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Ramakrishna Lessons

The main lessons relate to:

  • His inmost nature. "What you are often outweighs things you do," is a faint reminder of it. Vivekananda insists on that too. It is also true that "it takes one to know one".
  • His life style. How someone lives, tends to show primary values, or at the very least the enforced values. Ramakrishna adopted the life style of a renouncer, but as such he was well funded (by Mathur and others), married, and much served by others too.
  • Various deeds. Deeds or doings talk. Often deeds show more of a man than mere words will. Humdrum deeds can tell more than special deeds, as what is done regularly tends to occupy the most time. Ramakrishna served in a temple, and meditated a lot.
  • His teachings. They may be graded and suited to different persons, different conditions.

The first three levels of his lessons are said to show up in an expertly cast horoscope; that is an interesting tenet. And biographical surveys can be used to study horoscope tenets, accordingly. Ramakrishna did not invalidate astrology or horoscopes, but there is more to life than that.

Below there is an ample array of Ramakrishna lessons.

In Communion with Krishna and his consort Radha

At one time, one with Radha, he manifested the great ecstatic love, the mahabhava, which had found in her its fullest expression. [Nikhilananda 1974, 42)

Ramakrishna said later: "The manifestation in a man of the nineteen different kinds of emotion for God is called, in the books of bhakti, mahabhava. An ordinary man takes a whole lifetime to express even a single one of these. But in this body [meaning himself] there has been a complete manifestation of all nineteen." (Ib., 42)

Ramakrishna experienced the resplendent vision of Krishna. The enchanting form of Krishna appeared to him and merged in his person. He became Krishna; he totally forgot his own individuality and the world; he saw Krishna in himself and in the universe. Thus he attained to the fulfilment of the worship of the Personal God of Vaishnavism, or Vishnu-centred Hinduism. (Ib., 42-43)


After three years of tender Brahmani instructions, Ramakrishna came to follow the command of another guru. It was a teacher with masculine strength - a wandering monk named Totapuri. Ramakrishna addressed him affectionately as Nangta, the "Naked One". (Ib., 43)

Totapuri was adjusted to Non-dualistic Vedanta, whose conclusions he had experienced in his own life. In Real Existence, he taught, there is no time, no space, no causality, and no multiplicity. But through an inscrutable Power, some time, space, and causality are projected, and the One appears as many. And even the vision of a Personal God is termed illusory (Ib., 44)

Vedanta's goal is to dehypnotize the soul and to that end what is taught or thought to be unreal is renounced. It is the path of negation of everything relative [often forgetting negating the negation process, it can be assumed.) (Ib., 44)

The domain of duality is transcended as Great Bliss of Pure Being sweeps across. There shines in the heart the glory of the Eternal Godhead, also called Brahman or Felicity-Existence. (Ib., 45)

The joy of Brahman wells up in the heart as a superconscious token. (Ib., 45) This speeds up evolution. As a result:

  • The sane man does not mull over-much over the past. (Cf. ib., 45)
  • The man of attainments may or may not react in full conformity to certain extraneous pleasures (Ib., 45)
  • The advanced man can remain unmoved whether his appearance is worshipped by the good or tormented by the wicked; if inside he realizes that it is the one Brahman that manifests (Ib., 46)

The impact of attaining to Great Bliss devastates too. Consciousness may become "blown out" afterwards for a quarter of an hour or more, and one may look inebriated, and so on. (Ib., 46)

In the Vedantic books it is further stated that after the experience of nirvikalpa samadhi the body drops off. If so, someone dies. Only those who are born with a special mission can live on after the Great Bliss attainment. If they do, they are supposed to do so for a deep, deep reason. (Ib., 46)


Totapuri arrived at the Dakshineswar temple garden toward the end of 1864. He claimed the world was an illusion, and that prayers were meaningless. After forty years of training he had realized his identity with the Absolute. From then on he roamed in the world clad in a loincloth. (Ib., 46)

On a journey along the bank of the Ganges he stopped at Dakshineswar. He discovered at once that Ramakrishna was fit be a student of Vedanta, and asked to initiate him. Ramakrishna agreed, and to get the teachings he "renounced the world" - in secret. "Renouncing the world" means regulating one's life in some ways. (Ib., 47)

One day, in the small hours of the morning, a fire was lighted, and Totapuri and Ramakrishna sat before it. The rites completed, Ramakrishna was given the loincloth and ochre robe. They were emblems of renunciation. (Ib., 47)

Main Maxims of Vedanta

"Brahman," Totapuri declared in the realm of maya, "is ever free. Whatever is within the domain of maya is unreal [Such a deep trick -]. Dive deep in search of the Self and find the world of name and form vanishing in Being-Consciousness-Bliss." (Ib., 48)

Totapuri: "Much limited knowledge is not felicity-knowledge. But the Knowledge by which one sees no other or hears no other or knows no other, which is beyond duality, is infinite and great, and through such Knowledge one attains limitless Bliss. How can the mind and senses grasp That which shines in the heart . . .?" (Ib., 48)

Totapuri asked the disciple to withdraw his mind from all things and to focus on the Absolute. But the task was not easy: Ramakrishna found it impossible to take his mind beyond Divine Mother.

