Friday, 2 May 2014

1. Ancestry & Birth

It was the middle of the eighteenth century. Sri Kshudiram Chattopadhyaya and his wife Srimati Chandramani Devi lived in the village of Derepur. This village was situated in the Hooghly district, Bengal. Their life revolved around their family deity Sri Ramachandra. They were blessed with a son, Ramkumar and a daughter, Katyayani.

Being a simple village man, Kshudiram was well known for his truthfulness, charity and devotion. His reputation was such, that once a greedy landlord forced him to give false statement in court. The whole village knew that Kshudiram will speak nothing but the truth. Therefore his words would be admitted as evidence in court. Though Kshudiram knew the consequences of going against the landlord, he refused to utter falsehood. Soon, the vengeance of the landlord turned against Kshudiram. On a false claim, the landlord deprived Kshudiram his ancestral house and land. 

Depending on Lord Sri Ramachandra, Kshudiram left his village. His friend invited him to the village of Kamarpukur. He also gave Kshudiram a small house and a piece of agricultural land. This turn of event, brought great change on Kshudiram. He now spent more time in prayer and worship of Sri Ramachandra. Soon, Kshudiram earned the love and respect of the people of Kamarpukur. 

Chandramani Devi also had earned the love and trust of the new village. She was nothing but kindness, simplicity and guilelessness. The whole village was her family. She would not take her food without ensuring that everyone in the neighbourhood as eaten.

After settling in Kamarpukur, one day, Kshudiram was passing through a paddy field. It was a hot day. Feeling tired, he sat under a tree and fell asleep. Lord Ramachandra appeared in his dream. Pointing to a spot, the Lord said, “I have been lying here for ages. Take me to your home!” Kshudiram woke up with a start. Not far away, he noticed something like a stone. He rushed to the spot and found a salagrama, a stone symbolising Lord Ramachandra. Kshudiram took it home and started worshipping it as Raghuvir.

The advent of Raghuvir brought more joy to Kshudiram and his family. Kshudiram spent almost all his days in worshipping Raghuvir, singing devotional songs and meditation. Chandramani joined her husband in attending to the daily worship and in preparing food offering.

Ten years passed. In the meantime, another son, Rameswar was born to this noble couple. Leaving the family under the care of his eldest son Ramkumar, Kshudiram went on a pilgrimage to Vishnu Gaya in 1835.

The pilgrimage to Gaya, turned to be the most significant event in Kshudiram’s life. One day, after his daily worship, he was having a short nap. The presiding deity Vishnu called Lord Gadadhar appeared in his dream and said, “Kshudiram, I shall be born as your son.” A startled Kshudiram, protested, “But I am a poor man, my Lord. How can I serve You?” “Don’t worry, I shall take care of everything,” Gadadhar promised. As this was not the first time the Lord had appeared in his dream, Kshudiram felt something strange would happen. Completing his pilgrimage, he returned to Kamarpukur.  At home, Chandramani related her experience during his absence. 

“One day, I was standing in front of the Shiva temple,” Chandramani said. “Dhani was with me. Suddenly, I saw a strange white light filling the Shiva temple. Before, I could understand what was happening, that light, rushed towards me like a flood tide. It overwhelmed me and entered my body. I dropped down at the spot. When I woke up, I felt that I have conceived. As you know, I blurted this to Dhani. ‘You are a fool! How can such a thing happen? At your age!’ Dhani laughed. But it is true, I still feel that the light is in me.” 

A year after these incidents, on February 18, 1836, Chandramani Devi gave birth to a baby boy. Dhani helped Chandramani during the delivery. After attending to Chandramani, she turned to look at the baby. Somehow, the baby had rolled into the mud oven. His body was covered in ashes like a holy man.

The wise Kshudiram, remembered his dream at Gaya. He named the child as Gadadhar meaning ‘Bearer of the Mace’. Later, Gadadhar became known to the world as Sri Ramakrishna. 

