Finding wisdom for our everyday lives in the words of one of India's greatest saints
(more about Sri Ramakrishna)

A Brief Life of Sri Ramakrishna

Sri Ramakrishna was an Indian holy man. ("Sri" is a title of respect, often but not always implying holiness, like the English "Lord.")

He was born February 18, 1836, in Kamarpukur, West Bengal, an hour or so west of Kolkata (Calcutta) by car. After a conventional education in the village school, he rejected "bread-winning education." More to his liking was the education received from the many wandering monks and renunciates who passed through his village on pilgrimage.

The first of several childhood ecstatic states was reported at age 6; at age 18 he began working as a priest in Dakshineswar near Calcutta under his older brother Ramkumar. A year later his brother died, and Ramakrishna became the priest of the Kali Temple at Dakshineswar, where he remained the rest of his days.

More mystic than administrator, he sought a vision of Kali (a goddess of death and destruction whom he came to consider as "Mother") with all his heart.

These excessive devotions caused his birth mother and another elder brother, Rameswar, to fear for the stability of his mind. To "save" him, they arranged a marriage with Saradamani Mukhopadhyaya (later known as "Sarada Devi") when she was just five years old; when she was 18 (and he 35) they began living together at Dakshineswar.

Far from distracting him from his mission, the marriage enhanced Ramakrishna's spirituality. The union was never consummated physically--Sarada Devi lived in a separate room in the temple--but her companionship focused his thoughts. Ramakrishna addressed his wife as "Sri Ma" (Holy Mother), and considered her to be an incarnation of the Divine Mother.

Deeply rooted in "Hindu" spirituality, Sri Ramakrishna also experienced aspects of other religions, including Christianity and Islam, going so far as to have visions of the Prophet Muhammad and Jesus Christ. But his primary practices were Tantra and shakti, Vaishnava Bhakti, and above all Advaita Vedanta.

Indeed, the large group of followers that surrounded him were organized after his death (on August 16, 1886) into the Ramakrishna Order and Ramakrishna Mission, known in America as he Vedanta Society.

Following Ramakrishna, these societies teach:

  • the realization of God as the supreme goal of life
  • learning to see God in all
  • all religions (though ultimately incomplete in themselves) lead to Truth
  • knowing that God is within you
  • the renunciation of "women and gold" (lust and greed)

For more on his life, Wikipedia has a longer article, and a Vedanta Society site has information on Sri Ramakrishna's life, teachings, and order.

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