The story of Sri Ramakrishna Paramahansa's life is a story of religion in practice. His life enables us to see God face to face. No one can read the story of his life without being convinced that God alone is real and that all else is an illusion.
Sri Ramakrishna was a living embodiment of godliness. His sayings are not those of a mere learned man but they are pages from the Book of life. They are revelations of his own experience. They, therefore, leave on the reader an impression which he cannot resist. In this age of scepticism Sri Ramakrishna presents an example of a bright and living faith which gives solace to thousands of men and women who would otherwise have remained without spiritual light.
It is because Ramakrishna more fully than any other man not only conceived, but realized in himself the total Unity of this river of God, open to all rivers and all streams, that I have given him my love; and I have drawn a little of his sacred water to slake the great thirst of the world.
The life of Sri Ramakrishna
Born in the Village of Kamarpukur, 70 miles west of Kolkata, on February 18, 1836 and brought up in a pious, devout and simple rural atmosphere, Gadadhar, later known as Sri Ramakrishna, was endowed with a yearning for the vision of God from his childhood. Neglecting his studies, he sat with wandering monks and pilgrims, and played religious dramas with his young companies.
To turn his mind to a useful to a useful education, he was brought to Kolkata in his seventeenth year. Gadadhar, however observed that the aim of all secular knowledge was mere material advancement, and he resolved to devote himself solely to the pursuit of spiritual knowledge which would ensure eternal peace.
Circumstances now so shaped themselves that within a short time he became the preist of Kali temple at Dakshineswar, which was built by Rani Rasamani, a wealthy and pious widow of Kolkata. The worship of God was after his heart and he took to the duties of the new vocation with great zeal and enthusiasm. Gradually his worship developed in to a burning desire to have a direct vision of the Devine Mother. He prayed day and night , meditated, and wept bitterly, yearning for the vision of the Mother. At the end of the day he cried, “ Oh Mother, another day is gone and and still I have not realized Thee. He ate little, and practically never slept. Finally the vision of God came to him.
Ramakrishna Now plunged in to hard spiritual practices, and realized God by following various paths of Hinduism and also through the disciplines of Christianity and Islam. Thus in various ways Sri Ramakrishna Tasted the Bliss of communion with God-sometimes merging himself totally in the Absolute, sometimes as a child of the Devine Mother maintaining an appearance of duality. After all these experiences he declared, I have found that it is the same God toward whom all are directing their steps.
While he was going through the spiritual ecstasies, rumour had reached Kamarpukur, his village home, that he had gone mad. As a remedy his mother and elder brother got him married to Sri Sarada Devi who is now venerated as Holy Mother. But what marriage it was! Sri Ramakrishna Literally worshipped her as the Devine Mother. Once while massaging Sri Ramakrishna feet Holy Mother asked him How do you look upon me?Sri Ramakrishna replied, The Mother in the (Kali)temple , is the same that gave birth to this (Sri Ramakrishna) body and now resides at Nahabat, and she, again, is now massaging my feet. Truly do I see you as a veritable form of the Blissful Mother. Their union was only in the spiritual plane only. Yet he taught her everything from house-keeping to the knowledge of Brahman. He instructed her in all the practices of the spiritual life. Like him she was purer than purity itself. She was chastity incarnate.
When the lotus blooms bees come of their own accord Sri Ramakrishna said. Men and women from all walks of life and of different religions came to him for spiritual solace. Whoever came with earnestness felt his unbounded love, and got spiritually uplifted by his presence and words. He passed away on the 16th August 1886. But before that he had specially trained a band of young men to carry on his spiritual mission. These young men renounced the world after his passing away, and formed the monastic Order bearing his name, with the motto “ for one own salvation and also for the welfare of the world. Led by the most dynamic and brilliant of them, Swami Vivekananda, they spread his message in India and abroad.
I have not yet come to final understanding whether he was a man or a supreme, a god or God Himself. But I have known him to be a man of complete self-effacement, master of highest renunciation, possessed of the supreme wisdom and as the very incarnation of love; and as, with the passing of the days, I am getting better and better acquainted with the domain of spirituality and feeling infinite extent and the depth of Sri Ramakrishna's spiritual moods, the conviction is growing in me that to compare him with God, as God is popularly understood, would be minimising and lowering his supreme greatness.
Arnold J. Toyanbee
Ramakrishna himself never claimed to be founder of a new religion. He simply preached the old religion of India, which was founded on Veda, more particularly on the Upanishads, and was systematised latter on in Sutras of Badarayana, and finally developed in the commentaries of Shankara and others