Sri Ramakrishna's Biography In India, people usually concentrate more on the teachings of saints and less on whether the

dates of significant events related to them are historically accurate. But in the case of Ramakrishna, we have authentic accounts of his life and times. This was possible because many of his disciples were well educated and had a strong desire to present only the facts which could be verified from multiple sources. The main credit for collecting and recording such facts goes to Swami Saradananda, a disciple of the Master. He wrote an authoritative biography to sift the facts from the legends and stories which were growing around Ramakrishna. A new English translation of this by Swami Chetanananda is available.However, the best known record of Sri Ramakrishna's teachings is the Kathamrita (in Bengali), written by Sri Mahendranath Gupta (Sri M.). Swami Nikhilananda's translation of this into the English language, The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna, is the most widely read. Childhood of Sri Ramakrishna Gadadhar s parents, Khudiram and Chandramani, were poor and made ends meet with great difficulty. Gadadhar was the pet of the whole village. He was handsome and had a natural gift for the fine arts. He, however, disliked going to school, not interested in earning money only. He loved Nature and spent his time in fields and fruit gardens outside the village with his friends. He was seen visiting monks who stopped at his village on their way to Puri. He would serve them and listen with rapt attention to the arguments they often had among themselves over religious issues. Gadadhar attained the age when he should be invested with the sacred thread (Upanayana). When arrangements were nearly complete for this, Gadadhar declared that he would have his first alms as a Brahmin from a certain Sudra woman of the village. This was something unheard of! Tradition required that it should be a brahmin and not a sudra who would give him the first alms. This was pointed out to him but he was adamant. He said he had given his word to the lady and if he did not keep his word, what sort of brahmin would he be? No argument, no appeal, no amount of tears could budge him from his position. Finally, Ramkumar, his eldest brother and now the head of the family after the passing away of their father, had to give in. Meanwhile, the family's financial position worsened every day. Ramkumar ran a Sanskrit school in Calcutta and also served as purohit priest in some families. About this time, a rich woman of Calcutta, Rani Rashmoni, founded a temple at Dakshineswar. She approached Ramkumar to serve as priest at the temple of Kali and Ramkumar agreed. After some persuasion, Gadadhar agreed to decorate the deity. When Ramkumar retired, Gadadhar took his place as priest. Sri Ramakrishna's Career as a Priest When Gadadhar started worshipping the deity Bhavatarini, he began to ask himself if he was worshipping a piece of stone or a living Goddess. If he was worshipping a living Goddess, why should she not respond to his worship? This question nagged him day and night. Then, 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, also? Am I not also your son?" 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 with it when he saw light issuing from the deity in waves and he was soon overwhelmed by those waves. He then fell down unconscious on the floor. Gadadhar was not, however, content with this. He prayed to Mother Kali for more religious experiences. He specially wanted to know what truths other religious systems taught. Strangely enough, teachers of those systems came to him when necessary as if directed by some invisible power, and what is more surprising, he reached the goals of those experiments in no time. Soon word spread about this remarkable man and people of all denominations and all stations of life began to come to him. Married Life of Sri Ramakrishna When rumors spread to Kamarpukur that Ramakrishna had turned mad as a result of over-taxing spiritual exercises at Dakshineswar, alarmed, neighbors advised Ramakrishna s mother that he could be persuaded to marry, so that he might be more conscious of his responsibilities to the family. Far from objecting to the marriage, he, in fact, mentioned Jayrambati, three

