Sri Ramakrishna Paramhansa
In the year 1856, Gadadhar Chattopadhyay, later known as Shree Ramakrishna Paramhansa became a priest at the Kali Temple of Dakshineswar near Calcutta [India] and he was only twenty years old at that time. Being a simple, young man from Kamarpukur, a village in Bengal, Gadadhar used to speak in his village dialect and in 1859, he got married to Shree Sarada Devi from another village of Joyrambati. Due to the intense love of God, Gadadhar Chattopadhyay,the priest at the temple of Dakshineswar had a vision of the divine Mother Kali. The young priest from Kamarpukur was visited by many great teachers and in turn they found God in him.
A wandering female monk Bhairabi looked upon him as “Krishna”, a Vaishnava monk Jatadhari had a vision of “Ram” in Gadadhar and a great advaita Vedantic monk Totapuri declared Gadadhar as “Paramhansa” [great yogi], thus Gadadhar Chattopadhyay became Ramakrishna Paramhansa.
In the middle of the 19th. century, India was torn by conflicts of creeds,cultures, dogmas, doctrines, theologies and philosophies and Shree Ramakrishna brought back the Hindu Spirituality in the core of the Society and thus begun the renaissance of Bengal vis-a-vis India. Shree Ramakrishna Paramhansa’s method of religious teachings in the form of simple stories have been complied by one of his devotees, Mahendra nath Gupta["M"]. This Bengali book,”Kathamrita” has been translated in various languages and the English translation was done by Swami Nikhilananda, a monk of the Ramakrishna Order: “The Gospel of Shree Ramakrishna”; [N.Y., USA, 1969].
The answer of the following TEN questions are collected from the book written by Mr. C. Rajagopalachari, entitled “Sri Ramakrishna –Upanishad” [1950 in Tamil-language], [English translation: Profs. K. Swaminathan, P. Sankaranarayanan ; S. Ramaswami]. Published by: Sri Ramakrishna Math, Mylapore, Madras-4, India, 4th. ed. 1964.
1. Why this book is called UPANISHAD?
A: According to the author, the 19th century GOD-inspired saint Sri Ramakrishna lived a true saintly life. He used to speak to his devotees, and one of them kept a detailed record of these conversations whenever he was present. Sri C. Rajagopalachari has transcribed the tales and parables of Sri Ramakrishna, and this book is called “Upanishad,” which in Sanskrit means a conversation between the teacher and the students.
2. Why do we need GOD?
A: A person arriving in a city first secures a place to leave his baggage, and then goes to see the town. After wandering the whole day, the individual comes back to his resting place at night. GOD is the ‘rest-house’ for the SOUL wandering in the world and thus fulfills the need for a spiritual “REFUGE” [GOD].
3. Where is GOD?
A: In a village, a person wanted to smoke at night, so he went to a house next door to get the lighter. However, his friend drew his attention to the fact that he already had a lamp in his own hand. We do not realize that GOD is always with us deep inside our own heart.
4. What one has to do to feel the presence of GOD?
A: According to Sri Ramakrishna, PURITY of MIND is the criteria to realize GOD in one’s SOUL. He cited a story: An ascetic lived near a temple & in a nearby place their lived an entertainer girl. The ascetic felt grief that so many men comes to this girl & called the girl to tell her that she is leading a sinful life. The words touched her mind & she cried to GOD to save her from her sins but she has to earn her living only to survive. Once again the ascetic scolded her for her sinful life & he started to count the number of men who used to visit her everyday. The girl & the ascetic died on the same day & the messenger of the GOD of DEATH came to take the SOUL of the girl to heaven & while taking the soul of the ascetic to the hell the messenger told the reason to the agitated soul of the ascetic that his body was pure & thus people are taking his dead body with flowers to the cremation place but his soul was polluted for counting the men used to visit the entertainer girl but the girl’s soul was pure & her body was not pure and thus nobody is going to even cremate her dead-body.
5. What about RELIGIOUS DIFFERENCES?
A: Whatever the faith we profess or the different paths we try to follow in order to achieve the spiritual goal& if we do it with pure heart and with devotion, we can attain God. It is proper that each person worships God according to the own religious belief. All religions will lead us to the Supreme.
6. How do you “WORSHIP” GOD?
A: According to Sri Ramakrishna, the whole world is GOD & doing one’s own work is the WORSHIP to God. He told a story: Once Sage Narada wanted to know the nature of the great devotee to Lord Vishnu & Lord Vishnu told Narada that on Earth, there is a farmer who utters only twice [once in the morning & once in the evening] the name of the Lord & he is His great devotee. Lord Vishnu then asked the Sage Narada to take a cup filled with oil & go around the Earth without spilling a drop of oil. Sage Narada took the brimful of oil –cup around the Earth without any spilling the oil & when Lord Vishnu asked him that during this trip how many times Sage Narada thought about the Lord, the Sage replied that he could NOT think of the Lord for a single moment. Then the Lord Vishnu explained that the farmer does the hard work in the whole day but he does not forget to utter the name of the ”Lord“ twice per day & therefore the farmer is the great devotee.
7. What do you think of Social Service?
A: It is good to get involved in working for the good of the society but first worship God & meditate on Him and purify your heart and then take to social work. If you think of God then you will get an access of strength. If you pray to God with devotion then you will acquire the capacity to do good to the others. God’s grace you will get the skill and the facilities to do your work properly. Thus doing work for the society means giving up all thought of fame or profit and doing your duties.
