Dive deep! Dive deep, my mind!
Into the Ocean of Divine Bliss

Ramakrishna Paramahamsa

Ramakrishna was one of the most remarkable Indian saints of recent history (1836 - 1886). He is chiefly known for his high attainments in approaching God along many different paths. Most saints have one path, one line of attainment in reaching the goal. He explored each in its turn. He was a lively and likable human and made a deep impression on all that came into his sphere. He left behind innumerable devotees and helped many to follow the ultimate goal in his footsteps. One of his most noteworthy devotees was Vivekananda who eventually made his way to America where he helped to form a bridge between Eastern and Western thought and culture. The offshoot of Vivekananda's teachings on Vedanta are still being propagated today by the Vedanta Society of Southern California. Ramakrishna was a highly unorthodox and controversial figure in his time. He did everything straight from the heart and with great enthusiasm. He wasted no time or energy on earthly pursuits but showered all his love and energy on the Divine in the various roles that were cast in his life. As a young man he was given the job of priest in a Kali temple to carry out the daily rites conferred on the statue of the Divine Mother. To Ramakrishna it was not a statue but the Mother herself and he carried out all the prescribed rites with full devotion and love for the Mother and an intense longing for a vision of her real form. His attachment grew to the Mother Kali behind the stone form and he more and more desired to directly see what he knew to be the living presence depicted in the statue.

I was then suffering from excruciating pain because I had not been blessed with a vision of the mother. I felt as if my heart were being squeezed like a wet towel. I was overpowered by a fear that it might not be my lot to realize Her in this life. I could not bear the separation any longer: life did not seem worth living. Suddenly my eyes fell on the sword that was kept in the Mother's temple. Determined to put an end to my life, I jumped up like a madman and seized it, when suddenly the Mother revealed herself to me, and I fell unconscious on the floor. What happened after that externally or how that day or the next passed , I do not know, but within me there was a steady flow of undiluted bliss altogether new, and I felt the presence of the Divine Mother.

Later he said about this experience:
The buildings with their different parts, the temple, and all vanished from my sight, leaving no trace whatsoever, and in their stead was a limitless, infinite, effulgent ocean of Consciousness or Spirit.

After this event Ramakrishna was constantly seeking a repetition of the vision of the Mother's form and She began to reveal herself to him, first in his trance states and later in ordinary consciousness.

...the moment I lost outward consciousness in a paroxysm of pain at separation from the Mother, I would feel her standing before me in Her matchless radiant form, granting boons to Her devotees and bidding them to be of good cheer! I used to see her smiling, talking, consoling, or teaching in various ways.

Sayings of Ramakrishna
Picture of Ramakrishna
Every religion is a path to God
The human mind trying to fathom the nature of God is like an ant trying to carry away a mountain of sugar.
By doing unselfish work, one gains love for God; and gradually, through His grace one attains Him. One sees God, and talks with Him, just as I am talking to you.
After Realization, one sees God everywhere. He is most conspicuous in man, and among men, in pure souls - who have not the least hankering for lust and wealth
Some blind men happened to come across an elephant. Someone told them what it was and asked them to describe it as it seemed to them. The one who touched the leg said that it was like a column. The second one felt its ear and said it is like a winnowing fan. Similarly, those who had touched its trunk or belly, gave different opinions. So with God, everyone conceives Him according to his experience.
People talk glibly about the highest knowledge, but in their everyday lives they are satisfied with the things of the lower plane.
You cannot realize Him if you have the least bit of attachment in you. A thread with ever so few ragged fibers won't pass through the eye of a needle.
So long as there is the "I" there is duality. The Existence-Knowledge-Bliss Absolute is an ocean, within which is the pitcher 'I'. So long as there is the pitcher, the water seems to be separate - one portion is inside the pitcher and the other outside. When the pitcher breaks, there is one mass of water; and that cannot be expressed in words. Who will do so?

As time went on, the presence of the Mother became the centerpiece of his life.

