Dakshineswar Kāli Temple, where Ramakrishna spent a major portion of his adult life.

In 1855 Ramkumar was appointed as the priest of Dakshineswar Kali Temple, built by Rani Rashmoni—a rich woman of Calcutta who belonged to the kaivartacommunity.[17] Ramakrishna, along with his nephew Hriday, became assistants to Ramkumar, with Ramakrishna given the task of decorating the deity. When Ramkumar died in 1856, Ramakrishna took his place as the priest of the Kali temple.[18]

After Ramkumar’s death Ramakrishna became more contemplative. He began to look upon the image of the goddess Kali as his mother and the mother of the universe. Ramakrishna reportedly had a vision of the goddess Kali as the universal Mother, which he described as “… houses, doors, temples and everything else vanished altogether; as if there was nothing anywhere! And what I saw was an infinite shoreless sea of light; a sea that was consciousness. However far and in whatever direction I looked, I saw shining waves, one after another, coming towards me.”[19]

Marriage[edit]

Sarada Devi (1853–1920), wife and spiritual counterpart of Ramakrishna

Rumors spread to Kamarpukur that Ramakrishna had become unstable as a result of his spiritual practices at Dakshineswar. Ramakrishna’s mother and his elder brother Rameswar decided to get Ramakrishna married, thinking that marriage would be a good steadying influence upon him—by forcing him to accept responsibility and to keep his attention on normal affairs rather than his spiritual practices and visions. Ramakrishna himself mentioned that they could find the bride at the house of Ramchandra Mukherjee in Jayrambati, three miles to the north-west of Kamarpukur. The five-year-old bride, Saradamani Mukhopadhyaya (later known as Sarada Devi) was found and the marriage was duly solemnised in 1859. Ramakrishna was 23 at this point, but the age difference was typical for 19th century rural Bengal.[20]They later spent three months together in Kamarpukur. Sarada Devi was fourteen while Ramakrishna was thirty-two. Ramakrishna became a very influential figure in Sarada’s life, and she became a strong follower of his teachings. After the marriage, Sarada stayed at Jayrambati and joined Ramakrishna in Dakshineswar at the age of 18.[21]

By the time his bride joined him, Ramakrishna had already embraced the monastic life of a sannyasi; as a result, the marriage was never consummated. As a priest Ramakrishna performed the ritual ceremony—the Shodashi Puja–where Sarada Devi was made to sit in the seat of goddess Kali, and worshiped as the Divine mother.[22] Ramakrishna regarded Sarada as the Divine Mother in person, addressing her as the Holy Mother, and it was by this name that she was known to Ramakrishna’s disciples. Sarada Devi outlived Ramakrishna by 34 years and played an important role in the nascent religious movement.[23][24]

Religious practices and teachers[edit]

After his marriage Ramakrishna returned to Calcutta and resumed the charges of the temple again, and continued hissadhana. According to his official biographers, he continued his sadhana under teachers of Tantra, Vedanta and Vaishnava.

Bhairavi Brahmani and Tantra[edit]

In 1861, Ramakrishna accepted Bhairavi Brahmani, an orange-robed, middle-aged female ascetic, as a teacher. She carried with her the Raghuvir Shila, a stone icon representing Ram and all Vaishnava deities.[6] She was thoroughly conversant with the texts of Gaudiya Vaishnavism and practised Tantra.[6] According to the Bhairavi, Ramakrishna was experiencing phenomena that accompany mahabhava—the supreme attitude of loving devotion towards the divine[25]–and quoting from the bhakti shastras, she said that other religious figures like Radha and Chaitanya had similar experiences.[26]

The Bhairavi initiated Ramakrishna into Tantra. Tantrism focuses on the worship of shakti and the object of Tantric training is to transcend the barriers between the holy and unholy as a means of achieving liberation and to see all aspects of the natural world as manifestations of the divine shakti.[27][28] Under her guidance, Ramakrishna went through sixty four major tantric sadhanas which were completed in 1863.[29] He began with mantra rituals such as japa and purascarana and many other rituals designed to purify the mind and establish self-control. He later proceeded towards tantric sadhanas, which generally include a set of heterodox practices called vamachara (left-hand path), which utilise as a means of liberation, activities like eating of parched grain, fish and meat along with drinking of wine and sexual intercourse.[25] According to Ramakrishna and his biographers, Ramakrishna did not directly participate in the last two of those activities, all that he needed was a suggestion of them to produce the desired result.[25] Ramakrishna acknowledged the left-hand tantric path, though it had “undesirable features”, as one of the “valid roads to God-realization”, he consistently cautioned his devotees and disciples against associating with it.[30][31] The Bhairavi also taught Ramakrishna the kumari-puja, a form of ritual in which the Virgin Goddess is worshiped symbolically in the form of a young girl. Under the tutelage of the Bhairavi, Ramakrishna also learnt Kundalini Yoga.[25] The Bhairavi, with the yogictechniques and the tantra played an important part in the initial spiritual development of Ramakrishna.[1][32]