"After the initiation," Ramakrishna said, "Nangta asked me to withdraw the mind completely from all objects and dive deep . . . But . . . I could not altogether cross the realm of name and form and bring my mind to the unconditioned state. I had no difficulty in taking the mind from all the objects of the world. But the radiant and all too familiar figure of the Blissful Mother . . . appeared before me as a living reality [and] prevented me from passing into the Great Beyond . . She stood in my way . . . In despair I said: "It is hopeless. I cannot raise my mind . . . and come face to face with Atman."

Totapuri grew excited and sharply said: "What? you have to."

Then with stern determination I again sat to meditate. [When] Divine Mother appeared before me, I used my discrimination as a sword and with it clove her in two. The last barrier fell. My spirit at once soared beyond . . . I lost myself".

Ramakrishna sat in three days an Regained there. (Ib., 49)

"Is it really true?" Totapuri cried out. "Is it possible that he has attained in a single day what it took me forty years of strenuous practice to achieve?" (Ib., 49-50)

Kali and Maya

The orthodox Hindu monk Totapuri did not believe in Kali. He ridiculed the spending of emotion on the worship of a Personal God. (Nikhilananda 1974, 50)

Ramakrishna, on the other hand, did not slight maya, but acknowledged its power. He was all love and reverence for maya, perceiving in it a mysterious and majestic expression of Divinity. To him maya itself was God and one of the "faces" (testimonies, vitnesbörd) of Brahman. What he had realized on the heights of the transcendental plane, he also found about him, and he recognized the glory of the Divine Immanence. Maya, the mighty weaver of the relative world, is Divine Sakti (prowess), She also "spins" the universe, and is identical with the Brahman of Vedanta and with the Atman of Yoga. She makes and unmakes laws. (Ib., 50-51)

After the great attainment (nirvikalpa samadhi), Ramakrishna realized maya in a new role. The world became the glorious manifestation of Maya, and he saw Maya as Brahman. Ramakrishna discovered that maya operates in the relative world in two ways and he termed these "ignorance-meting" (avidyamaya) and "knowledge-meting" (vidyamaya). Avidyamaya represents such as sensuous desires, greed, lust, and so on. It sustains the world system. Vidyamaya on the other hand stands for certain higher virtues, like purity, and so on. Maya can help a man to higher, transcendent consciousness: Rid of avidya (dark ignorance), he "shines" through, we may say. (Ib., 51-52)

The Brahman-Sakti asked Ramakrishna to remain in bhavamukha, on the threshold of absolute consciousness. He gently oscillated and bridged the gulf between the Personal and the Impersonal, the immanent and the transcendent aspects of Reality. (Ib., 52)

Totapuri's Lesson

One day Totapuri flew into a rage when a servant of the temple garden took a live coal from a holy fire in order to light his tobacco. Totapuri was about to beat the man for it when Ramakrishna rocked with laughter and cried, "What a shame! You are explaining to me the reality of Brahman and the illusoriness of the world; yet now you have so far forgotten yourself as to be about to beat a man in a fit of passion." Totapuri was embarrassed. (Ib., 53)

About this time Totapuri was laid up with a severe attack of dysentery. Because of this miserable illness it was impossible for him to meditate. One night, when the pain became intense, he became so incensed that he decided to drown himself. So he walked into the Ganges and walked across to the other bank. Dumbfounded he looked back. The trees, the temples, the houses, stood out against the sky. Suddenly he saw on all sides the Divine Mother in everything as everything - (Ib., 53)

According to another version there was a sand-bank in the middle of the river, which one could reach by wading out during the ebb tide, and it was this sand-bank he reached.

Totapuri returned to Dakshineswar and spent the remaining hours of the night meditating on the Divine Mother. He now realized why he had spent eleven months at Dakshineswar and went on his way, enlightened - more enlightened than when he arrived as an enlightened one. (Ib., 54)

Ramakrishna later described: "The Supreme Being as inactive [is called] Brahman or Purusha, the Impersonal God. [But] as active - creating, preserving, and destroying - I call Him Sakti or Maya or Prakriti, the Personal God. But the distinction between them does not mean a difference. The Personal and the Impersonal are the same thing . . . The Divine Mother and Brahman are one." (Ib., 54)

Ramakrishna said after Totapuri left, "For six months at a stretch I remained in that state from which ordinary men can never return; generally the body falls off, after three weeks, like a sere leaf. I was not conscious of day or night." (Ib., 54-55)

His body would not have survived but for the kindly attention of a monk who happened to be at Dakshineswar at that time and who would push a few morsels of food down Ramakrishna's throat now and then. Ramakrishna got afflicted with a serious attack of dysentery. Day and night the pain tortured him, and his mind gradually came down. (Ib., 55)

Company of Holy Men and Devotees

From now on Ramakrishna began to seek the company of devotees and holy men. And monks and holy men from many parts of India were attracted to Dakshineswar. (Ib., 55)