"O Mother." he would pray day and night. "I have taken refuge in you. Teach me what to do or say. Thy will is paramount everywhere and is for the benefit of Thy children. Merge my ego in Thy will and make me Thy instrument." As his realization deepened, the vision of the Mother became continuous. Formerly at the time of meditation it was with difficulty that he gained a glimpse of Her beautiful hand, feet, or face; now he saw Her entire form as She spoke to him, and directed him in his day's work. Heretofore, while offering food to Her, a luminous ray from Her eyes would touch it, merely taking its essence; now he saw Her partake of the food even before it was offered in the regular way. Formerly he regarded the stone image of Kali as possessed of consciousness; now the image disappeared and in its stead there stood the Living Mother Herself, smiling and blessing him.

Ramakrishna alongside column
"At night when the room was lighted, I never saw her divine form cast any shadows on the walls, , even though I looked closely. From my own room I could hear her going to the upper story of the temple with the delight of a girl, Her anklets jingling. To see if I were not mistaken, I would follow and find Her standing with flowing hair on the balcony of the first floor, looking either at Calcutta, or out over the Ganga."

One day a cat near by was mewing as Ramakrishna was making the food offering. He tenderly addressed it saying, 'Mother, art thou eager to eat? Here, Thou mayest have it," at the same time giving the food to the cat. Thus Ramakrishna saw all beings as contained within his blissful Divine Mother.

It is said that:

In whatever form the devotee worships God,
God will assume that form to bless his earnest devotee

In this phase of his spiritual journey, Ramakrishna saw God as the Divine Mother, but his spiritual journey was never static. Next he took up devotion to the form of the Avatar Rama who lived thousands of years ago and after attaining a vision of Rama, he next fixed his goal on Krishna, another divine incarnation. In this way Ramakrishna spent his whole life seeking God in many different ways.

One of his young charges had a bible and used to read to Sri Ramakrishna stories from the bible. He became enamored of the wonderful stories of the life of Christ and of the beautiful picture of the Madonna with the Divine Child and fully immersed his mind in the Christian images for three days. On the fourth day as he was walking he saw an extraordinary looking person of serene aspect approaching him with his gaze intently fixed on him. Presently the figure drew near and from the inmost recesses of Sri Ramakrishna's heart there came the realization: "There is the Christ who poured out his heart's blood for the redemption of mankind and suffered agonies for its sake. It is none else but the Master-Yogin Jesus, the embodiment of Love!" In his divine vision the Son of Man embraced Sri Ramakrishna and became merged in him. The Master lost outward consciousness in Samadhi, realizing his union with Brahman with attributes. Thus was he convinced that Jesus Christ was an Incarnation of the Lord.

In addition to being a Devotee (an inherently dualistic relationship), Ramakrishna also attained to mergence in the absolute (ie complete non dualism). This came through a meeting with an advanced practitioner of Advaitha (Oneness with God) by the name of Totapuri. The wandering monk had attained the ultimate mergence in Nirvikalpa Samadhi after strenuous meditation extending over 40 years. After mergence he wandered freely seeing Brahman everywhere, oblivious to the joys and sorrows of the world. Totapuri saw only the formless and impersonal Absolute. He was not a devotee of God in the sense Ramakrishna was. On meeting Ramakrishna he recognized a man of some spiritual attainment and he asked him if he would like to learn Vedanta. Ramakrishna replied in his simple way that he would have to go "ask his Mother" and in a subsequent conversation with the Divine Mother she said, "Yes, my son. That is why I have brought him here". So Totapuri initiated him and began to teach him Advaitha philosophy

Totapuri's teaching on Advaitha

Brahman is the only Reality, ever-pure, ever-illumined, ever-free, beyond the limits of time, space, and causation. Though apparently divided by names and forms through the inscrutable agency of Maya (illusion), that enchantress which makes the impossible possible, Brahman is really one and undivided. When a seeker is merged in the beautitude of Samadhi, he does not perceive time and space or name and form - the production of Maya. Whatever is within the domain of Maya is unreal; give it up. Dive deep in the search for Self and be firmly established in It through Samadhi. You will then find the world of name and form vanishing into nothing, and this puny ego merging into cosmic consciousness.