Vaishnava Bhakti[edit]

The Vaishnava Bhakti traditions speak of five different moods,[33] referred to as bhāvas—different attitudes that a devotee can take up to express his love for God. They are: śānta, the “peaceful attitude”; dāsya, the attitude of a servant; sakhya, the attitude of a friend; vātsalya, the attitude of a mother toward her child; and madhura, the attitude of a woman towards her lover.[34][35]

At some point in the period between his vision of Kali and his marriage, Ramakrishna practised dāsya bhāva, during which he worshiped Rama with the attitude of Hanuman, the monkey-god, who is considered to be the ideal devotee and servant of Rama. According to Ramakrishna, towards the end of this sadhana, he had a vision of Sita, the consort of Rama, merging into his body.[34][36]

In 1864, Ramakrishna practised vātsalya bhāva under a Vaishnava guru Jatadhari.[37] During this period, he worshipped a metal image of Ramlālā (Rama as a child) in the attitude of a mother. According to Ramakrishna, he could feel the presence of child Rama as a living God in the metal image.[38][39]

Ramakrishna later engaged in the practice of madhura bhāva— the attitude of the Gopis and Radha towards Krishna.[34]During the practise of this bhava, Ramakrishna dressed himself in women’s attire for several days and regarded himself as one of the Gopis of Vrindavan. According to Sri Ramakrishna, madhura bhava is practised to root out the idea of sex, which is seen as an impediment in spiritual life.[40] According to Ramakrishna, towards the end of this sadhana, he attained savikalpa samadhi—vision and union with Krishna.[41]

Ramakrishna visited Nadia, the home of Lord Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and Sri Nityananda Prabhu, the 15th-century founders of Bengali Gaudiya Vaishnava bhakti. According to Ramakrishna, he had an intense vision of two young boys merging into his body.[41] Earlier, after his vision of Kali, he is said to have cultivated the Santa bhava—the child attitude – towards Kali.[34]

Totapuri and Vedanta[edit]

The Panchavati and the hut where Ramakrishna performed his advaiticsadhana. The mud hut has been replaced by a brick one.

In 1865, Ramakrishna was initiated into sannyasa by Totapuri, an itinerant monk who trained Ramakrishna in Advaita Vedanta, the Hindu philosophy which emphasises non-dualism.[42][43]

Totapuri first guided Ramakrishna through the rites of sannyasa—renunciation of all ties to the world. Then he instructed him in the teaching of advaita—that “Brahman alone is real, and the world is illusory; I have no separate existence; I am that Brahman alone.”[44] Under the guidance of Totapuri, Ramakrishna reportedly experienced nirvikalpa samadhi, which is considered to be the highest state in spiritual realisation.[45]

Totapuri stayed with Ramakrishna for nearly eleven months and instructed him further in the teachings of advaita. Ramakrishna said that this period of nirvikalpa samadhi came to an end when he received a command from the Mother Kali to “remain in Bhavamukha; for the enlightenment of the people”. Bhavamukha being a state of existence intermediate between samādhi and normal consciousness.[46]

Islam and Christianity[edit]

In 1866, Govinda Roy, a Hindu guru who practised Sufism, initiated Ramakrishna into Islam. Ramakrishna said that he “devoutly repeated the name of Allah, wore a cloth like the Arab Muslims, said their prayer five times daily, and felt disinclined even to see images of the Hindu gods and goddesses, much less worship them—for the Hindu way of thinking had disappeared altogether from my mind.”[47] According to Ramakrishna, after three days of practice he had a vision of a “radiant personage with grave countenance and white beard resembling the Prophet and merging with his body”.[48]

At the end of 1873 he started the practice of Christianity, when his devotee Shambu Charan Mallik read the Bible to him. Ramakrishna said that for several days he was filled with Christian thoughts and no longer thought of going to the Kali temple. Ramakrishna describes of a vision in which the picture of the Madonna and Child became alive and had a vision in which Jesus merged with his body. In his own room amongst other divine pictures was one of Christ, and he burnt incense before it morning and evening. There was also a picture showing Jesus Christ saving St Peter from drowning in the water.[41][49]

Arrival of followers[edit]

Ramakrishna in bhava samadhi at the house of Keshab Chandra Sen. He is seen supported by his nephew Hriday and surrounded by brahmo devotees.