People flocked. Ascetics and visionaries came to seek Ramakrishna's advice. Vaishnavas had come during the period of his Vaishnava sadhana, and Tantrics when he had practised the disciplines of Tantra. Vedantists began to arrive after Totapuri's departure. In the room of Ramakrishna, who was then in bed with dysentery, the Vedantists engaged in scriptural discussions, and, forgetting his own physical suffering, he solved their doubts by referring directly to his own experiences. (Ib., 56)

From visitors Ramakrishna learnt anecdotes about the ways and conduct of holy men, and he in turn told them to devotees and disciples. He had not read books, yet he had an encyclopaedic knowledge from his contacts with very many holy men and scholars. He also had a unique power of assimilation; through meditation he made this knowledge a part of his being. (Ib., 56)

Once, when he was asked by a disciple about the source of his vast knowledge, he replied: "I did not read books; but I heard the learned. I made a garland of their knowledge, wearing it round my neck . . ." (Ib., 56)

The Knowledge of Brahman had convinced Ramakrishna that the Ultimate Reality could never be expressed by human tongue. Now he became eager to explore some of the alien religions; for the sake of experience. (Ib., 57-58)


Toward the end of 1866 the Master began to practise the disciplines of Islam. He dressed as a Mussalman and his prayers took the form of the Islamic devotions. He started to live outside the temple precincts. After three days he saw the vision of a radiant figure, perhaps Mohammed. This figure gently approached him and finally lost himself in Ramakrishna. Thus he realized the Mussalman God. From there he passed into communion with Brahman. (Ib., 58)


Eight years later, in November 1874, Ramakrishna began to listen to readings from the Bible by a gentleman of Calcutta who was a devotee of his. Ramakrishna became fascinated by the life and teachings of Jesus. One day his eyes became fixed on a painting of the Madonna and Child. Watching it, he became gradually overwhelmed with emotion. The figures in the picture took on life, and the rays of light emanating from them entered his soul. The effect was stronger than that of the vision of Mohammed. In dismay he cried out, "What are you doing to me?" For three days he did not set foot in the Kali temple. On the fourth day he saw coming toward him a person with large eyes and fair skin. As the two faced each other, a voice rang out: "Behold the Christ (etc.)" (Ib., 59)

Jesus too merged in him, and Ramakrishna realized his identity with Christ, as formerly with Kali, Rama, Hanuman, Radha, Krishna, Brahman, and Mohammed, and went into samadhi. Thus he came to believe that Christ was an Incarnation of God. But Christ was not the only Incarnation for him; there were others, such as Krishna. (Ib., 59)

Attitude toward Different Religions

Ramakrishna accepted the divinity of Buddha and used to point out the similarity of his teachings and those of the Upanishads. [60)

Without being initiated into many different doctrines, Ramakrishna did not need to follow any doctrine. But he spoke thus the ideas and ideals of the various religions of the world. "I have practised," said he, "all religions - Hinduism, Islam, Christianity - and I have also followed the paths of the different Hindu sects. I have found that it is the same God toward whom all are directing their steps. (Ib., 60)

"After each of these sadhanas, Ramakrishna claimed to have had the same experience of Brahman, the supreme power, or ultimate reality, of the universe." [EB, "Ramakrishna")

In 1867 Ramakrishna returned to Kamarpukur to recuperate from the effect of his austerities. The peaceful countryside, the simple and artless companions, and the pure air did him much good. (Ib., 61)

His fourteen years old wife, Sarada Devi, soon arrived. The Master accepted her as his disciple and as his spiritual companion. Referring to the experiences then, she once said: "I felt always as if a pitcher full of bliss were placed in my heart. The joy was indescribable." (Ib., 61-62)


After a famine, Ramakrishna asked his rich patron Mathur Babu to remit the rents of his poor tenants, distribute help to them, and in addition give the hungry people a sumptuous feast. When Mathur grumbled, the Master said: "You are only the steward . . . spend the Mother's money." Mathur had to give in. (Ib., 62)

Ramakrishna visited Vrindavan and Mathura, hallowed by the legends, songs, and dramas about Krishna and the gopis. Here he had lots of visions and his heart overflowed. He wept and said: "O Krishna! Everything here is as it was in the olden days. You alone are absent." (Ib., 63)

Later, near the close of his life, he said to his disciple Narendra, "He who was Rama and Krishna is now, in this body, Ramakrishna - but not in your Vedantic sense." What can you make out of that? (Ib., 115)
From Vrindavan the Master had brought a handful of dust. Part of it he buried in the little hut where he had practised meditation.

Relation With His Wife

When Sarada Devi arrived at Dashineswar eighteen years old, the Master said sorrowfully: "Ah! You have come too late." Mathur had passed away the year before. (Ib., 65)

Totapuri had once remarked: "He alone has attained the supreme illumination who can look on man and woman alike . . . A man who discriminates about sex may be a good aspirant, but still far from the goal." (Ib., 65)

Ramakrishna realized the significance of the great statement of the Upanishad: "O Lord, you are the woman, you are the man; you are the boy, you are the girl; you are the old, tottering on their crutches. You pervade the universe in its multiple forms."

By his marriage Ramakrishna admitted the great value of marriage in man's spiritual evolution.

