Ramakrishna, a prominent spiritual guru from the second part of the nineteenth century, is credited with revitalizing and renewing yoga.
Vivekananda, one of his disciples, follower, and successor, had a significant indirect influence on the West.
Childhood and adolescence
Gadadhara Chattopadhyaya, often known as Ramakrishna, was born in 1836 in Kamarkupur, Bengal, to a family of very religious and destitute Brahmins.
In 1835, as his 65-year-old father was making his second trip to Gava (holy spot marked by Vishnu’s footprint), he had a vision in which Vishnu promised to incarnate in the son he was going to have.
Her mother, on the other hand, gets a vision in front of Kamarpukur’s Shiva temple, announcing the arrival of a holy child.
Initiation into the Brahmanic order:
He obtains the sacred rope of the Brahmans during his Brahmanic initiation at the age of nine, as per his caste’s customs.
For the young Gadadhar, a new life begins now.
He prays and participates in the puja ritual. The Lord appears to the youthful Ramakrishna as soon as he sits down in meditation.
These euphoric experiences were later labeled as yogic ecstasies.
According to his pupils, Ramakrishna would have been one of the few persons to have reached the pinnacle of yoga, nirvikalpa-samadhi, a condition from which there is no way out and in which the meditator meditates directly on his atman (soul) without the use of discursive understanding.
His followers recognized him as the entire incarnation of God (Vishnu).
Ramakrishna was taught by two masters
- The first was the Bhairavi Brahmani, a woman who introduced him into the Tantric and Vishnuite bhakti paths.
- Totapuri was the second, who initiated him into the Advaita-Vedanta and jnana-yoga paths.
Yogishvari, the Bhairavi Brahmani, was his first master:
Yogishvari, the Bhairavi Brahmani (“Brahmin nun”), was a 50-year-old renunciant with only two garments and a few books.
She was a Vishnuism and Tantrism adherent.
She assuaged Ramakrishna’s seeming “foolishness” by saying:
“Everyone in this world is insane, my boy.” Some people are obsessed with money, while others are obsessed with animals, luxury, or celebrity. You’re insane for God!
Because of her mystical experiences, she came to believe that only a divine incarnation could have them and that Ramakrishna had attained sa-vikalpa-samadhi (qualified enstasis), a yogic state of extreme difficulty preceding the very last stage of yoga, nir-vikalpa-samadhi (unqualified enstasis), and was thus a full incarnation of Vishnu, Yogishvari’s diagnosis was validated by two pandits (Hindu academics).
Ramakrishna responds with a sarcastic remark:
“In any case, I’m relieved to learn it’s not an illness.”
Ramakrishna was introduced into Tantrism by the Bhairavi Brahmani.
He obtained samadhi after three days.
Then she initiated him into bhakti, which is an unlimited love relationship with God. Vishnuism humanizes God, who is depicted as a parent, teacher, or friend, to further cultivate this love of God in the heart of the believer. However, when the faithful develop in their adoration of God, the personifications fall away and they discover actual contact with God himself. Then nothing can separate him from his goal; no social or moral obligation can bind him to the world, to the spirit that has soared to the Divine.
Totapuri / the Advaita-Vedanta (1864), his second master:
Totapuri was a Vedantic ascetic who practiced renunciation.
He was an Advaita-Vedanta (absolute non-dualism) or monism adherent.
This philosophical-theological school claims that there is only one Reality, Brahman and that the universe we experience is merely a reflection of Brahman, and so has only a second reality, similar to the image of an object in a mirror about the thing itself.
Totapuri made him go through the world’s greatest renunciation ceremony, which made him a renunciant as well:
On the specified day, a fire was set at the Panchavati in the early hours of the morning, in front of which the two men sat. Then Ramakrishna solemnly rejected all attachments, including those to his family, friends, and ego. His brahman cord was burned by the fire.
Then, stripped of his garments, he performs his funeral service and gets the ocher robe of the sannyasin from his guru.
Ramakrishna had a hard time detaching himself from the Divine Mother’s image:
Except for the all-too-familiar figure of the radiant Mother, the essence of Pure Consciousness, who stood before me as a living reality, I had no trouble separating my mind from all objects. My path to the other side was blocked by her lovely smile. I attempted to focus my mind on the Advaita teachings multiple times. Every time, the Mother’s form stood in the way. «
Then, wielding his mind like a sword, he slashed the Divine Mother’s picture in half. His mind rose above the phenomenal plane after the last barrier fell, and he discovered nirvikalpa-samadhi.
Only three days remained.
Totapuri stayed at his side for eleven months. After his master’s departure, he spent six months in nirvikalpa-samadhi, being nourished and cared for by his wife Sarada Devi and his students.
Ramakrishna spent the rest of his life alternating between the Absolute and the Phenomenal planes, worshipping the personal God (Kali, the Divine Mother) at times and the impersonal God at other times (the Brahman).