In 1875, Ramakrishna met the influential Brahmo Samaj leader Keshab Chandra Sen.[50][51] Keshab had accepted Christianity, and had separated from the Adi Brahmo Samaj. Formerly, Keshab had rejected idolatry, but under the influence of Ramakrishna he accepted Hindu polytheism and established the “New Dispensation” (Nava Vidhan) religious movement, based on Ramakrishna’s principles—”Worship of God as Mother”, “All religions as true” and “Assimilation of Hindu polytheism into Brahmoism”.[52] Keshab also publicised Ramakrishna’s teachings in the journals of New Dispensation over a period of several years,[53]which was instrumental in bringing Ramakrishna to the attention of a wider audience, especially the Bhadralok (English-educated classes of Bengal) and the Europeans residing in India.[54][55]

Following Keshab, other Brahmos such as Vijaykrishna Goswami started to admire Ramakrishna, propagate his ideals and reorient their socio-religious outlook. Many prominent people of Calcutta—Pratap Chandra Mazumdar,Shivanath Shastri and Trailokyanath Sanyal—began visiting him during this time (1871–1885). Mazumdar wrote the first English biography of Ramakrishna, entitled The Hindu Saint in the Theistic Quarterly Review (1879), which played a vital role in introducing Ramakrishna to Westerners like the German indologistMax Müller.[53] Newspapers reported that Ramakrishna was spreading “Love” and “Devotion” among the educated classes of Calcutta and that he had succeeded in reforming the character of some youths whose morals had been corrupt.[53]

Ramakrishna also had interactions with Debendranath Tagore, the father of Rabindranath Tagore, and Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar, a renowned social worker. He had also met Swami Dayananda.[50] Ramakrishna is considered as one of the main contributors to the Bengali Renaissance.

Among the Europeans who were influenced by Ramakrishna was Principal Dr. W.W. Hastie of the Scottish Church College, Calcutta. In the course of explaining the word trance in the poem The Excursion by William Wordsworth, Hastie told his students that if they wanted to know its “real meaning”, they should go to “Ramakrishna of Dakshineswar.” This prompted some of his students, including Narendranath Dutta (later Swami Vivekananda), to visit Ramakrishna.

Devotees and disciples[edit]

Some Monastic Disciples (L to R): Trigunatitananda, Shivananda,Vivekananda, Turiyananda,Brahmananda. Below Saradananda.

Mahendranath Gupta, a householder devotee and the author ofSri-Sri-Ramakrisna-kathamrta.

Most of Ramakrishna’s prominent disciples came between 1879–1885, and were influenced by his style of preaching and instruction.[24]

His chief disciples consisted of:[39]

As his name spread, an ever-shifting crowd of all classes and castes visited Ramakrishna. According to Kathamrita it included, childless widows, young school-boys, aged pensioners, Hindu scholars and religious figures, men betrayed by lovers, people with suicidal tendencies, small-time businessmen, and people “dreading the grind of samsaric life”.[58] Ramakrishna’s primary biographers, describe him as talkative. According to the biographers, for hours Ramakrishna would reminisce about his own eventful spiritual life, tell tales, explain Vedantic doctrines with extremely mundane illustrations, raise questions and answer them himself, crack jokes, sing songs, and mimic the ways of all types of worldly people, keeping the visitors enthralled.[59][60] In preparation for monastic life, Ramakrishna ordered his monastic disciples to beg their food from door to door without distinction of caste. He gave them the saffron robe, the sign of the Sanyasi, and initiated them with Mantra Deeksha.[60]

Last days[edit]

The disciples and devotees at Ramakrishna’s funeral

In the beginning of 1885 Ramakrishna suffered from clergyman’s throat, which gradually developed into throat cancer. He was moved to Shyampukur near Calcutta, where some of the best physicians of the time, including Dr.Mahendralal Sarkar, were engaged. When his condition aggravated he was relocated to a large garden house at Cossipore on 11 December 1885.[61]

During his last days, he was looked after by his monastic disciples and Sarada Devi. Ramakrishna was advised by the doctors to keep the strictest silence, but ignoring their advice, he incessantly conversed with visitors.[54] According to traditional accounts, before his death, Ramakrishna transferred his spiritual powers to Vivekananda[61] and reassured Vivekananda of his avataric status.[61][62] Ramakrishna asked Vivekananda to look after the welfare of the disciples, saying, “keep my boys together”[63] and asked him to “teach them”.[63] Ramakrishna also asked other monastic disciples to look upon Vivekananda as their leader.[61] Ramakrishna’s condition gradually worsened and he passed away in the early morning hours of 16 August 1886 at the Cossipore garden house. According to his disciples, this was mahasamadhi.[61] After the death of their master, the monastic disciples led by Vivekananda formed a fellowship at a half-ruined house at Baranagar near the river Ganges, with the financial assistance of the householder disciples. This became the first Math or monastery of the disciples who constituted the first Ramakrishna Order.[24]

Biographical sources[edit]

Main article: Books on Ramakrishna

The principal source for Ramakrishna’s teaching is Mahendranath Gupta’s Sri Sri Ramakrishna Kathamrita and is regarded as a Bengali classic.[64][65] Kripal calls it “the central text of the tradition”. The text was published in five volumes from 1902 to 1932. Based on Gupta’s diary notes, each of the five volumes purports to document Ramakrishna’s life from 1882–1886.Kripal 1998, p. 3

The most popular translation of the Kathamrita is The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna by Swami Nikhilananda. Nikhilananda’s translation rearranged the scenes in the five volumes of the Kathamrita into a linear sequence.[66] Malcolm Mclean[67] and Jeffrey Kripal argue that the translation is unreliable.[66] Philosopher Lex Hixon writes that the Gospel is “spiritually authentic” and “powerful rendering of the Kathamrita“.[68]