The Ego of the Master

In the nirvikalpa samadhi Ramakrishna had realized that Brahman alone is real and the world is illusory, even though his teachings were that the Ultimate cannot be described, so that terms will deceive, no matter what. By keeping his mind six months on the plane of the . . . (non-dual Brahman), he had attained to the state of the vijnani, the knower of . . . (often called Truth) in a special and very rich sense, who sees . . . (nameless, also termed Brahman) not only in himself and in the . . . (unspeakable, also called transcendental Absolute),

As a matter of fact, sometimes, bereft of body-consciousness, he would regard himself as one with Brahman; sometimes, conscious of the dual world, he would regard himself as God's devotee, servant, or child.

We can say that illumined by Divine Knowledge the "ripe ego" deals with the world and one's wife. (Ib., 67)

Ramakrishna's wife, Sarada Devi, had rare spiritual experiences in his company. She said: "There was such an extraordinary divine presence in him that now and then I would shake with fear". (Ib., 67)

As a result of his supersensuous experiences he reached certain conclusions regarding himself, and these are some of them: (Ib., 68)

  • He was an Incarnation of God, a specially commissioned person, whose spiritual experiences (Ib., 68)
  • He had always been a free soul (and) the terms liberation and bondage were not applicable (Ib., 68)
  • He had followed all the main paths and all had led him to the . . . (it cannot be termed, remember). He was . . . to preach the harmony of religions. (Ib., 69)
  • The three Vedanta modulations of thought known as Dualism, Qualified Non-dualism, and Absolute Nondualism - Dvaita, Visishtadvaita, and Advaita - he perceived to represent three stages in man's progress . . . They complemented one another and were suited to different temperaments. (Ib., 69)

Two Movements

Keshab Chandra Sen founded centres of the Brahmo Samaj in various parts of the country. (Ib., 72) One immediate effect of the Brahmo movement in Bengal was the checking of the proselytizing activities of the Christian missionaries. (Ib., 73-74)

The other significant religious movement of the nineteenth-century religious revival of India was the Arya Samaj. The Brahmo Samaj, essentially a movement of compromise with European culture, tacitly admitted the superiority of the West. But the founder of the Arya Samaj was a pugnacious Hindu, Swami Dayananda (1824-1883), who was resolved to combat all foreign influence in India. He launched this movement in Bombay in 1875. It was a dogmatic movement, however, and intolerant of those who disagreed with its views. (Ib., 74-75)

Keshab Chandra Sen

Keshab Chandra Sen and Ramakrishna became friends. (Ib., 75-76)

When they first met, Ramakrishna was dressed in a red-bordered dhoti; one end of it was carelessly thrown over his left shoulder. He came to Jaygopal's garden house accompanied by Hriday, and no one took notice. Finally he said to Keshab, (Ib., 76)

"People tell me you have seen God; so I have come to hear from you about God." (Ib., 76)

Then Ramakrishna sang a song and went into samadhi. When Hriday uttered the sacred "Om" in his ears, he gradually came back to normal consciousness, his face radiating. Keshab and his followers were charmed. (Ib., 76)

Ramakrishna's eyes were illumined with an inner light. Good humour gleamed in his eyes and his speech was of a homely kind with a slight, delightful stammer. He held men enthralled by his wealth of spiritual experience, his inexhaustible store of simile and metaphor, his power of observation, his bright and subtle humour, his wonderful catholicity, and his ceaseless flow of wisdom. (Ib., 76-77)

And Keshab's sincerity was enough for Ramakrishna. (Ib., 77)

Gradually other Brahmo leaders began to feel Ramakrishna's influence. But they were by no means uncritical admirers. Some could not understand his samadhi and described it as a nervous malady. Yet his magnetic personality appealed to them.

The Brahmo leaders received much inspiration from their contact. Ramakrishna told them about his own realizations and explained to them the essence of his teachings, such as the necessity of sincerity. (Ib., 77-78)

This contact with the educated and progressive Bengalis opened Ramakrishna's eyes to a new realm of thought. Instructed and taught orally by a brahmin yogini and various orthodox holy men of India in religious life, he had not much formal education. (Ib., 78)

From the Brahmos he learnt that the new generation of India made a compromise between God and the world. But Ramakrishna was not dismayed, for he saw in this, too, the hand of God. (Ib., 78)

He bade the Brahmos accept from his teachings only as much as suited their tastes and temperaments. (Ib., 78)

The Master's Yearning For His Own Devotees

Contact with the Brahmos increased Ramakrishna's longing to meet aspirants who would be able to follow his inmost, heartfelt teachings. "There was no limit," he once declared, "to the longing I felt at that time." (Ib., 78-79)

Shortly after this period of yearning the devotees began to arrive. A devotee of Ramakrishna is one who is devoted to Ramakrishna and follows his teachings, and the word "disciple," when used in connexion with Ramakrishna, refers to one who had been initiated into spiritual life by Ramakrishna and who regarded him as his guru. (Ib., 79, 79n)