2. The Joy of the Villagers

Gadai's Annaprasanna
Chandramani and Kshudiram took all care to protect Gadadhar. Soon, he was the darling boy of the village ladies. Relatives from far away places came to see him. Everyone called him lovingly as ‘Gadai’.

As promised by Lord Gadadhar, Kshudiram had no worries about maintaining his newborn son with his meager income. A relative supplied him with a milch cow to provide milk for the baby. Kshudiram’s friend, Dharmadas Laha conducted the Annaprasana ceremony for Gadai on a grand scale. The whole village gathered and was given a sumptuous feast. 

As a student 
Gadai was a very intelligent and sweet child. His early education started on the lap of his father. Within a short time, he learned their family genealogy, devotional songs and also simple slokas. He had a strong memory. Once he listened to something, he remembered it effortlessly. A few years later, he was sent to the village school. Gadai showed his keen intelligence by learning his alphabets quickly. He also enjoyed painting, modelling images, singing devotional songs, acting religious drama and other such fun activities. However, he had a strong dislike for arithmetic. 

Adoration and absorption in nature’s beauty 
Gadai reached his sixth year. One day, he was walking along the ridges of the paddy field. He was happily munching a basketful of puffed rice. Suddenly, he caught sight of a flock of white cranes flying below a dark blue sky. 

As it was the rainy month, dark clouds had gathered. Gadai marvelled at the beautiful sight and stood still. Soon, he felt an unspeakable joy filling him and he forgot all about his surroundings. He fell down, scattering the puffed rice. A few villagers noticed him and carried him to his house. Chandramani and Kshudiram called the village doctor to examine his health. “But, I am alright. I was feeling very joyful,” Gadai assured them. 

Kshudiram’s Demise 
Kshudiram passed away in 1843. Gadai was then seven years old. The loss of his father, turned him into a pensive child. Now onwards, he spent more time at home. He helped his mother with the household chores and also entertained her with his sweet singing and reading of the Puranas. Soon, it became a daily routine. All the ladies in the neighbourhood, would come to listen to Gadai singing and chanting hymns. He also entertained them with his excellent mimicry and acting talents.

One Shiva Ratri, the villagers had arranged for a religious drama. This would help them to keep the all-night vigil. The hours of the drama drew near when news came that the leading actor could not come. A quick search for an actor started. Some of Gadai’s friends came to him and pleaded him to play the role. Gadai could not refuse them. Soon, he was dressed as Lord Shiva and he came on stage. Everyone was awestruck to see his beauty and face that was radiating peace and serenity like the Great God Shiva. However, Gadai stood still, absorbed in thinking of Lord Shiva. He did not hear the commotion when people started calling his name. He did not move a bit and tears started rolling down his cheeks. Finally, he was carried away from the stage. Only the next day, Gadai regained external consciousness. 

Attraction to Holy Life 
During this time also, Gadai started visiting the village rest house. Holy men, on their way to Puri, often halted at Kamarpukur for rest. Some of them would stay long. Gadai became close to the monks. He loved to listen to them talking about God and other religious matters. By observing their lifestyle, he realized that some of the holy men were sham and only a few are really sincere. He started to spend more time with the genuine holy men. He served them with their daily chores, like getting fuels and cooking. At first, Chandramani was happy with this.

One day, Gadai came home wearing a loin cloth like a monk. His body was smeared with ashes. With joy, he said to his mother, “Look, mother, how the monks have dressed me!” Chandramani became worried. What if the monks took away her darling son? This came to the notice of the monks. They came to Chandramani and assured her, “Do not worry. How can we separate a mere child from his mother? It will be a sin.” Chandramani felt relieved and as usual, she permitted Gadai to visit the monks. 

Stick to the Truth 
Gadai had now reached his ninth year. His Upanayana ceremony had to be conducted. It is an important occasion for a Brahmin child. He will be taught the secret of the Gayatri mantra and invested with the sacred thread. After the Upanayana, the boy had to beg his food for three days. 