Teachings[edit]

Ramakrishna’s teachings were imparted in rustic Bengali, using stories and parables.[1] These teachings made a powerful impact on Calcutta’s intellectuals, despite the fact that his preachings were far removed from issues of modernism or national independence.[69] His spiritual movement indirectly aided nationalism, as it rejected caste distinctions and religious prejudices.[69]

In the Calcutta scene of the mid to late nineteenth century, Ramakrishna was opinionated on the subject of Chakri. Chakri can be described as a type of low-paying servitude done by educated men—typically government or commerce-related clerical positions. On a basic level, Ramakrishna saw this system as a corrupt form of European social organisation that forced educated men to be servants not only to their bosses at the office but also to their wives at home. What Ramakrishna saw as the primary detriment of Chakri, however, was that it forced workers into a rigid, impersonal clock-based time structure. He saw the imposition of strict adherence to each second on the watch as a roadblock to spirituality. Despite this, however, Ramakrishna demonstrated that Bhakti could be practised as an inner retreat to experience solace in the face of Western-style discipline and often discrimination in the workplace.[70]

Ramakrishna emphasised God-realisation as the supreme goal of all living beings. Ramakrishna taught that kamini-kanchana is an obstacle to God-realization. Kamini-kanchan literally translates to “woman and gold.” Partha Chatterjeewrote that figure of a woman stands for concepts or entities that have “little to do with women in actuality” and “the figure of woman-and-gold signified the enemy within: that part of one’s own self which was susceptible to the temptations of ever-unreliable worldly success.”[71] Carl T. Jackson interprets kamini-kanchana to refer to the idea of sex and the idea of money as delusions which prevent people from realising God.[72] Jeffrey Kripal translates the phrase as “lover-and-gold” and associates it with Ramakrishna’s alleged disgust for women as lovers.[73] Swami Tyagananda, considered this to be a “linguistic misconstruction.”[74] Ramakrishna also cautioned his women disciples against purusa-kanchana (“man and gold”) and Tyagananda writes that Ramakrishna used Kamini-Kanchana as “cautionary words” instructing his disciples to conquer the “lust inside the mind.”[75]

Ramakrishna looked upon the world as Maya and he explained that avidya maya represents dark forces of creation (e.g. sensual desire,selfish actions, evil passions, greed, lust and cruelty), which keep people on lower planes of consciousness. These forces are responsible for human entrapment in the cycle of birth and death, and they must be fought and vanquished. Vidya maya, on the other hand, represents higher forces of creation (e.g. spiritual virtues, selfless action, enlightening qualities, kindness, purity, love, and devotion), which elevate human beings to the higher planes of consciousness.[76]

Ramakrishna practised several religions, including Islam and Christianity, and taught that in spite of the differences, all religions are valid and true and they lead to the same ultimate goal—God.[77] Ramakrishna’s taught that jatra jiv tatra Shiv(wherever there is a living being, there is Shiva). His teaching, “Jive daya noy, Shiv gyane jiv seba” (not kindness to living beings, but serving the living being as Shiva Himself) is considered as the inspiration for the philanthropic work carried out by his chief disciple Vivekananda.[78]

Ramakrishna used rustic colloquial Bengali in his conversations. According to contemporary reports, Ramakrishna’s linguistic style was unique, even to those who spoke Bengali. It contained obscure local words and idioms from village Bengali, interspersed with philosophical Sanskrit terms and references to the Vedas, Puranas, Tantras. For that reason, according to philosopher Lex Hixon, his speeches cannot be literally translated into English or any other language.[79]Scholar Amiya P. Sen argued that certain terms that Ramakrishna may have used only in a metaphysical sense are being improperly invested with new, contemporaneous meanings.[80]

Ramakrishna was skilled with words and had an extraordinary style of preaching and instructing, which may have helped convey his ideas to even the most skeptical temple visitors.[24] His speeches reportedly revealed a sense of joy and fun, but he was not at a loss when debating with intellectual philosophers.[81] Philosopher Arindam Chakrabarti contrasted Ramakrishna’s talkativeness with Buddha’s legendary reticence, and compared his teaching style to that of Socrates.[82]

Reception and legacy[edit]

The marble statue of Ramakrishna at Belur Math, the headquarters of theRamakrishna Mission

Several organisations have been established in the name of Ramakrishna.[83]The Ramakrishna Math and Mission is one of the main organisations founded by Swami Vivekananda in 1897. The Mission conducts extensive work in health care, disaster relief, rural management, tribal welfare, elementary and higher education. The movement is considered as one of the revitalisation movements of India. Other organisations include the Ramakrishna Vedanta Society founded bySwami Abhedananda in 1923, the Ramakrishna Sarada Math founded by a rebel group in 1929,the Ramakrishna Vivekananda Mission formed by Swami Nityananda in 1976, and the Sri Sarada Math and Ramakrishna Sarada Missionfounded in 1959 as a sister organisation by the Ramakrishna Math and Mission.[83] Ramakrishna is considered as an important figure in Bengali Renaissance of 19th–20th Century. Max Müller, Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, Sri Aurobindo, and Leo Tolstoy have acknowledged Ramakrishna’s contribution to humanity. Ramakrishna’s influence is also seen in the works of artists such as Franz Dvorak (1862–1927) and Philip Glass.