Vagabonds, philanthropists and self-seekers, dramatists and drunkards, builders-up and pullers-down, he gave to them all, without stint, from his great store of realization. No one went away empty-handed. He taught them the lofty knowledge of the Vedanta and the soul-melting love of the Purana. Twenty hours out of twenty-four he would speak without rest as he sat on his bed talking to the devotees. (Ib., 80)

"Ramakrishna . . . His mouth was open over his white teeth in a bewitching smile, at once affectionate and mischievous . . . extremely delicate," recalls the French savant Romain Rolland in his books The Life of Ramakrishna (1970, 64). (Ib., 80)

The Gardener Way of Influencing Others

Ramakrishna was like an expert gardener, who, after preparing the soil and removing the weeds, plants his seeds, knowing that the plants will grow because of the inherent power of the seeds, producing each its appropriate flowers and fruits, writes Nikhilananda. (Ib., 81)

He understood people's limitations and worked on the principle that what is good for one may be bad for another. He had the unusual power of knowing the devotees' inmost hearts at first sight. (Ib., 81)

A friend, companion, and playmate - even the chores of religious discipline would be lightened in his presence. His presence was a great teaching; words were superfluous. In later years his disciples remarked that while they were with him they would regard him as a comrade, but afterwards would tremble to think of their frivolities. (Ib., 82)

Through all this fun and frolic Ramakrishna permitted no compromise with the basic principles of purity. (Ib., 82)

Householder Devotees

For the householders Ramakrishna did not prescribe the hard path of total renunciation. Their renunciation was to be mental. (Ib., 82)

He encouraged the householders, saying that their life was, in a way, easier than that of the monk. He asked them to perform their worldly duties with one hand, while holding to God with the other, and to pray to God to make their duties fewer and fewer. And he would discourage any lukewarmness in their spiritual struggles. (Ib., 83)

Mahendra or M

Mahendranath Gupta, also known as just "M," arrived at Dakshineswar in February 1882. He belonged to the Brahmo Samaj and was a headmaster of a school in Calcutta. At the first sight Ramakrishna recognized him as one of his "marked" disciples. Mahendra recorded in his diary Ramakrishna's conversations with his devotees - directly recorded words. That makes them quite unique. (Ib., 84)

Nag Mahashay

Ramakrishna asked Nag to live in the wood in the spirit of a monk, and the disciple truly carried out this injunction. A man of the medical profession, (Ib., 85)

Nag received every word of Ramakrishna in dead earnest. One day Nag heard him saying that it was difficult for doctors, lawyers, and brokers to make much progress in spirituality. Of doctors he said, "If the mind clings to the tiny drops of medicine, how can it conceive of the Infinite?"* On this, Nag threw his chest of homoeopathic medicines into the Ganges. Ramakrishna assured him that he would not lack simple food and clothing. (Ib., 85)

* Here is an answer by the English, Romantic poet William Blake (1757-1827): To see a World in a Grain of Sand / And a Heaven in a Wild Flower, / Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand / And Eternity in an hour.

Girish Ghosh

Girish Chandra Ghosh was a Bohemian drunkard; the greatest Bengali actor and dramatist of his time. A series of reverses shocked him and he became eager to solve the riddle of life. (Ib., 86)

One day Ramakrishna was about to give him spiritual instruction, when Girish said: "I don't want to listen to instructions. I have myself written many instructions . . . Please help me . . ." This pleased the Master and as time passed, Girish began to learn that the guru was the one who silently unfolded the disciple's inner life. (Ib., 87)

"All right, give me your power of attorney," said Ramakrishna. "From now on I assume responsibility for you. You need not do anything." Girish heaved a sigh of relief. Ramakrishna had assumed his spiritual responsibilities. (Ib., 87)

How It Was

The householder devotees generally visited Ramakrishna on Sunday afternoons and other holidays. Thus a brotherhood was gradually formed. He would go into trances or open his heart in religious discourses and while narrating his own spiritual experiences. (Ib., 88)

Ramakrishna also became acquainted with a number of people whose scholarship or wealth entitled them everywhere to respect, but a pundit without discrimination he regarded as a mere straw. He would search people's hearts for the light of God, and if that was missing he would have nothing to do with them. (Ib., 88)

Ramakrishna to a prominent man: "Have you seen those tiny crabs that are born in the Ganges just when the rains set in? In this big universe you are even less significant than one of those small creatures. How dare you talk of helping the world? . . . You haven't the power in you to do it." (Ib., 89)

Ramakrishna mistrusted philanthropy that presumed to pose as charity. He warned people against it and its vanities [show-offs]. Often it was a barren excitement to kill the boredom of life, or an attempt to soothe a guilty conscience. (Ib., 90)

Future Monks

Ramakrishna selected his future monks from young men untouched by "woman" and "gold" (catchwords for "lust and greed") and plastic enough to be cast in his spiritual mould. Among these the two outstanding disciples were Narendra and Rakhal. (Ib., 90)

RAKHAL: Before Rakhal came to Dakshineswar, the Master had had visions of him as his spiritual son. Rakhal was born of wealthy parents. During his childhood he used to play at revering gods and goddesses. In his teens he was married. His father objected to his association with Ramakrishna but was afterwards reassured to find that many celebrated people were visitors at Dakshineswar. Ramakrishna allowed Rakhal many liberties denied to others. But he would not hesitate to chastise the boy for improper actions. (Ib., 90-91)

