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Ramakrishna's Attainments

When Gadadhar was seven years old his father died. It affected him deeply. Unobserved by others, he began to slip into the mango orchard or into one of the cremation grounds, to spend hours absorbed in his own thoughts. He gave greater attention to reading and hearing stories recorded in the Puranas. And he became interested in the wandering monks and pious pilgrims who would stop at Kamarpukur on their way to Puri. They entertained the little boy with stories from the Hindu epics, stories of saints and prophets, and also stories of their own adventures. He fetched them water and fuel and served them in various ways, while observing their meditation and worship.

At the age of nine Gadadhar was permitted to worship a stone image that soon appeared to him as the living Lord of the Universe. A tendency to lose himself in contemplation was noticed in him at this time.

Gadadhar also organized a dramatic company. The stage was set in the mango orchard. Themes were selected from the stories of the epic poems Ramayana and the Mahabharata. Gadadhar {5] knew by heart almost all the roles. His favourite theme was the love-stories of Krishna and the milkmaids and cowherd boys. The mango orchard would ring with the loud, jubilant singing of boys that were lost in song and merry-making. Gadadhar became indifferent to school work.

In 1849 his eldest brother went to Calcutta to improve the financial condition of the family. On the threshold of youth, Gadadhar had now become the pet of the women of the village. {6]

Going to Calcutta

At the age of sixteen Gadadhar was summoned to Calcutta by his elder brother Ramkumar, who wished assistance in his priestly duties. Ramkumar had opened a Sanskrit academy to supplement his income, and it was his intention gradually to turn his younger brother's mind to education. Gadadhar applied himself heart and soul to his new duty as family priest to a number of Calcutta families. [7]

Then Sri Ramakrishna came to the temple garden of Dakshineswar – about four miles north of Calcutta – with his elder brother Ramkumar, who was appointed as a priest of the Kali temple at the place. A rich Sudra woman, Rani Rasmani, had it built. Sri Ramakrishna did not at first approve of Ramkumar's working for the Sudra Rasmani, due to his orthodox Hindu upbringing. [12]

Sometimes, in moments of scepticism, he would look at the black basalt statue of Kali at the place and cry: "Are you real, Mother, or is it all fiction – mere poetry without any reality? If you do exist, why do I not see you? Is religion a mere fantasy and are you only a figment of man's imagination?"

Then he started to have a visions. He has thus described his first vision of the Mother. "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 Mother's temple and I determined to put an end to it. I jumped up like a madman and seized it, when suddenly the blessed Mother revealed Herself. The buildings with their different parts, the temple, and everything else vanished from my sight, leaving no trace whatever, and in their stead I saw a limitless, infinite, effulgent Ocean of Bliss. [19-20]

As far as the eye could see, the shining billows were madly rushing at me from all sides with a terrific noise, to swallow me up. I was panting for breath. I was caught in the rush and collapsed, unconscious. What was happening in the outside world I did not know; but within me there was a steady flow of undiluted bliss, altogether new, and I felt the presence of the Divine Mother." [20]

About this time he began to worship God by imitating the monkey chieftain of the Ramayana, the ideal servant. His movements began to resemble those of a monkey, and he jumped from place to place instead of walking. [24] "With sobs I prayed to the Mother " How can you have the heart to deceive me like this because I am a fool?" [25]

A garbled report of Sri Ramakrishna's failing health, indifference to worldly life, and various abnormal actions reached Kamarpukur and filled his poor mother's heart with anguish. At her repeated request he returned to his village. [26]

Rani Rasmani, the foundress of the temple garden, passed away in 1861. After her death her son-in-law Mathur became the sole executor of the estate. He placed himself and his resources at Sri Ramakrishna's disposal and began to look after his physical comfort. Sri Ramakrishna later spoke of him as one of his five "suppliers of stores" – [28]

The Brahmani

There came to Dakshineswar at this time a brahmin woman who knew Tantric and Vaishnava methods of worship. She was slightly over fifty years old, handsome, and garbed in the orange robe of a Hindu nun. All she owned were a few books and two pieces of wearing-cloth.

Sri Ramakrishna welcomed the visitor with great respect, madness, talked with her, and she listened to him intently and said: "My son, . . . you are mad for God." [28-29]

She assured him that he was passing through what is called mahabhava, or rapture of divine love. It manifests itself in a devotee, she told him, through nineteen physical symptoms, such as the shedding of tears. [29]

When Sri Ramakrishna told Mathur what the Brahmani said about him, Mathur shook his head in doubt. Then the Brahmani asked Mathur to arrange a conference of scholars to discuss the matter with her. He agreed, and a meeting was arranged in the natmandir in front of the Kali temple. [29-30]

Sri Ramakrishna, perfectly indifferent, sat in their middle. Sometimes he was chewing a pinch of spices, or again saying with a nudge: "Look here. Sometimes I feel like this, too."