Gadai had promised to Dhani, his wet nurse that, he would beg his first meal from her. This was surely against the custom where a boy must beg his first meal from someone with the same social status as he. Dhani, however, belongs to the blacksmiths community. So, the elders in his family did not agree to his wish. Gadai became adamant. “I have given my word. If I break my promise, then I become a liar. A liar cannot be a Brahmin, and is therefore, not entitled to have the Upanayana,” he expressed his decision. Knowing Gadai’s nature and the truth of his words, finally his wish was granted. As promised, Gadai begged his first meal from Dhani and called her mother.

Wit amidst Fun 
In those days, scholars often gather in religious festivals at homes and engage in debates and discussions on religious issues. Once, Gadai and his friends were attending a festival in the neighbourhood. A few scholars were discussing about a scriptural point. Soon, the friendly discussion turned into a heated argument. All the children were excited to watch the scholars arguing and some even started to mimic like the scholars. Gadai too, at first laughed and enjoyed the fun. But soon, he started to listen attentively. After a while, he whispered to a scholar. “Sir, could the answer be this?” The scholars were dumbstruck that a child had come up with a solution to their discussion. They accepted his answer and praised him. 

Purity Wins Over Pride 
His innocence and pure nature endeared him to all. No one distrusted him. No one felt shy before him. During this period, the purdah system was strictly followed in the villages. No outsiders were allowed into the women’s section in the houses. However, Gadai was an exception to this rule. As everyone saw him as their own, he used to go freely into all his neighbours’ houses and talk with the ladies. 

Durgadas Pyne was a strict follower of the purdah system. The ladies of his family were kept indoors, and they were not allowed to go out. Durgadas also often boasted that no man had ever seen the women’s section in his house. One day, Gadai overheard this. Though, he was merely a boy, he expressed his opinion without fear. “Sir, you cannot keep the ladies chaste by locking them at home. What is required is to give them moral and religious education. Moreover, if I want, I can see the women’s quarters in your house.” Durgadas took this as a challenge.

A few days later, a lady came to Durgadas. She looked like a poor weaver woman. She pleaded for shelter as it was getting dark and she could not return to her village alone. Trusting her story, Durgadas allowed her to go to the women’s section in his house. The ladies of the family were pleased with the weaver and gave her some refreshment. They showed her the rooms and allowed her to spend the night there. 

A few hours passed. Gadai’s brother Rameshwar was calling from the street, “Gadai, oh Gadai! Where are you? Mother is searching for you!” Gadai answered back, ”Yes, brother. I am coming!” Then, he rushed out of Durgadas' house, wearing a sari. With surprise, everyone realized that Gadai had fooled them with his excellent disguise and mimicry. The whole household roared with laughter. Durgadas stood watching the scene in astonishment. But then, he too started laughing. He realized that Gadai had taught him a lesson by removing his pride. Since then, Durgadas allowed the ladies of his family to visit Gadai in his house to listen to his religious singing.

3. In Kolkata

In 1852, at the age of sixteen, Gadadhar (from now, he came to be known as Ramakrishna) left for Kolkata with his brother Ramkumar. Ramkumar was a learned scholar. He had been running a Sanskrit school in Jhamapukur, near Kolkata. Due to straightened circumstances, he also had to earn money by doing Pujas in private homes. Since the death of their father, Ramkumar also felt responsible for the education of his youngest brother, Ramakrishna.

During his long absence from Kamarpukur, he came to know that Ramakrishna had neglected his studies. Therefore, Ramkumar brought his brother to Kolkata to keep him under his care. Though sad about leaving his aged mother, Ramakrishna followed his brother. He was glad that he could be helpful to his brother. He started to perform worship at private homes on behalf of his brother.

One day, Ramkumar approached Ramakrishna about pursuing his education. Ramkumar was certain that education is the only means of sustenance. However, the reply he received was amazing. Ramakrishna said, “What can I do with the education which can only teach how to bundle rice and plantain (i.e bread winning)? I want that knowledge which will enable me to know God.”