On Swami Vivekananda‘s guru, Ramakrishna, Rabindranath Tagore wrote a poem: “To the Ramakrishna Paramahamsa Ramakrishna Deva”.[84]

Diverse courses of worship from varied springs of fulfillment have mingled in your meditation.The manifold revelation of the joy of the Infinite has given form to a shrine of unity in your life where from far and near arrive salutations to which I join my own.

Tagore was the chief guest on the occasion of birth centenary celebration of Ramakrishna by the Ramakrishna Missionand paid rich tribute to Ramakrishna. During the 1937 Parliament of Religions, which was held at the Ramakrishna Mission in Calcutta, Tagore acknowledged Ramakrishna, whose birth centenary was being celebrated, as a great saint because “the largeness of his spirit could comprehend seemingly antagonistic modes of sadhana, and because the simplicity of his soul shames for all time the pomp and pedantry of pontiffs and pundits.”[85]

Views and studies[edit]

Main article: Views on Ramakrishna

Photograph of Ramakrishna, taken on 10 December 1881 at the studio of “The Bengal Photographers” in Radhabazar, Calcutta (Kolkata).

Religious school of thought[edit]

Several scholars have tried to associate Ramakrishna with a particular religious school of thought—Bhakti, Tantra and Vedanta.

In his influential[86] 1896 essay “A real mahatma: Sri Ramakrishna Paramahansa Dev” and his 1899 book Râmakrishna: His Life and Sayings, the Germanphilologist and Orientalist Max Müller portrayed Ramakrishna as “a wonderful mixture of God and man” and as “…a Bhakta, a worshipper or lover of the deity, much more than a Gñânin or a knower.”[87][88]

In London and New York in 1896, Swami Vivekananda delivered his famous address on Ramakrishna entitled “My Master.” He said of his master: “this great intellect never learnt even to write his own name, but the most brilliant graduates of our university found in him an intellectual giant.”[89] Vivekananda criticised his followers for “brazenly” projecting Ramakrishna as an avatara and miracle-worker.[90][91] Narasingha Sil has argued that Vivekananda revised and mythologised Ramakrishna’s image after Ramakrishna’s death.[92] In a 1997 book review of a book by Jeffrey Kripal, Malcolm McLean of Otago Universitysupported Kripal’s view and argued that the Movement presents “a particular kind of explanation of Ramakrishna, that he was some kind of neo-Vedantist who taught that all religions are the same”.[93]Carl Olson argued that in his presentation of his master, Vivekananda had hid much of Ramakrishna’s embarrassing sexual oddities from the public, because he feared that Ramakrishna would be misunderstood.[94] Tyagananda andVrajaprana argue that Oslon makes his “astonishing claim” based on Kripal’s speculations in Kali’s Child, which are unsupported by any of the source texts.[95] Amiya Sen writes that that Vivekananda’s “social service gospel” stemmed from direct inspiration from Ramakrishna and rests substantially on the “liminal quality” of the Master’s message.[96]

Indologist Heinrich Zimmer was the first Western scholar to interpret Ramakrishna’s worship of the Divine Mother as containing specifically Tantric elements.[97][98] Neeval also argued that tantra played a main role in Ramakrishna’s spiritual development.[97]

Philosopher Lex Hixon writes Ramakrishna was an Advaita Vedantin.[99] Postcolonial literary theorist Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak wrote that Ramakrishna was a “Bengali bhakta visionary” and that as a bhakta, “he turned chiefly towards Kali.”[100] Amiya Prosad Sen writes that “it is really difficult to separate the Tantrik Ramakrishna from the Vedantic”, since Vedanta and Tantra “may appear to be different in some respects”, but they also “share some important postulates between them”.[101]

Psychoanalysis and sexuality[edit]

The dialogue on psychoanalysis and Ramakrishna began in 1927 when Sigmund Freud‘s friend Romain Rolland wrote to him that he should consider spiritual experiences, or “the oceanic feeling,” in his psychological works.[102][103] Romain Rolland described the mystical states achieved by Ramakrishna and other mystics as an “‘oceanic’ sentiment”, one which Rolland had also experienced.[104] Rolland believed that the universal human religious emotion resembled this “oceanic sense.”[105] In his 1929 book La vie de Ramakrishna, Rolland distinguished between the feelings of unity and eternity which Ramakrishna experienced in his mystical states and Ramakrishna’s interpretation of those feelings as the goddess Kali.[106]

