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Sree Ramakrishna Paramhansa was born on 18th February 1836 as Gadadhar Chattopadhyay (former name of Ramakrishnadeva at Kamarpukur village. His parents Kshudiram Chattopadhyay and Chandramani Devi were poor but very pious and virtuous. From early age, Gadadhar had strong disinclination towards formal education and worldly affairs. Young Gadadhar was talented in painting and singing. He was fond of serving holy men and listening to their discourses. He was often found to be absorbed in spiritual moods. At the age of sixteen, Gadadhar experienced the first ecstasy while watching a flight of white cranes moving against the background of black clouds. This tendency to enter into ecstasy intensified with age. Gadadhar’s father died when he was only 7 years old – this pathetic incident served to deepen Gadadhar’s introspection and increase his detachment from the material-world. Entry of Ramakrishnadeva into a spiritual life : In the year 1852, when Gadadhar was only sixteen years old, he moved to Calcutta, to assist his elder-brother Ramkumar Chattopadhyay in the profession of priesthood. This move was not only across space but across time as well because with this move Sree Ramakrishna started to revolutionise the nineteenth century. In the year 1855, the Kali temple at Dakshineswar, built by Rani Rashmoni was consecrated and Ramkumar was appointed as the chief priest of that temple. A few months later, Ramkumar Chattopadhyay left his body and 2 Ramakrishna was appointed as the priest of Dakshineswar temple, which in no time became the stage of Ramakrishna’s unprecedented spiritual practices and realizations. Ramakrishna Paramhansa became more contemplative and developed intense devotion to Mother Kali and spent hours in loving adoration of Her image, forgetting the rituals of any priestly duties. Sitting alone, he started singing the devotional songs of the great devotees of the Divine Mother, such as, the songs of Kamalakanta and Ramprasad. Those rhapsodical songs, describing the direct vision of God, only intensified Sree Ramakrishnadeva’s longing, thus, he could feel the pangs of a child separated from his mother. Sometimes he was seen to rub his face on ground and bitterly weep for the ‘Divine Mother’. Sometimes Ramakrishna would sit on a prayer-carpet for two hours like an inert object, he also began to behave abnormally and most of the time remained himself unconscious from the worldly affairs. The worship at Dakshineswar temple intensified Sree Ramakrishna’s yearning for a living vision of the Mother of the Universe. He began to spend in meditation, the time not actually employed in the templeservice; and for this purpose he selected an extremely solitary place – a deep jungle thick with underbrush and prickly plants, lay to the north of the temples. Used at one time as a burial ground, it was shunned by people even during the day time for fear of ghosts. There Sree Ramakrishna spent the whole night in meditation, returning to his room only in the morning with eyes swollen as from much weeping. While meditating Ramakrishnadeva would lay aside his cloth and his brahminical thread. Explaining this strange conduct, Ramakrishna once said to Hriday, “Don’t you know that when one thinks of God, one should be freed from all ties? From our very birth we have the eight fetters of hatred, shame, lineage, pride of good conduct, fear, secretiveness, caste and grief. The sacred thread reminds me that I am 3 a Brahmin and therefore superior to all. When calling on the Mother, one has to set aside all such ideas”. Hriday was feared on thinking that his maternal uncle is becoming insane. Thus, the devotionally-intoxicated state of Sree Ramakrishna alarmed his relatives at Kamarpukur and they got him married to Maa Sarada, a girl from the neighbouring village of Jayrambati. Being unaffected by the marriage, Ramakrishna plunged into even more spiritual practices. Impelled by a strong inner urge to experience the different aspects of God he followed, with the help of a series of Gurus, the various paths described in the Hindu scriptures, and realized God through each of them. The first teacher to appear for Ramakrishnadeva at Dakshineswar in the year 1861 was a remarkable woman named Bhairavi Brahmani, who was an advanced spiritual adept, well versed in scriptures. With the help of Bhairavi Brahmani, Ramakrishna practised various difficult disciplines of Tantra Shastra and attained success in all the spheres. Three years later came a wandering monk named Totapuri, under whose guidance Sree Ramakrishna attained ‘Nirvikalpa Samadhi’, the highest spiritual experience mentioned in the Hindu scriptures. Ramakrishna remained in that state of non-dual existence for six months, without any awarenss for even his own body. In this way, Sree Ramakrishnadeva directed the entire range of spiritual experiences for more than three thousand years of Hindu religion. Later with the unquenchable thirst for God, Sree Ramakrishna broke the frontiers of Hinduism, glided through the paths of Islam and Christianity; and finally attained the highest state of realization through each of the religious path in a short span of time – thus Ramakrishnadeva started living habitually in an exalted state of consciousness in which he saw God in all beings. 4 Ramakrishnadeva’s first vision of Maa Kali as the priest of Dakshineswar : Ramakrishna Paramhansadeva’s intense longing culminated into the vision of Mother Kali as boundless effulgence engulfing everything around him. As the priest of Maa Bhabatarini at Dakshineswar temple, Ramakrishna Paramhansa began to ask himself if the goddess, he was sincerely serving was real or not. If the goddess was real, could one experience Her directly? Ramakrishna began to look upon the image of Goddess Kali as his ‘Mother’ and ‘the Mother of the Universe’ and became desperate for the vision of ‘the Divine Mother’. After many days of meditation, wherein Ramakrishna failed to receive a vision, he reportedly came to a point of such anguish that he impulsively decided to end his life. Seeing a sword hanging in a nearby room at the temple, Ramakrishna ran for it and was just about to reach it when he suddenly had a vision of the Goddess Kali as ‘Universal Mother’. Ramakrishnadeva described his condition of mind as, “I felt as if my heart were being squeezed like a wet