Ramkumar knew it was hopeless to force Ramakrishna to do anything. In all matters where human efforts failed, Ramkumar surrender to God and prayed for his brother.

Three years passed. In 1855, Ramkumar accepted the post of priest in the newly built Bhavatarini Temple of Dakshineswar. He closed his Sanskrit school and moved to Dakshineswar. Ramakrishna followed his brother.

The temple garden of Dakshineswar was built by Rani Rasmani, a rich lady in Kolkata. It was on the banks of the Ganges. The main temple enshrined Mother Bhavatarini. A temple for Radhakanta (Krishna) and twelve Shiva temples formed parts of the huge temple complex. 

During his early days at Dakshineswar, Ramakrishna spent his time freely in the new surroundings. The sacred Ganges River was flowing nearby the temple. The temple itself was surrounded by flower gardens and nature. It was an ideal place for a contemplative life. Ramakrishna would roam around the surrounding areas, singing and chanting hymns.  

Soon, this carefree youth caught the attention of Mathurnath Biswas, the son in-law of Rani Rasmani. Mathurnath was very impressed with the simplicity, purity, and integrity of the young Ramakrishna. He wanted to appoint him as a priest. Though Ramakrisna hesitated in the beginning, finally he accepted the post of priest to lighten the burden of his brother Ramkumar.

With his whole heart and soul, Ramakrishna started decorating the Divine Mother Bhavatarini. During his free time, he sang songs and hymns to please the Divine Mother. His sincerity, purity and childlike nature, soon endeared him to all. Mathurnath and Rani Rasmani also showed him love and respect.

A Novel Solution for a Knotty Problem
Not long after this, an accident happened in the Radhakanta temple. Due to carelessness, the priest had broken the leg of Sri Krishna. It was not customary to worship broken images. Therefore, when the learned scholars were consulted, they advised that the broken image had to be thrown into the Ganges. This puts Rani Rasmani in a dilemma. She had loved the image of Krishna and was reluctant to follow the advice of the scholars. She wanted an alternative suggestion. The matter was referred to young Ramakrishna. Going into indrawn mood, Ramakrishna said, “What! Throw the broken image of God in the Ganges? Suppose the Rani’s son in-law break his leg. Would the Rani throw him out and bring a new son in-law? Or would she arrange for his treatment?” Thus, Ramakrishna gave his novel reply. This greatly pleased the Rani. Knowing that Ramakrishna was good at modelling images, Mathurnath gave him the work of repairing the image. The repaired image was then installed back in the temple[1] and Ramakrishna was appointed as the priest of the Radhakanta temple.

Seeing his brother settling down to a respectable position in the temple eased the mind of Ramkumar. He had no more worries about his brother. However, Ramkumar, being a very practical man, wanted to equip his brother with all knowledge. He taught Ramakrishna the methods of worshiping the Divine Mother. Soon, Ramakrishna took initiation in the Sakti mantra from a guru. Upon receiving the Sakti mantra, Ramakrishna started worshiping the Divine Mother with more fervour.

About a year later, in 1856, Ramkumar passed away. Ramakrishna took over as a priest of the Bhavatarini temple.

[1] Later, a new idol was installed and the original idol is kept in another room.

4. An Unusual Priest

The untimely demise of his brother intensified the spiritual longing of young Ramakrishna. He felt acutely the impermanence of the world, and searched for something permanent. Naturally, his heart was drawn to the Divine Mother, whom he daily worshiped. With more fervour and devotion, he worshiped Her and made Her the sole object of his life. During his free time, he sang hymns for Her and meditated on Her form.

As days go by, his yearning for the Divine Mother increased a thousandfold. He wanted to ensure, that the Divine Mother really exists. His heart longed to catch a glimpse of the Mother of the Universe. Some of the songs which he sang for Her, showed that God can be seen and they were devotees who had seen the Divine. Sometimes, Ramakrishna would roll on the ground crying, “Mother! Mother!” Strangers who saw him pitied him and thought that he was lamenting for his dead mother.