8. What do you think about the Hindu rites and festivals?
A: Sri Ramakrishna spoke about the co-existence in Hinduism of the highest wisdom and various forms of rites and festivals and ceremonies. The chief thing in paddy is the grain of rice inside it. One should remove the husk of the grain and then cook the rice & the cooked rice should be eaten in a short period. If it is retain as paddy then it last longer and only the paddy will sprout if it is sown in the soil.It is the rice that sprouts but it must get imbedded as paddy in the ground with the husk on it. In order to preserve the “dharma” and to give it the vital force to take root and grow that rites and ceremonies and festivals are preserved in the scriptures. The rites are like the husk of the paddy so the rice are protected from getting rotten.
9. How to get the GRACE of God?
A: GRACE of God is like ocean –breeze and one has to unfold the sails to get it or we must put some EFFORT in order to get the GRACE of God.
10. How to get rid of SINS?
A: Love the Mother Goddess as your own mother and all the sins will disappear. As the child rolls in the dirt but the mother takes delight in washing the baby. To err is natural for human yet the Mother Goddess cleanses us of sins as we are Her own. Thus there is no need to FEAR of sins.
1. Narendra Nath Datta (monastic name: Swami Vivekananda) was born in Calcutta, India, on January 12,1863. At the age of 18, Narendra was an undergraduate student at the General Assembly’s Institution (Scottish Church College). He heard from his philosophy professor, Prof. Haste, that the saint Ramakrishna of Dakshineswar could lose all external consciousness in deep meditation as a result of his purity and concentration of mind. Narendra was an agnostic at that time, and joined the “Brahmo Samaj” (a progressive organization dedicated to reforming many restrictive Hindu customs) under the leadership of Devendranath Tagore (father of the Nobel Prize-winning Bengali poet Rabindranath Tagore).
2. According to Swami Saradananda (author of Sri Ramakrishna: The Great Master), Narendra met Sri Ramakrishna for the first time in November 1881, at a devotee’s house, and sang a devotional song for him. Sri Ramakrishna was very much impressed with Narendra, and invited him for a visit at Dakshineswar. In the subsequent five years, Narendra was spiritually enlightened by Sri Ramakrishna. Before passing away in 1886, Sri Ramakrishna repeated a mantra to Narendra to “SERVE MANKIND AS GOD.” Narendra, along with fifteen other brother disciples, took the monastic vow to become monks in order to serve greater humanity. The monks started their journey traveling all over India. In 1893, the King of Khetri [a monarchial state in Rajasthan, India], became a disciple of Narendra and gave his guru the name SWAMI VIVEKANANDA. SWAMI is the title of a monk of the Vedanta philosophy, VIVEK means discrimination, and ANANDA means bliss. The name VIVEKANANDA thus means:- He who has attained the ‘bliss of spiritual discrimination’.
3. In 1893, Swami Vivekananda attended the Parliament of Religions, a large public event held in Chicago to commemorate the four hundred year anniversary of the discovery of AMERICA [in 1492] by Christopher Columbus. At the opening session of the Parliament of Religions, on September 11th, 1893, Swami Vivekananda proclaimed thusly:
I am proud to belong to a religion which has taught the world both tolerance and universal acceptance. We believe not only in universal toleration, but we accept all religions as true. I am proud to belong to a nation which has sheltered the persecuted and the refugees of all religions and all nations of the earth … 1 At the final session of the Parliament of Religions on September 27th, 1893, Swami Vivekananda spoke further on religious tolerance and universality:
If the Parliament of Religions has shown anything to the world it is this: It has proved to the world that holiness, purity, and charity are not the exclusive possessions of any church in the world, and that every system has produced men and women of the most exalted character. In the face of this evidence, if anybody dreams of the exclusive survival of his own religion and the destruction of others, I pity him from the bottom of my heart, and point out to him that upon the banner of every religion will soon be written, in spite of resistance:
Help and not fight
Assimilation and not Destruction
Harmony and Peace and not Dissension
Swami Vivekananda became famous in the Western world after attending the Parliament of Religions. He was invited to give lectures all over U.S.A, as well as in Europe. On the first of May, 1897, Swami Vivekananda established the “Ramakrishna Order of Monks” at BELUR, a few km outside of Calcutta, India.
Its MISSION was: To preach the truths which Sri Ramakrishna preached and demonstrated in his own life. It will help others to put these truths into practice in their own lives, for their temporal, mental and spiritual advancement. It will train men to teach such knowledge or sciences as are conducive to the material and spiritual welfare of the masses. It will establish centers for monastic training and social work in different parts of India. It will also send trained members of the order to countries outside India, to bring a better relation and a closer understanding between them.Its aims will be purely spiritual and humanitarium, therefore it will have no connection with politics.
The Ramakrishna Order has at present established its monasteries and social service centers—including hospitals, colleges, schools of agriculture, libraries and publishing houses— in various regions of India. The RKM has also established centers all over the world for the study and practice of Vedanta philosophy and Ramakrishna’s teachings, with over dozen in the USA, as well as one center in Toronto, Canada.
Swami Vivekananda passed away at BELUR on July 4th,1902. Swami Vivekananda’s message:
“First realize that you are one with Brahman[The Absolute; the supreme reality of the Vedanta philosophy] – ‘aham Brahmasmi’ [I am Brahman] – and then realize that the whole Universe is verily the same Brahman-‘Sarvam Khalvidam Brahma’
1 The Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda: Volume 1. Ed. Swami Vandananda. Calcutta: Advaita Ashrama, 1977.