Presently the leader of the Vaishnava society declared that Ramakrishna had undoubtedly experienced mahabhava. The people assembled were struck dumb. Sri Ramakrishna said to Mathur like a boy:

"Just fancy, he too says so!"

A few days later the pundit Gauri arrived, another meeting was held, and he agreed with the view of the Brahmani and Vaishnavacharan. To Sri Ramakrishna's remark that Vaishnavacharan had declared him to be an Avatar, Gauri replied:

"Is that all he has to say about you? . . ." And then he said Sri Ramakrishna was a Divine Incarnation. [30]

"Ah!" said Sri Ramakrishna with a smile. "You seem to have quite outbid Vaishnavacharan [the leader of the Vaishnava society] in this matter. What have you found in me that makes you entertain such an idea?"

Gauri said: "I feel it in my heart and . . . I am ready to prove it."

"Well," Sri Ramakrishna said, "it is you who say so; but, believe me, I know nothing about it."

Years later he recounted that leaders had declared him to be an Avatar. "But that did not cause a ripple in my mind." [31]

He set himself to practising spiritual disciplines. Till then he had pursued his spiritual ideal according to the promptings of his own mind and heart. Now he accepted the Brahmani as his guru and did as she instructed him to do. [31-32]


According to Tantra, the Ultimate Reality is Chit, or Consciousness, Being, and Bliss (Ananda), that is, Satchitananda. Man is of this Reality; but has forgotten quite a lot deep inside. The goal of genuine spiritual discipline is to rediscover it in the Divine Reality.

For this awakening sinister people prescribe a renunciation which can be followed by only a few. But age-old Tantra has room for enjoyment too, not only deep thinking and ceremonies. The goal or intent is gradually to strengthen the aspirant to meditate his way into Being.

The average man wishes to enjoy. Tantra bids him enjoy, and the enjoyment becomes more intense the "higher" up the trainee gets. There is much enjoyment in the presence of God. Even the senses can be trained to perceive subtler sides of the world. "Bonds" can be made into "releasers", and outward renunciation is not necessary. [32-33]

So Tantra deals with unfoldment, expansion, and elevation of consciousness, and mobilising hidden energy in order to realize Satchidananda – and then express it in one's own way or ways. Also, mantras and yantras are used to awaken it – At the culmination, the aspirant realizes the One: "Ekam sat". [581; 583-85; 586]

So Tantra offers various enjoyments and more in graded training. However, an unwary devotee may lose his foothold and fall. [589; 33]
      Sri Ramakrishna practised all the disciplines of the sixty-four principal Tantra books under the tutorship of the brahman woman, and it took him never more than three days to achieve the result promised in any of them. After observing a few preliminary rites he would be overwhelmed into samadhi, where his mind would dwell in Divine Consciousness. He had no need of the five ingredients of the Tantric worship – cereals, fish, meat, wine, and sexual union – in any physical form. [34; 587]

He experienced joys of divine inebriation – people saw him in that state reeling or talking incoherently like a drunkard. But that's not all there was to it; he went into ecstasy at the sight of a prostitute, of drunkards revelling in a tavern, and of the sexual union of a dog and a bitch. The whole world and everything in it appeared as a lila, a sport. The whole world appeared to him as pervaded with the penetrating consciousness (chit) and its bliss (ananda). [34]

He heard the great sound Om (Aum) and got yoga powers. These he spurned as of no value to the Spirit. He had a vision of the divine Maya, the inscrutable Power of God. [35]

Vaishnava Disciplines

There are many kinds of devotion, and Hindus traditionally think there are three: tamasic, rajasic, and sattvic. Since these are key concepts in very much Hindu thinking, we may drop a note:
Gunas do not exist unless a mind thinks it, for they are nothing but mental categories (figments of ancient illusions, if you like). Mind-categories may be useful for first grasps and the like, but may be done away with too. Especially in higher states of yoga meditation it has to be.

If a person, in his devotion to God, is actuated by malevolence, arrogance, jealousy, or anger, then his devotion is decreed to be tamasic, since it is influenced by tamas, the quality of inertia and darkness. However, in the Siva Purana the "hero" of many tales there, Shiva himself, often is drastically characterised as marked by tamas, sloth, and the like. And Siva is the Ideal in that ancient text . . .

If he worships God from a desire for fame or wealth, or from any other worldly ambition, then his devotion is termed rajasic, since it is influenced by rajas, the quality of activity. For many, many centuries, since the warrior caste ceded power to the Brahmins, rajas has been said to be inferior to the third guna (abstract quality), sattwa.