Often at night, when everyone was asleep, he would steal out of his room and went to the nearby jungle. It was rumoured that the place was haunted. There, under a tree, he would remove his clothes, sacred thread and sit for meditation. This was going on for sometimes when one day, Hriday, his nephew, followed him behind. Shocked to find the naked Ramakrishna under the tree, Hriday demanded an explanation. Ramakrishna’s reply was even more startling than his strange conduct. “Don’t you know that human beings are chained by fetters like shame, honour, pride of caste and so on? The sacred thread reminds the caste. The clothes show the difference of gender. He, who wants to contemplate on the Divine Mother, must free himself from all these fetters.”

Ramakrishna’s way of worshiping the Divine Mother also now became strange and often outside the prescribed rituals. At times, he would become so engrossed in meditation that he would forget to complete the worship. While singing devotional songs, he would pour out his heart in tears. Sometimes, he would feed a cat with the food prepared for offering to the Goddess. At night, he would rush to fan the Divine Mother.

Soon, some temple official reported the matter to Mathurnath. One day, without informing anyone, Mathurnath came to the temple. He observed that Ramakrishna was no ordinary priest, but an extraordinary person who lost himself in the worship of the Divine. Quietly, Mathur left the temple and sent a letter to the temple official with the note, “Do not disturb the young priest.”

One day, it became too unbearable for him. He felt life was useless without a vision of the Mother. Suddenly, he noticed the sword hanging by the side of Mother Bhavatarini. He rushed and seized the sword. He raised it to slit his throat, when it happened. He saw the Divine Mother, full of consciousness and bliss, filling the temple with Her brilliance. It was as if, the whole material world was swept away by that ocean of light. He fell down, unconscious.

5. A Strange Marriage

Rumors reached Kamarpukur that Ramakrishna had became mad. His intense longing for God vision, was viewed by all as madness. His mother Chandramani Devi, naturally believed those stories. She called him back home for treatment.

Ramakrishna returned to Kamarpukur to meet his mother. Observing his normal and sweet nature, Chandramani was assured that her son was sane. However, fearing that he must be suffering from strange illness, she arranged for his treatment. 

Chandramani and Rameshwar also thought that it would be best that they arrange the marriage of Ramakrishna. Fearing his objection, they started searching for a bride without his knowledge. However, all their efforts proved vain. Somehow, Ramakrishna had sensed their intention. Moreover, in a jovial mood, he said, “Why do you search for a bride here and there? The one bride, marked for me, is in the house of Ramachandra Mukhopadadhya of Jayrambati.” 

Upon inquiry, they found out that his words were true. In the village of Jayrambati, there was a suitable girl for marriage, though she was hardly five years old. It was Saradamani, the eldest daughter of Ramachandra and Syama Sundari Devi. 

Saradamani's Birth 
Saradamani was born in the village of Jayrambati on December 22, 1853. Before her birth, her parents had strange visions foretelling that a goddess would be their daughter. One day, Ramachandra was having a short nap after his lunch. He dreamt of a beautiful girl of golden complexion. She placed her tiny arms around his neck and said that she was coming to his house. Ramachandra felt that the girl was none other than the Goddess Lakshmi.

A few days later, his wife Syamasundari Devi also had a peculiar vision. She was returning from the village of Sihore. Suddenly, feeling extremely tired because of the hot sun, she sat down under a Vilwa tree. A few minutes later, a beautiful dark girl came down from the tree. She was wearing beautiful ornaments and costly clothes. With a sweet smile on her face, she embraced Syamasundari. At that tender touch, Syamasundari became unconscious. When she awoke, the girl was not there. Syamasundari had a strange sensation that she had conceived the goddess Kali. When, their first child was born, they named her as Thakurmani (‘Jewel of a Goddess’). Later Thakurmani became known as Saradamani (one of the names of Saraswati, the Goddess of Learning).