In 1995, Jeffrey J. Kripal argued in Kali’s Child that the Ramakrishna Movement had manipulated Ramakrishna’s biographical documents, that the Movement had published them in incomplete and bowdlerised editions (claiming among other things, hiding Ramakrishna’s homoerotic tendencies), and that the Movement had suppressed Ram Chandra Datta‘sSrisriramakrsna Paramahamsadever Jivanavrttanta.[107] These views were disputed by Swami Atmajnanananda, who wrote that Jivanavrttanta had been reprinted nine times in Bengali as of 1995.[108]

Christopher Isherwood who wrote the book Ramakrishna and his Disciples (1965) said in a late interview, “Ramakrishna was completely simple and guileless. He told people whatever came into his mind, like a child. If he had ever been troubled by homosexual desires, if that had ever been a problem he’d have told everybody about them.(…) His thoughts transcended physical love-making. He saw even the mating of two dogs on the street as an expression of the eternal male-female principle in the universe. I think that is always a sign of great spiritual enlightenment.”[109][110] In addition, Isherwood wrote in his autobiographical book, My Guru and his Disciple, “I couldn’t honestly claim him as a homosexual, even a sublimated one, much as I would have liked to be able to do so”[111]

Narasingha Sil,[112] Jeffrey Kripal,[113] and Sudhir Kakar,[114] analyse Ramakrishna’s mysticism and religious practices using psychoanalysis,[115] arguing that his mystical visions, refusal to comply with ritual copulation in Tantra, Madhura Bhava, and criticism of Kamini-Kanchana (women and gold) reflect homosexuality. Jeffrey Kripal’s controversial[116] Kali’s Child: The Mystical and the Erotic in the Life and Teachings of Ramakrishna (1995) argued that Ramakrishna rejected Advaita Vedanta in favour of Shakti Tantra.[117] In this psychoanalytic study of Ramakrishna’s life, Kripal argued that Ramakrishna’s mystical experiences were symptoms of repressed homoeroticism.[118] Other scholars and psychoanalysts including Romain Rolland,[60] Alan Roland,[102][119] Kelly Aan Raab,[120] Somnath Bhattacharyya,[121] J.S. Hawley[122] andGayatri Chakravorty Spivak[123] argue that psychoanalysis is unreliable and Ramakrishna’s religious practices were in line with Bengali tradition.[120] The application of psychoanalysis has further been disputed by Tyagananda and Vrajaprana as being unreliable in understanding Tantra and interpreting cross-cultural contexts in Interpreting Ramakrishna: Kali’s Child Revisited (2010).[124]

In his 1991 book The Analyst and the Mystic, Indian psychoanalyst Sudhir Kakar saw in Ramakrishna’s visions a spontaneous capacity for creative experiencing.[125] Kakar also argued that culturally relative concepts of eroticism and gender have contributed to the Western difficulty in comprehending Ramakrishna.[126] Kakar saw Ramakrishna’s seemingly bizarre acts as part of a bhakti path to God.[125]

Postcolonial studies[edit]

Postcolonial studies try to locate Ramakrishna in the historical background of Calcutta during the mid-19th Century.

In 1999, postcolonial historian Sumit Sarkar argued that he found in the Kathamrita traces of a binary opposition between unlearned oral wisdom and learned literate knowledge. He argues that all of our information about Ramakrishna, a rustic near-illiterate Brahmin, comes from urban bhadralok devotees, “…whose texts simultaneously illuminate and transform.”[127]

References[edit]

Citations[edit]

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  119. Jump up^ Roland, Alan. (2007) The Uses (and Misuses) Of Psychoanalysis in South Asian Studies: Mysticism and Child Development. Invading the Sacred: An Analysis of Hinduism Studies in America. Delhi, India: Rupa & Co. ISBN 978-81-291-1182-1
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Works cited[edit]

Books
Journals

Further reading[edit]

Further information: Bibliography of Ramakrishna
  • Ananyananda, Swami (1981). Ramakrishna: a biography in pictures. Advaita Ashrama, Calcutta. ISBN 978-81-85843-97-1.
  • Chetanananda, Swami (1990). Ramakrishna As We Saw Him. St. Louis: Vedanta Society of St Louis. ISBN 978-0-916356-64-4.
  • Hourihan, Paul (2002). Ramakrishna & Christ, the Supermystics: New Interpretations. Vedantic Shores Press. ISBN 1-931816-00-X.
  • Olson, Carl (1990). The Mysterious Play of Kālī: An Interpretive Study of Rāmakrishna. American Academy of Religion (Scholars Press). ISBN 1-55540-339-5.
  • Prosser, Lee. (2001) Isherwood, Bowles, Vedanta, Wicca, and Me. Writers Club: Lincoln, Nebraska. ISBN 0-595-20284-5
  • Satyananda, Saraswati. Ramakrishna: The Nectar of Eternal Bliss. Devi Mandir Publications. ISBN 1-877795-66-6.
  • Torwesten, Hans (1999). Ramakrishna and Christ, or, The paradox of the incarnation. The Ramakrishna Mission Institute of Culture. ISBN 978-81-85843-97-1.
  • Zaleski, Philip (2006). “The Ecstatic”. Prayer: A History. Mariner Books.

