The name of Sri Ramakrishna is now well-known in the religious world. He is regarded as an avatara or incarnation of God by his innumerable followers all over the world. Birth and parentage—Gadadhar was Sri Ramakrishna’s former name. He was born at Kamarpukur, a village in the district of Hooghly in West Bengal, on the 17th February, 1836. His father, Khudiram Chatterjee, was a pious and truthful poor Brahmin. His mother, Chandramani, was also a devout lady. Before the birth of Gadadhar his parents had some divine visions about his birth as their son.
Early life at Kamarpukur
At the age of six Gadadhar had his first spiritual experience. He had two other similar experiences in his boyhood. During those experiences he lost his consciousness of the external world. But Gadadhar did not like to go to the village pathsala.He was fond of playing with his boy friends. He had a wonderful memory. Once in his boyhood learned scholars could not solve a problem. He solved it to the satisfaction of all the pandits.
Life at Dakshineswar
Some years after the death of his father, Gadadhar went to Calcutta with his eldest brother, Ramkumar, at the age of sixteen. Ramkumar was appointed priest of the famous temple of goddess Kali at Dakshineswar. Gadadhar drew the attention of Rani Rashmani, the founder of the temple and her son-in-law Mathur Babu. He was appointed assistant to Ramkumar. Later he became the priest after Ramkumar. He became passionately resolved to have a vision of Kali, the Divine Mother.
He thought day and night of her. The Divine Mother fulfilled his desire. One day She manifested Herself before him. He lost external consciousness. That was his first vision of the goddess. Thenceforth he began to have vision of the goddess very often. He talked with her. He was practically illiterate. But through Her grace he knew everything that was in the scriptures.
Goddess Kali is not the only one divine form of God. There are many forms and names. Kali, Durga, Shiva, Raina> Krishna, Allah, God, etc., are the various forms and names of one Supreme Being. Gadadhar, who was afterwards called Ramakrishna by a great Sadhu named Tota Puri, wanted to realize God in His different forms. So he began to practise sadhana with great austerity. During his sadhana he had vision of Rama and Seeta. He was successful in his sadhana according to the principles of Tantra, Vaishnavism, Vedanta, Muslim and Christian religions and realized God. He came to the conclusion that all religions were true. They led to the same goal, i.e., God. Only the ways were different and the names and forms of God were different. While he was engaged in this sadhana for twelve years, at the urge of his mother Chandramani he married at the age of twenty-four a girl named Sarada. She was only five years old then. This girl had divinity in her. She was afterwards known as the Holy Mother— Sree Sree Ma, and ideal of motherhood.
Ramakrishna as Guru
When Sri Ramakrishna’s sadhana was over, many men of all religious sects came to him and listened to his teachings. His method of teaching was very simple. He used smiles very often to make his teachings effective. Some of these devotees were householders. Some were educated young men. Many of them became his disciples. Some of the educated young men afterwards renounced worldly life and became monks after the passing away of their Master. Of them Narendranath Dutta, afterwards known as Swaini Vivekananda, was the foremost.
The last days of Sri Ramakrishna
Sri Ramakrishna was an avatara. But even an avatara is subject to the sufferings and diseases of a human being. Sri Ramakrishna was attacked with the fatal disease of throat cancer. For his treatment his disciples and devotees took him first to Shyampukur in Calcutta and then to Cossipore Udyanbati. At Cossipore Sri Ramakrishna gave up his body on the 15th August, 1886.
Some of the Teachings of Sri Ramakrishna
His greatest teaching is religious tolerance. All religions are true. So people professing one religion should not quarrel with people of another religion. All religions’ aim at realizing God. Only the ways are different, the goal is the same. Another great teaching is that there is God or Supreme Being in every man. So the service of man is the service of God. Hence he urged all, specially his disciples, to serve man as Narayana or Shiva. He regarded all women as the Divine Mother. Hence he worshipped his own wife Sarada Devi as Divine Mother Kali and behaved with her as such. This is unique in the history of the religious world. His one important teaching is that the shortest and easiest way to realize God in the modern age is through Bhakti Yoga.
The Ramakrishna Math and Mission
The disciples of Sri Ramakrishna who became monks decided to preach the teachings of their Master all over India and the world. Swami “Vivekananda had been to America and England. There he preached the message of his Master. He lectured about Indian civilization and culture. Many people of the West became followers of Sri Ramakrishna. Some brother monks of Swami Vivekananda also went to those countries after him for this purpose. Swami Vivekananda and his brother monks set up a math or monastery, called the Ramakrishna Math and Mission, at Belur near Calcutta. It is commonly known as Belur math. They also set up many centres all over India and in the West and the East to carry the message of their Master there.
Swami Vivekananda said that Sri Ramakrishna was the greatest of all the avatars. The holy monks of Ramakrishna order are now continuing the work of Swamiji and his brother monks—the work of religious and social service. At the same time they are practising sadhana to attain spiritual advancement. The influence of Sri Ramakrishna is thus being felt all over the world. Many great thinkers of the world today are of opinion that lasting peace can be established in the world if people follow his teachings. We should all read the biography of Sri Ramakrishna. His teachings will inspire us to lead our lives in the truth path.