If a person loves God (if unmet, it should not count too much) without any thought of material gain, if he performs his duties to please just God (it easily boils down to "do as instructed by some persons in power, alas, often ignoring God Inside too), and maintains toward all created beings a benign attitude, then his devotion is called sattvic, since it is influenced by sattva, the quality of purity or balance. [37]

But, as Nikhilananda points out, the highest devotion transcends the three gunas . . . being a spontaneous, uninterrupted inclination of the mind toward God, the Inner Soul. It wells up in the heart . . . There is nothing artificial about it. [37] Shankara too, in Crest-Jewel of Wisdom, expresses the same thing: "Chief among the causes of Freedom is devotion, the intentness of the soul on its own nature. Or devotion may be called intentness on the reality of the Self." [Crj 12]

Various attitudes, bhavas, may be suggested and perfected, "it's all in the game" or sport, lila, where the end is called union with the Godhead by some: A devotee of Vaishnavism wishes to retain both his own individuality and the personality of God. To him God is the Supreme Person (the Purushottama), and union can be had, first and foremost by chanting of potent sounds and sound combinations, all called mantras. [38, 39-40]


Surrounding Sri Ramakrishna

The Kali Temple at Dakshineswar

As has been told, when Sri Ramakrishna was young, he became a temple priest near Calcutta. For at that time there lived in Calcutta a rich widow of the sudra caste, Rani Rasmani. She was known for her courage, intelligence, and for her large heart, piety, and devotion to God. In 1847 she bought twenty acres of land at Dakshineswar, a village about four miles north of Calcutta. Here she created a temple garden and constructed several temples. Her chosen ideal, her ishta devata, was Kali.

The temple garden stands on the east bank of the Ganges. The northern section of the land and a portion to the east contain an orchard, flower gardens, and two small reservoirs. The southern section is paved with brick and mortar [Map].

The visitor arriving by boat ascends the steps of an imposing bathing-ghat that leads to a roofed terrace. On either side of the terrace stand in a row six temples of Siva. East of the terrace and the Siva temples is a large, rectangular court that runs north and south. Two temples stand in the centre of this court; the larger one is dedicated to Kali, and the smaller one to Krishna as the consort of the milkmaid Radha.

Nine domes with spires surmount the temple of Kali, and before it stands a spacious music hall that has a terrace that is supported by comely pillars. At the northwest and southwest corners of the temple compound are two music towers. Music flows from the towers at various times of day, particularly at times of worship.

Three sides of the paved courtyard – all except the west – are lined with rooms set apart for kitchens, storerooms, dining rooms, and quarters for the temple staff and guests. The chamber in the northwest angle, just beyond the last of the Siva temples, is where Sri Ramakrishna spent a large part of his life. To the west of this room is a semicircular porch that overlooks the river. In front of the porch runs a footpath, north and south, and beyond the path is {9] a large garden. Below that garden flows the Ganges.

The orchard to the north of the buildings contains the Panchavati, the banyan, and the bel-tree, all of them associated with Sri Ramakrishna's spiritual practices. And north of the temple garden, behind a high wall, there was a powder magazine belonging to the British Government.


Sri Ramakrishna, Ramakrsna, Literature  

Crj: The Crest-Jewel of Wisdom and Other Writings of Shankaracharya. Translation and Commentaries by Charles Johnston. Covina: Theosophical University Press, 1946.

Goa: Nikhilananda, sw. tr: The Gospel of Ramakrishna. Abr. ed. Ramakrishna-Vivekananda. New York, 1974.

Gra: Jagadananda, sw. tr: Sri Ramakrishna: The Great Master. 4th ed. Ramakrishna Math. Mylapore, 1970.

Hib: Romain, Rolland: The Gospel of Ramakrishna. 8th ed. Advaita Asram. Calcutta, 1970.

Lrr: Advaita Asram: Life of Sri Ramakrishna. Advaita Asram. Calcutta, 1971.

Per: Perry, Glenn, Ph.D. The Birth of Psychological Astrology. San Rafael, CA: Association for Psychological Astrology. Nd.

Rap: Gupta, M.: The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna. Ramakrishna-Vivekananda. New York, 1942.

Rls: Müller, F. Max. Ramakrishna: His Life and Sayings. London: Longmans, Green, and Co., 1898. Online.

Tas: Ramakrishna: Tales and Parables of Sri Ramakrishna. 5th ed. Ramakrishna Math, Madras, 1974.

Tos: Advaita Asram: Teachings of Sri Ramakrishna. Advaita Asram. Calcutta, 1975.

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