External links[edit]

Sri Ramakrishna Paramhansa Saint of Dakshineswar

King of the Kings… the savior of mankind… Sri Ramakrishna Paramhansa was one of its kinds. Ramkrishna Paramhans… the priest of the dakshineswar temple realized god within his lifetime. He was a contemporary of Maharishi Ramana who also realized god. In the last about 150 years only two persons realized God. They were Sri Ramakrishna Paramhansa and Maharishi Ramana. Sri Rama krishna Paramhans the famous spiritual master of Swami Vivekananda started his journey towards God traveling the bhakti yoga path.

Ramakrishna Paramahamsa… the devoted so-called husband of Ma sri sarada Devi (Ramakrishna Paramhans treated his wife Ma sri sarada Devi as holy mother) was a truly devoted saint of the highest order mankind has ever produced. His path of bhakti yoga (that was always addressed to god) was full of humility and absolute Faith in Almighty God. Nothing ever deterred him to abandon his goal of life… a one-to-one meeting with god in present life.

With none to guide… he sought blessings of God Almighty himself and tried searching for god using every conceivable means within his reach. Sri Ramakrishna Paramhansa had unflinching Faith in existence of god and his manifestation. Ramkrishna Paramhans realized early in life that if he kept moving… one day life would come full circle. He never regretted that decision in life.


The mankind unable to grasp the depth of the teachings of Sri Ramakrishna Paramhansa as of today… feels contented with the teachings of Swami Vivekananda… his famous disciple!
Having such a famous disciple as Swami Vivekananda… one can imagine the depth of the teachings of Ramakrishna Paramahamsa… his spiritual master. Ramkrishna Paramhans was far ahead of his times. The community where he lived… unable to understand the gist of his teachings considered it all a waste of time and energy.

Many times it so happened that children threw stones at Sri Ramakrishna Paramhansa… his actions made the community think he had gone mad. None came to his rescue ever. Left to fend on his own Ramakrishna Paramhans confronted all situations good and ugly. He was all the time so immersed in the thoughts of God that happenings around him never bothered the inner Sri Ramakrishna Paramhansa.


This rather infuriated the community even more. Once Sri Ramakrishna Paramhansa during the peak of his bhakti yoga saw a dog (who had sneaked into the kitchen) running away with a few chapattis held in mouth!
In India chapattis are normally first soaked in ghee (butter) and then served for eating. Seeing the dog running away with dry chapattis… Sri Ramakrishna Paramhansa thought that dog being a reflection of god (reverse the spelling of god and you would understand better) would not be able to digest the dry chapattis. He took some ghee (butter) in a big spoon and ran after the dog to serve him better.

When the dog saw the owner of the chapattis coming after him stick in hand… he ran faster. What a contradiction in the thinking of two living beings. Ramakrishna Paramhans only wanted to serve god that existed in miniscule form inside the dog… as his soul atman. The journey of god realization is truly tough. With none to guide… it is totally an uncharted territory… with no end in sight! The complete cosmic journey right from the first manifestation as an amoeba to the last… the enlightened one, is to be completed in a maximum of 8.4 million manifestations! God Almighty meant it so.


Whatever stage of manifestation one be (as a human being)… one can always cut short the journey and reach the 8.4 millionth manifestation provided one has the capability of sri Ramakrishna Paramhansa or Maharishi Ramana.
The pathway to God was not meant by God Almighty to be completed by a human being in one lifetime. Even in the human being phase of life we have 1.1 million different manifestations. The moment the first manifestation as a human being occurs one has already crossed the threshhold of over 7.3 million manifestations.

Each human being has been given unlimited privileges by God Almighty. We need to search them… if reaching stage of god realization is our goal of life. However simple the task seem… search for god demands unlimited sacrifices and utmost humility (that can ever be practiced by a human being).


As one proceeds ahead on the spiritual journey of life the search for God becomes more and more complicated. On earthly plane one seems to lose all relationships (without exceptions). Even animals become friendly… for people like Ramakrishna Paramhansa realize the divinity within all living beings (no mention that animals and plants also have a soul atman within).

Unable to differentiate between man and an animal… the true seeker of spirituality seeks the solace of the jungles (deep dense forests). Even in the present Kali Yuga (the metal age) one may find numerous saints and sages in search of God… living beyond the reach of livable habitats in the inner confines of the Himalayas. The best form of practicing spirituality is achieving the end goal while living in Grihastha Ashram (family life). A really tough task indeed! This is the best mode of going after God… a fact that has been corroborated by Bhagavad Gita… the famous doctrine put forward by Lord Krishna in the battle of Mahabharata.


I started in search of God at a young age of 11 years. By the time I reached 13 I had finalized my decision of going after God in present life come whatever may! By 15 years of age I gave notice to my mother that I wanted to leave the confines of the family and go in search of God wherever the search takes me.
My mother did not permit me to leave the family. I continued the journey while living within the family. How I completed my engineering and finally graduated by grace of God is a miracle…It was the will of God that kept me going!