NARENDRA: Ramakrishna needed a strong instrument. Such an instrument was his beloved Naren, Narendranath Dutta, later known as Swami Vivekananda. Before meeting Narendranath, the Master had seen him as a sage in a vision where he had asked him to come and help him. (Ib., 92)

Narendra had great physical courage and presence of mind. He also acquired proficiency in such as history, and literature. He grew up into a robust and handsome young man according to Indian standards. (Ib., 92)

He came to Ramakrishna at Dakshineswar in a state of mental conflict and soul torture, and was eighteen. Those problems had to be solved before he could help others very much. When he came, he had been in college for two years. Ramakrishna said: "Ah! You have come very late. Why have you been so unkind as to make me wait all these days?" He talked thus, sobbing all the time. (Ib., 93)

Narendra was startled. However, when he heard the Master speaking to others, he was surprised to find an inner logic in his words, a striking sincerity. And in answer to Narendra's question, "Sir, have you seen God?" the Master said: "Yes, I have seen God. I have seen Him more tangibly than I see you. I have talked to Him more intimately than I am talking to you." (Ib., 94)

During his second visit, suddenly, at the touch of the Master, Narendra felt overwhelmed and saw the walls of the room and everything around him whirling and disappearing. "What are you doing to me?" he cried in terror. With a laugh the Master easily restored him. Narendra thought he might have been hypnotized, but he could not understand how a monomaniac could cast a spell over the mind of a strong person like himself. (Ib., 94-95)

During his third visit Narendra lost consciousness completely at the Master's touch. Then Ramakrishna came to know that Narendra was a sage who had already attained perfection [as we call it]. (Ib., 95)

Narendra's integrity was beyond question, and Ramakrishna was grateful for one who doubted his realizations. (Ib., 95, 96)

But then again, there was another side to that. "You rogue," said Ramakrishna to Narenda, "I don't listen to you . . . I love you because I see God in you, and the day I no longer see God in you I shall not be able to bear even the sight of you." (Ib., 96)

One day at the temple garden Narendra laughingly said to a friend: "This jug is God! This cup is God! Whatever we see is God! And we too are God! . . ." Ramakrishna came out of his room and gently touched him. Right there Narendra perceived that a new universe opened around him. Returning home in a dazed state, he found there too that the food, the plate, the eater himself, the people around him, were all God. . . . He saw that the cabs, the horses, the streams of people, the buildings, were all Brahman. He could hardly go about his day's business. (Ib., 96)

His parents became anxious about him. And when the intensity of the experience abated a little, he saw the world as a dream. Walking in the public square, he would strike his head against the iron fences to know whether they were real. It took him a number of days to recover his normal self, and began to talk of his doubt about the very existence of God. It is weritten that his friends then piously [oh, is that so?] circulated gossip adducing unmentionable motives for his unbelief. His moral character was maligned. Even some of the Master's disciples partly believed the gossip, and Narendra told these to their faces that only a coward believed in God through fear of suffering or hell. (Ib., 97)

But Ramakrishna did not lose faith in him. He said about the rumours: "The Mother has told me it can never be so." (Ib., 97-98)

The Master knew what came into Narendra's mind and wept. "I know you cannot lead a worldly life," he said, "but for my sake live in the world as long as I live." (Ib., 98)

One day, soon after, Narendra asked Ramakrishna to pray to remove his poverty. Ramakrishna bade him do it himself. Narendra entered the shrine of Kali and prayed only for knowledge and renunciation, love and liberation. [He had not in mind to pray for renunciation of renunciation - the truly great renunciation according to the Avadhut Gita 4;21] (Ib., 98)

The master rebuked him for this failure and sent him back to the temple. Narendra again forgot why he had come there. (Ib., 98-99)

Three times he went to the temple at the bidding of Ramakrishna, and three times he returned, having forgotten why he had come. He was wondering about it when it suddenly occurred to him that this was all the work of Ramakrishna; so now he asked the Master himself to remove his poverty, and was assured that his family would not lack simple food and clothing. (Ib., 99)

Narendra would say: "From the time he met me, Ramakrishna was the only person who believed in me uniformly throughout." (Ib., 99)

OTHER FUTURE MONKS: All of the Master's monastic disciples were in their teens or slightly over. They came from middle-class Bengali families, and most of them were students in school or college. (Ib., 99-100)

Later each according to his measure reflected the life of the Master. (Ib., 100)

Women Devotees

Unsurpassed among the women devotees of the Master was an orthodox brahmin woman who used to worship the Baby Krishna (Gopala). Early one morning she was meditating in her hut when Baby Krishna, her Ideal Deity, appeared before her, sat on her lap, and began to move all about the room. At daybreak she hastened to Dakshineswar, carrying Baby Krishna in her arms. She found the Master absorbed in deep samadhi and Baby Krishna frequently entering his body and coming out of it. She was steeped in bliss and returned to her hut in a dazed condition. (Ib., 101)