Then Totapuri asked Ramakrishna to withdraw the mind completely from all objects and dive into the Atman. This he was used to doing to have ecstatic communion with the Divine Mother. But when he tried to go to a still higher plane, there was She always, blocking his way to a vision of the formless absolute by presenting Her own charming form to his sight. Totapuri pressed a pointed piece of glass between his eyebrows and told him to concentrate all his energies at that point. Sri Ramakrishna once again concentrated intensely and when the vision of the Mother appeared before him he used his discrimination as a sword to severe the image in two and soared into the heights of Nirvikalpa Samadhi. Totapuri closed the doors and left him in that state and to his utter amazement, he remained rigid and lost to the outer world for three days. At the end, in disbelief Totapuri reentered and slowly began to bring his disciple back into waking consciousness by chanting a sacred mantra - Hari OM. He was astonished that Ramakrishna had attained in one day what it had taken him forty strenuous years to accomplish.

Throughout the latter part of his life, Ramakrishna floated in and out of Samadhi throughout the day. It seemed as if only a small part of him was grounded in the Earth plane. If someone sang a devotional song with fervor, or mentioned an aspect of God, off he would float, oblivious to his surroundings while his ecstatic trance lasted. Many of India's spiritual lights came to visit him and were impressed with his glowing countenance, his flights of Samadhi, and the wisdom that floated from his lips, at times almost subconsciously as if directed by the Mother. Often the conversation would pause and his visitors would wait patiently and watch the serene look on his face as he hovered far above human consciousness.

Nearing 50 he developed cancer of the throat and as it got worse, his disciples had to force him to eat, though he was mostly unaware of the body in his higher state. When his condition worsened, his disciples pressed him to ask the Mother to cure him. But he was content with his state saying:

"Let the body and its pain take care of one another.
Thou, my mind, be always in bliss."

He resisted them at first but later thought that for their sake he would ask her for healing. Ramakrishna recounts:

"I said to Her, 'I cannot eat anything for this pain. Please so arrange that I may eat a little'. She showed me a vision of ALL and said, 'Why, you are already eating through so many mouths, why be concerned with this one!'. I was ashamed and could not utter another word."

Throughout his life he transformed many a struggling disciple with a touch from his hand, imparting a fraction of his own bliss to them through his contact. Before his passing he spiritually charged his closest devotees with a touch of his hand on their head or chest. They all experienced inexpressible bliss and a vision of the work to be done after his passing. Said one "Formerly I could see in meditation only portions of my Chosen Ideal's form. But that day, His entire form flashed before my vision, and I saw Him seated in my heart as a distinct living presence. Another disciple said "He lightly touched my chest. That worked a strange transformation within me. I saw the blissful form of the Master in everything I saw. I was besides myself with joy and shouted to all to come and share in the blessing. After a few days, being unable to do any work, I had to ask Sri Ramakrishna to lessen its intensity, after which it became intermittent."

His closest disciple Narendra (Vivekananda) attained the highest state through meditation after receiving the blessing of the master. At first he felt as if a light had been placed behind his head. Then he passed beyond all relativity and was lost in the Absolute, in Nirvikalpa Samadhi. When he regained a little consciousness of the world, he found only his head but not his body. He cried out, "Ah, where is my body!" The master laughed and only said "Let him stay in that state for a while! he has teased me long enough for it."

Ramakrishna's departure from life bonded his disciples together and they formed the Ramakrishna Math which is still active today. The Vedanta Society is an offshoot of Ramakrishna's and Vivekananda's work and publishes biographies and books of Vedantic knowledge relating to Ramakrishna. For more information read The Life of Sri Ramakrishna, published by Advaitha Ashrama. See Ramakrishna section of Books and References on home page.

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