Exactly 25 years later I reached the level of Sri Ramakrishna Paramhansa and on the 3rd of August, 1993… I realized God. It was a journey completed absolutely by the grace of God. I had reached the pinnacle of cosmic life. I had reached the Mount Everest of my spiritual pursuit. Nowhere else to go further… I retained my body to disseminate the pearls of wisdom I had gathered while pursuing God.


The best part of life were moments when I could lay hands on written material concerning Sri Ramakrishna Paramhansa, Swami Vivekananda and Maharishi Ramana. A single glance on the written material was sufficient to realize that Ramkrishna Paramhans and Maharshi Ramanna… both had realized God.
Normally people read scriptural texts literally. I devoured them at the first opportunity. Having seen the sun… It is never difficult to differentiate between the light of a candle and a bulb. As I proceeded on the spiritual journey… the concepts became more and more clearer. The dross within me reducing as I added years… I inherently knew that taking the spiritual path was not a wrong choice.

Every moment of my life… I have been guided by God Almighty directly. This happens when you have absolute faith in the system of God. Truly when you need him most… he is always there to guide you.


Those who indulge in materialistic wants… want their wanton desires fulfilled at all costs… Not prone to rhyme or reason, can such people ever be entrusted with the responsibility of becoming an enlightened one! Never… not only in this life but many lives ahead would such people while away their life.
God is never found in the domains of worldly life… he lives in the heart of dogs (man’s best friend) and in the heart of the cobbler of the town who keeps busy in his work but never deters from saying his prayers daily.

The search for God is not a scientific mission… you shall not find proofs on this journey! Most part of the journey is traveled based on the indomitable will of the seeker… 100 per cent faith in existence of god being an essential must!


It is simple to say, “God is every where” but very difficult to practice! Even the best of practitioners… Fathers in churches, the Maulvis in mosques and priests in temples have not found God… Inspite of them being confined in service of god day and night.
Anyone who desires proceeding on the path of self realization must seek literature related to Sri Ramakrishna Paramhansa, Swami Vivekananda and Maharishi Ramana. Beyond these three the only refuge if required further… is the sacred bhagavad gita… the sermon by lord krishna.

Bhagavad Gita can never be understood by literal reading. One needs the guidance of an enlightened spiritual master for disseminating the wisdom contained in the sacred Bhagavad Gita. Ramakrishna Paramhans obtained this wisdom by traveling the bhakti yoga path. All three paths namely… karma yoga; bhakti yoga and jnana yoga lead towards the same goal!

In the present Kali Yuga so much literature is available on mother earth that if one truly desires company of God in present life… all is possible… We only need to transgress the boundaries of senses and the mind to reach the stage of Nirvikalpa Samadhi. Practicing celibacy for a minimum period of 12 years, following the path of Neti (not this, not this) as practiced and advocated by Maharishi Ramana are some of the tidbits required further. The Shavasana pose in yoga is also a must.

May God bless all who earnestly seek guidance from Ramakrishna Paramhans and embark on their journey towards God!


Be it Raja Yoga, sarada debi math or sarada devi mutt… everything bogs down to… whether or not we see reach the stage of sri ramkrishna paramhansa in our life time!

By: Vijay Kumar “Atma Jnani”

Vijay Kumar… The Man who Realized God in 1993 explains the concept of Sri Ramakrishna Paramhansa. For more on ramkrishna paramhans visit – sri ramakrishna paramhansa. Send Your Queryclick here Ref.

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The most popular translation of the Kathamrita is The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna by Swami Nikhilananda.
The originals of the two unpublished letters in The Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda are available at the Ramakrishna Vedanta Society of Boston’s website.
Ramkrishna Paramhans … Sri Rama krishna Paramhans the famous spiritual master of Swami Vivekananda started his journey towards God traveling the bhakti yoga path.
Title: Swami Ramkrishna Paramhans, Author: Lalbahadur Singh Chauhan, Hindi Title: स्वामी रामकृष्ण परमहंस, Hindi Author …
Here is a brief biography and history of Ramakrishna Paramhansa. Read information on life of Indian spiritual leader Sri Rama Krishna Paramhansa.
SRI RAMAKRISHNA [1836-1886] Sri Ramakrishna, who was born in 1836 and passed away in 1886, … SwamiAdiswarananda Ramakrishna-Vivekananda Center of New York.
Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa (February 18, 1836 – August 16, 1886), born Gadadhar Chattopadhyay is a famous mystic of nineteenth century India. His …
Swami Ramkrishna Paramhans, Kamarpukur, India. 537 likes · 5 talking about this. मानवीय मूल्यों के पोषक संत …
Swami Ramakrishna Paramhans Jayanti is celebrated on the 2nd day of Phalgun Shukla Paksh every year. In 2013,Swami ji’s Jayanti is on 3rd March.
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