Ramakrishna spoke highly of her and said that such a vision was a rare thing. The fun-loving guru one day confronted the critical Narendranath with this woman and asked the sixty years old lady to narrate her experiences to Narendra. As Narendra listened to the story he was profoundly moved. (Ib., 102)

The March of Events

During the week-ends the householders, enjoying a respite from their office duties, visited Ramakrishna. He and the devotees sang and danced, and he often went into ecstatic moods. (Ib., 103)

Those whom the Master wanted for special instruction he would ask to visit him on Tuesdays and Saturdays. (Ib., 103)

The young disciples destined to be monks, Ramakrishna invited on weekdays. Since his biographer M generally visited the Master on weekends, the Gospel of Ramakrishna does not contain much mention of the future monastic disciples. (Ib., 103)

About the book:

Notably, Ramakrishna's teachings are preserved in Mahendranath Gupta's five-volume Bengali classic The Nectar-Speech of the Twice-Blessed Ramakrishna, best known to English readers as Gospel of Ramakrishna, a remarkable text based on conversations with Ramakrishna from 1882 to 1886. (EB, "Ramakrishna")

The Encyclopedia Britannica also says "he became famous for his pithy parables about the ultimate unity of the different religious traditions". The biography that M. wrote, contains many such parables. The book Tales and Parables of Ramakrishna is a good collection. (Ramakrishna 1974)

Injury to the Master's Arm

One day in January 1884 the Master went by himself toward the pine-grove, when he went into a trance. He fell to the ground and dislocated a bone in his left arm. The acute pain in the arm forced his mind to dwell on the body and on the world outside. With his mind compelled to dwell on the physical plane, he realized more than ever that he was an instrument in the hand of the Divine. (Ib., 103-4)

"Don't make me unconscious through the Knowledge of Brahman. Don't give me . . . the Knowledge of Brahman! Give it to those who want it," he said to God. (Ib., 104)

He prayed: "O . . . let me remain in contact with men! Don't make me a dried-up ascetic." (Ib., 104)

He would make fun of people who proclaimed him as a Divine Incarnation, by pointing to his broken arm, and would say, "Have you ever heard of God's breaking His arm?" It took about five months for the arm to heal. (Ib., 104)

Beginning of His Illness

In April 1885 it was noticed that Ramakrishna had an inflammation of the throat. Against his doctor's advice, he attended a festival where he spent himself in music, dance, and ecstasy with a group of disciples. The illness took a turn for the worse and was diagnosed as "clergyman's sore throat." The patient was cautioned against conversation and ecstasies. Though he followed the physician's directions regarding medicine and diet, he could neither control his trances nor withhold from seekers the solace of his advice. (Ib., 105)

One night he had a haemorrhage of the throat. The doctor now diagnosed the illness as cancer. (Ib., 106)

Very soon Ramakrishna dedicated himself practically without respite to the instruction of his beloved devotees . . . Discourses incessantly flowed from his tongue, and he often went into samadhi. Dr. Mahendra Sarkar, the celebrated homoeopath of Calcutta, was invited to undertake his treatment. (Ib., 106)


When Ramakrishna's condition became more serious, he was moved to Syampukur, where young disciples were with him almost constantly. These young men, under the watchful eyes of the Master and the leadership of Narendra, became an intimate circle of devotees. (Ib., 106-7)

The dwelling space was extremely limited. His wife spent three months at the place, working hard, sleeping little, and praying constantly for his recovery, and the devotees sought to divine the meaning of this illness. (Ib., 107)

The illness quickly got worse. The pain sometimes appeared to be unbearable. Yet his face always radiated joy while his body was devastated. (Ib., 108)

Last Days At Cossipore

When Ramakrishna's illness showed signs of aggravation, the devotees, following the advice of Dr. Sarkar, rented a spacious garden house at Cossipore, in the northern suburbs of Calcutta. Ramakrishna was taken to this place on December 1l, 1885. He lived on for eight months more. (Ib., 108-9)

His wife took charge of the cooking for him and his attendants, twelve disciples. They were Narendra, Rakhal, Baburam, Niranjan, Jogin, Latu, Tarak, the elder Gopal, Kali, Sashi, Sarat, and the younger Gopal. Sarada, Harish, Hari, and Gangadhar visited the Master from time to time and practised sadhana (giant training) at home. Narendra, preparing for his law examination brought his books to the garden house in order to continue his studies during the infrequent spare moments. (Ib., 109)

The pundit Shashadhar one day suggested to Ramakrishna that he could remove the illness by concentrating his mind on the throat, for some scriptures declare that yogis have power to cure themselves in that way. The Master rebuked the pundit. (Ib., 110)

"Do it for our sake at least," begged Narendra and the other disciples. (Ib., 110)

"But," replied Ramakrishna, "my recovery depends on the Mother . . . I cannot pray for my body . . . [but] I shall try." (Ib., 110)

A few hours later the Master said to Narendra: "She pointed you all out to me and said: What? You are eating enough through all these mouths." I was ashamed and could not utter another word." This dashed all the hopes of the devotees that he would recover. (Ib., 110)

On January 1, 1886, he felt better and blessed his disciples in the garden: "I bless you all. Be illumined!" (Ib., 110-11)

The devotees rushed to him and fell at his feet. He touched them all, and each experienced ineffable bliss. Some laughed, some wept, some sat down to meditate, and some began to pray. Some saw light, some had visions of their Chosen Ideals, and some felt the rush of spiritual power within their bodies. (Ib., 111)

Narendra, however, complained that all the others had attained peace and that he alone was unsatisfied. Ramakrishna asked what he wanted. Narendra begged for samadhi, so that he might completely forget the world for three or four days at a time.