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At Dakshineswar, a priest of the goddess Kali
Ramakrishna became a priest of the goddess Kali in the temple of Dakshineswar at the age of 20 (to replace his brother, who had recently died).
In 1859, at the age of 23, he married Sarada Devi, a five-year-old girl. This union was never completed. Ramakrishna had no attraction for women since he considered them as expressions of the Divine Mother.
Major religions’ experiences: Islam and Christianity:
Ramakrishna first encountered Islam in 1866. For some time, he sang Allah’s name incessantly, dressed as a Muslim, and followed the spiritual disciplines of Islam. He had forgotten about the Hindu gods and goddesses, including Kali, and had ceased going to their temples. In a vision, Prophet Muhammad’s beautiful visage appeared to him as he was meditating.
He was hit with a yearning to know Christianity eight years later, in November 1874, while listening to the Bible read in a garden in Dakshineshwar.
Ramakrishna had been enthralled by a portrait of the Blessed Virgin and the Child Jesus that he had seen in a Dakshineshvara living room one day. He was so upset that he couldn’t enter Kali’s temple for several days. On the fourth day, he was wandering in the Panchavati when he noticed a being approaching him with gorgeous eyes and a calm demeanor. As they stood face to face, Ramakrishna heard a voice from the depths of Ramakrishna:
Consider Christ, who shed the blood of his heart for the world’s redemption and endured an ocean of agony for the sake of men’s love. He, the Master, is in an eternal state of connection with God. It’s Jesus, the love embodied.
The transcendental oneness of faiths and Ramakrishna:
Ramakrishna did not believe that one religion could possess the truth in isolation from others.
Any metaphysical thought, according to Ramakrishna, requires a form to express it, but it is impossible to think that there is just one.
Religions are specific manifestations of the Transcendent Truth, which overflows, breaks, or abandons these frameworks in favor of new ones when they suffocate them. He believed in a single God who is the sole and supreme principle of all faiths, and that religions are routes to Him.
“I practiced all three religions: Hinduism, Islam, and Christianity, as well as the various sects of Hinduism… And I discovered that everyone is drawn to the same God in various ways… Several ghats surround a pond (stairs).
The Hindus draw water in jugs from one, and they name it Jal; the Mussulmans get water from leather skins, and they call it pani, and the Christians call it water from a third.
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Is it possible that this water isn’t jal, but pani, or water? What a farce! “The substance is One, but it goes by numerous names, and everyone is looking for the same thing.”
God is perched on the eaves of the building. It’s all about climbing. Some use a ladder, while others use a rope, a stone staircase, a bamboo pole, or their creativity to ascend. It’s only a matter of getting to the top. It makes no difference if you took this or that path.
You must not use many methods at the same time; instead, you must use them in order. You’re on the roof when you’ve found God… then you realize that we can approach him in a variety of ways.
Under no circumstances should you presume that other paths to God do not exist. They’re just different ways to get to the same roof. Allow each being to take their path. ”
Ramakrishna’s life comes to an end.
During the year 1886, he was diagnosed with throat cancer, and his condition deteriorated.
He died at one o’clock in the morning, August 16, 1886, with a smile on his face. Sarada Devi had an epiphany while putting on her widow’s garment:
“All I did was go from one room to another.”
Ramakrishna and Swami Vivekananda’s relationship:
These two masters’ relationship is extraordinary, beginning with their first meeting and continuing with what Vivekanda accomplished with them after his master’s death.
Details can be found here.
Some Ramakrishna quotes:
The concept of an individual ego is akin to separating a portion of the Ganges and referring to it as your own Ganges.
Birth and death:
Birth and death are like water bubbles. The water is genuine, but the bubbles aren’t; they rise from the water and then fall back into it. God, too, is an Ocean whose bubbles represent souls. They are born via Him, exist in Him, and return to Him.
Many people boast about their wealth and power, as well as their name, popularity, and social status. They will not locate all of these transitory things after they die.
The way one lives
Money is undoubtedly vital here on earth, but it is unwise to obsess over it, just as it is unwise to obsess over other material gains. Accepting what comes naturally is the finest attitude.
Do not try to gain wealth. Those who devote their lives and souls to God, who worship His people and seek refuge in Him, are unconcerned about the things of this world. They pay for their expenses with receipts. If money falls into their hands, they allow it to flow freely.
A boat in the water poses a little hazard, but it must be carefully inspected to ensure that no water enters the vessel; otherwise, it will sink. Similarly, there is nothing wrong with a sadhak (a seeker of truth) living in the world as a householder, but he should not allow the world to overwhelm his mind.
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Many Westerners heard Ramakrishna’s unification theory, but it would have had little resonance if he hadn’t met Narendra Nath Datta, a Calcutta intellectual who became his disciple and acquired the monastic name Vivekananda from him near the end of his life.
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