towel. I was overpowered with a great restlessness and a fear that it might not be my lot to realize Her in this life. I could not bear the separation from Her any longer. Life seemed to be not worth-living. Suddenly my glance fell on the sword that was kept in the temple of the Divine Mother. I determined to put an end to my life. When I jumped up like a mad-man to put an end to my life, suddenly the blessed Mother revealed Herself to me”. Actually, Ramakrishna Paramhansa’s intense longing for the vision of Mother Kali became so great, so overwhelming that the Mother could not keep herself hidden from him any longer. Thus, Master Sree Ramakrishnadeva revealed his first vision of Devi Kali to his disciples : “I had a marvellous vision of the Mother and fell down being unconscious....Within me there was a steady flow of undiluted bliss that I had never before experienced, and I felt the immediate presence 5 of the Divine Mother....houses, doors, temples and everything else were vanished altogether, as if, there was nothing anywhere! And what I saw was an infinite shoreless sea of light; as if a limitless, infinite, effulgent ocean of consciousness. How far and whatever direction I looked, I saw shining waves one after another, coming towards me, from all sides with a terrific noise to swallow me up! I was panting of breath, I was caught in the rush and was collapsed, finally became unconscious. I could not even realize what was happening in the outside world, but within me there was only a steady flow of undiluted bliss, altogether new and I felt the presence of the Divine Mother.” Finally when Ramakrishna regained the consciousness of the world, the only word on his lips was ‘The Mother (Maa)’. Even after his beatific vision of the Divine Mother, Sree Ramakrishna was not satisfied and longed to have unbroken communication with the Divine Mother, sometimes rolling on the ground crying, “Mother be gracious unto me! Reveal Yourself to me!” The Master later recounted, “Sometimes I would lose outer consciousness from that unbearable agony. Immediately after that I would see the Mother’s luminous form bestowing boons and fearlessness! I used to see Her smiling, talking, consoling or teaching me in various ways”. Sree Ramakrishnadeva’s concept on choosing ‘Ishta’ : Once a person asked Sree Ramakrishna Paramhansa, “There are many gods and goddesses in Hinduism. Every gods or goddesses symbolizes something or the other thing. What is the way for us how a person can decide which deity will be his or her ‘Ishta’ (deity to be worshipped by him or her)?” The philosophical reply of Sree Ramakrishna Paramhansa contains the answer to this question. Sree Ramakrishna replied, “One should look at the pictures of different gods and goddesses; what appeals you the most is your Ishta. Scientific 6 explanation to this Ishta, is that, every human has his or her own energy field which requires a particular type of energy for the satisfaction of soul and whatever god or goddess provide appeal, worship of that god or goddess will definitely fulfil the need of our soul and we will move towards self-realisation”. Similarly, when Ramakrishnadeva started his duties as priest in Kali temple, he found the living Mother-goddess within Devi Kali and it was so appealing. (thats what is known from the record of Mahendranath Gupta, the author of ‘Sree Sree Ramakrishna Kathamrita’). The explanation is like the imagining of an infinite ocean or infinite sky. Against the backdrop of this sky or ocean, there are hills that are beyond comprehension because they are very huge and covered in mist as their heights are so great that their snow covered peaks are lost in that infinity. A river is trying to find a way to the ocean, in the case of the sky, the mountains are making an attempt to merge into that infinite sky. However, the rivers and the mountains are not infinite, they become infinite only when they reach that point where the eyes see them as getting merged. It is that sky or ocean which is incomprehensible infinite from which everything emerges or disintegrates. It cannot be explained or expressed. Rivers, mountains, sky, oceans all are the symbols which give us a hint that there is an infinite truth beyond what life seems to be. The symbols are people like Sree Ramakrishna Paramhansadeva, who for sure have had a glimpse of that infinity. So, looking on them also makes to feel a part of that infinite glimpse. Images of Kali, Durga, Shiva etc. are intended to bring that same effect. So, basically, Sree Ramakrishna is equal to Goddess Kali; there is no difference between them. If one assigns a value say 100 to variable A and the same value to variables B or C, it does not matter which variables one is referring to as long as either A or B or C are in context if one is seeking 100. 7 Feeling of Sree Ramakrishnadeva for his ‘Ishta’ (the Divine Mother) : Sree Ramakrishna Paramhansadeva soon discovered what a strange goddess he had chosen to serve. He became gradually enmeshed in the web of all-pervading presence. To the ignorant; She (the Divine Mother) is, to be sure, the image of destruction; but he found in Her the benign, all-loving Mother. Her neck is encircled with a garland of heads and Her waist with a girdle of human arms and two of Her hands hold weapons of death and Her eyes dart a glance of fire ; but strangely enough Sree Ramakrishnadeva felt in Her breath the soothing touch of tender love and saw in Her the ‘Seed of Immortality’. The Divine Mothers stands on the bossom of Her consort Shiva – it is because She is the Shakti (the power), the inseparable form of the ‘Absolute’. She is surrounded by the jackals at the denizens of the cremation ground but it is not the ‘Ultimate Reality’ above holiness and unholiness. She appears to be reeling under the spell of wine, but who would create this mad world unless under the influence of a divine drunkenness? She is the highest symbol of all the forces of nature, the synthesis of their antimonies, the ‘Ultimate Divine’ in the form of a woman. She now became to Sree Ramakrishnadeva, ‘the only Reality’ and the world became an unsabstantial shadow. Into Her worship, Ramakrishna Paramhansa poured his soul. Before him the Divine Mother stood as the transparent portal to the shrine of ‘Ineffable Reality’. *************************************

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