"You are a fool," Ramakrishna rebuked him. "There is a state even higher than that. Isn't it you who sing, 'All that exists are you'? Ramakrishna rebuked him. "There is a state even higher than that. Isn't it you who sing, 'All that exists are you'? First of all settle your family affairs and then come to me. You will experience a state even higher than samadhi." (Ib., 111)

Alternative version: "What a small mind you have! Go beyond samadhi! Samadhi is a very trifling thing." [Ib., 539)

Ramakrishna wished to make Narendra his spiritual heir, at let him continue the work after Ramakrishna's passing. He said to him: "I leave these young men in your charge." By that he laid the foundation of the future Ramakrishna Order of monks. (Ib., 111-12)

Ramakrishna one day whispered to M: "I am bearing all this cheerfully, for otherwise you would be weeping." (Ib., 112)

The next morning he said to his depressed disciples seated near the bed: "Do you know what I see? I see that God alone has become everything." He fainted. (Ib., 112)

Looking at Latu he said: "There sits Latu resting his head on the palm of his hand. To me it is the Lord who is seated in that posture." (Ib., 112)

He said in a half whisper to M, "Had this body been allowed to last a little longer, many more souls would have been illumined." (Ib., 112)

Ramakrishna: "[God the Kinetic Brahman] will take me away lest [many] people should take advantage of me and persuade me to bestow on them the rare gifts of spirituality." (Ib., 113)

"In [Brahman] there is no death, no growth, no decay," formed part of one of his teachings.

One day when Narendra was on the ground floor, meditating, Ramakrishna was lying awake in his bed upstairs. In the depths of his meditation Narendra felt as though a lamp were burning at the back of his head. Suddenly he lost consciousness. It was the yearned-for experience of . . . (no words to tell of it, remember, but it is often called nirvikalpa samadhi), when the embodied soul realizes . . . (blank). After a very long time he regained partial consciousness but was unable to find his body. He could see only his head. "Where is my body?" he cried. The elder Gopal entered the room and said, 'Why, it is here, Naren!" But Narendra could not find it. Gopal, frightened, ran upstairs to the Master. Ramakrishna only said: "Let him stay that way for a time. He has worried me long enough." (Ib., 114)

After another long period Narendra regained full consciousness, and went to the Master, who said: "Now [God the Kinetic Aspect] has shown you everything. But this revelation will remain under lock and key, and I shall keep the key. When you have accomplished the . . . work you will find the treasure again." (Ib., 114)

Some days later Narendra was alone with Ramakrishna, who looked at him and went into samadhi. Narendra felt penetrated by a subtle power and lost all outer consciousness. Regaining the normal mood, he found his guru weeping, and telling him: "Today I have given you my all and I am now only a poor fakir, possessing nothing. By this power you will do immense good". (Ib., 115)

After one or two days Narendra said to himself, "If in the midst of this racking physical pain he declares himself to be the Godhead, then only shall I accept him as an Incarnation of God." He was alone by the bedside of Ramakrishna. It was merely a passing thought, but the guru smiled. Gathering his remaining strength, he distinctly said, "He who was Rama and Krishna is now, in this body, Ramakrishna - but not in your Vedantic sense." [Emphasis added] (Ib., 115)

Final Exit

On Sunday, August 15, 1886, Ramakrishna's pulse became irregular. He went into a rather unusual samadhi. The body became stiff. (Ib., 115)

After midnight he revived and helped himself to a bowl of farina pudding. He sat up against five or six pillows and was fanned. (Ib., 116)

The final ecstasy began. It was mahasamadhi, and his mind never returned from it. Narendra was unable to bear all this and ran downstairs. (Ib., 116)


Paramhansa Ramakrishna, Literature  

Advaita Ashrama Staff. Life of Sri Ramakrishna. Advaita Asram. Calcutta, 1971.

Advaita Ashrama Staff. Teachings of Sri Ramakrishna. Advaita Asram. Calcutta, 1975.

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

Jagadananda, Swami tr. Sri Ramakrishna: The Great Master. 4th ed. Ramakrishna Math. Mylapore, 1970. ⍽▢⍽ A lot of enthralling tales.

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

Nikhilananda, Swami, tr. The Gospel of Ramakrishna. Abr. ed. Ramakrishna-Vivekananda. New York, 1974. ⍽▢⍽ This is the source of many capsules and page references above. The introduction to the large, unabridged version of 1942 may be the same, or similar, but the pagination is not the same.

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

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

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

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