a quality she shared with her husband in a measure equal to. But the most amazing thing about her was her renunciation. were his admirers. and like a magnet he began to attract real seekers of God. At first.g. These forces are responsible for human entrapment in the round of birth and death. six-year old and bearing the name. He said.miles to the north-west of Kamarpukur. The true nature of their relationship and kinship was beyond the grasp of ordinary minds. was found. day and night. and devotion). As they shared their lives. Later Life of Sri Ramakrishna From now on he came to be known as Ramakrishna Paramahansa. and that the Ultimate Reality could never be expressed in human terms. leaving behind a devoted band of 16 young disciples headed by the well-known saint-philosopher and orator. Christianity and various other Yogic and Tantric sects within Hinduism. kindness. Swami Vivekananda and host of householder disciples. spiritual virtues. With the help of vidyamaya. 1886. greed. Sarada Devi was shy about playing this role. The bride. Teachings of Sri Ramakrishna Ramakrishna's mystical realization. he began to treat her as the Universal Mother Herself and performed a Puja considering Sarada as veritable Tripura Sundari Devi. Sarada Devi was Ramakrishna's first disciple. Ramakrishna made Sarada Devi feel as if she was not only the mother of his young disciples. which keep the world system on lower planes of consciousness. Such a continued divine relationship between two souls of opposite gender is unique in religious records. This is in agreement with the Rigvedic proclamation that "Truth is one but sages call it by many a name. He taught ceaselessly for fifteen years or so through parables. enlightening qualities. The four key concepts in Ramakrishna's teachings were the following: the oneness of existence the divinity of human beings the unity of God the harmony of religions . who were known to be against Hindu iconolatry. thought to be absorption in the all-encompassing Consciousness). Keshab Chandra Sen and PanditIshwar Chandra Vidyasagar. Sri Ramakrishna was convinced that her relationship and attitude toward him were firmly based on a divine spiritual plane. metaphors.that is. He taught her everything he learnt from his various Gurus. Impressed by her great religious potential. songs and above all by his own life the basic truths of religion. on the other hand." As a result of this opinion. led him to believe that the gods of the various religions are merely so many interpretations of the Absolute. never known in any of the past hagiographies and a source of inspiration for generations to come. free from maya. which elevate human beings to the higher planes of consciousness. no other thought. to which he referred as avidyamaya and vidyamaya: He explained that avidyamaya represents the dark forces of creation (eg sensual desire. Among his contemporaries. 'I look upon you as my own mother and the Mother who is in the temple'. and they must be fought and vanquished. other than that of the divine presence arose in their minds. she filled that role with courage. The marriage was duly solemnised. classified by Hindu tradition as nirvikalpasamadhi (literally. Ramakrishna's realization of nirvikalpasamadhi also led him to an understanding of the two sides of maya (illusion). Ramakrishna actually spent periods of his life practicing his own understandings of Islam. as being the village where the bride could be found at the house of one Ramchandra Mukherjee. his. Vidyamaya. purity. represents the higher forces of creation (e. devotees can rid themselves of avidyamaya and achieve the ultimate goal of becoming mayatita . if not more than. evil passions. After the passing away of Ramakrishna she even became a religious teacher in her own rights. He came to this conclusion after having constant and close association with her. but slowly. lust and cruelty). Sarada. love. but also of the entire humanity. She mastered every religious secret as quickly as Ramakrishna has done. "constant meditation". He had developed throat cancer and attained Mahasamadhi at a Garden House in Cossipore on 18 August.

so he becomes. Although the BrahmoSamaj and the AryaSamaj preceded the Ramakrishna Mission. like Andrew Harvey and Ken Wilber. The Ramakrishna Mission was founded by Ramakrishna himself when he distributed the gerua cloth of renunciation to his direct disciples. Ignorance. in the Gospel of Ramakrishna. were all Smarta in belief. have largely colored western notions of what Hinduism is. Quotations of Sri Ramakrishna "Knowledge leads to unity. to disunity. see the beginning of a new universal consciousness with Ramakrishna's life. however. simply known as "M". Like AdiSankara had done more than a thousand years earlier. This is corroborated by Swami Vivekananda himself when he says that without Thakur's grace all this would not have been possible.A personal account of his life and teachings. is recorded by his disciple." . Mahendranath Gupta. their influence on a larger level was limited. With the emergence of the Mission. and its popularization by western converts like Christopher Isherwood. It could be argued that Ramakrishna's vision of Hinduism. Others. along with his followers. Ramakrishna's beliefs. Ramakrishna Paramahamsa revitalized Hinduism which had been fraught with excessive ritualism and superstition in the nineteenth century and helped it better respond to challenges from Islam. the situation changed dramatically." "As a man thinks. Reception of Sri Ramakrishna The Hindu Renaissance that India experienced in the 19th century may be said to have been spurred by his life and work. Christianity and the dawn of the modern era. Sri Ramakrisha was believed to be working through Swami Vivekananda to spread his message for the good of humanity.

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