Saradamani was five years old when she was given in marriage to Ramakrishna, who was then twenty three years old. After the wedding, Saradamani was taken to her parents’ home. Being the eldest child in her family, she took up the responsibility of looking after her brothers and sisters, even at a tender age.

6. Years of Spiritual Practices

After his marriage, Ramakrishna returned to Dakshineswar to resume his work as a priest. 

Again, his fervour for the vision God returned with redoubled force. Not satisfied with his earlier experience, he wanted continual communion with God. Therefore, once more, he plunged into spiritual disciplines. Day and night, he practiced meditation, prayer, singing devotional songs, chanting hymns and weeping for God. His body was always flushed with strong emotions. His eyes stopped blinking due to sleeplessness. He shunned all talks except about God.

Ramakrishna also practiced to eradicate all the impediments to spiritual realization. As pride of caste is an impediment to spiritual life, he cleaned the leftovers and laterine of some outcaste people. “Maya is nothing but ‘woman and gold’,” he said. Therefore, to remove all trace of lust and greed, he undertook some disciplines on his own. Sitting on the banks of the Ganges, he would hold in one hand a lump of clay and in other hand, a few coins. Reflecting that both clay and money are worthless to reach God, he would throw them into the Ganges, repeating “Clay is gold. Gold is clay.” His strong conviction that money is worthless like clay, became one of his fundamental characteristics. Throughout his life, he could not even bear the touch of money. Even the every idea of possessing money, became painful to him. To remove lust from his mind, he looked upon all women as the embodiment of the Divine Mother. This attitude also remained throughout his life. 

Once, Mathur Babu bought a costly Benaras shawl and presented it to Ramakrishna. Wearing the shawl, Ramakrishna walked around the temple. He joyfully told everyone that the shawl cost a thousand rupees. Then, suddenly, his mood changed. He reflected that the shawl will not help him to realise God! And what is the use of such a costly beautiful shawl? Even a cheap blanket is sufficient to protect the body from cold. Owning such costly things will increase a person’s vain pride and turn his mind away from God. Then, with contempt, Ramakrishna threw the shawl on the ground and trampled it. Mathur, instead of becoming upset, was happy to see such renunciation in Ramakrishna.

One day, Ramakrishna was sitting in the temple, when Rani Rasmani, the owner came. Upon her request, Ramakrishna started singing a song for the Divine Mother. While listening to the song, the Rani’s mind drifted to a lawsuit which she was facing. Sri Ramakrishna, who knew the inner feelings and thinking of others, noticed this. He slapped her face saying, “Such thoughts even here!” The Rani’s attendants rushed to seize Ramakrishna, but the Rani quietly forbid them and went to her room. She realised that it was her mistake that she was thinking of worldly matters in the presence of the Divine Mother. She accepted Ramakrishna’s act as a lesson from the Divine Mother. 

However, when Mathur Babu heard about this incident, he summarised that Ramakrishna must be suffering from mental ailments. Therefore, he engaged an expert physician to treat Ramakrishna. He also tenderly cajoled Ramakrishna to control his feelings.

Not long after this, Ramakrishna stopped performing formal worship at the temple. However, as Rani Rasmani and Mathur Babu loved and revered him, he was allowed to stay at the temple. Moreover, until his last day, Mathur served Sri Ramakrishna and did everything he could to please him. Even after the death of Mathur, Sri Ramakrishna continued to stay in the same room at Dakshineswar.

Ramakrishna now free from all duties, started to plunge deeper into the realms of spirituality. He now wanted to experience God through various spiritual paths. Naturally, his attention turned to Sri Ramachandra, his family Deity. To worship Sri Rama, he assumed the attitude of Hanuman, who is the greatest devotee and servant of Sri Rama. In all his manners and movements, he behaved as Hanuman would behave. He ate only roots and fruits. He tied a dhoti around his waist to look like a tail. He spent most of the time on trees, crying ‘Rama! Rama!’ Soon, one day, he was sitting under the Panchavati. He saw with open eyes, a female of divine beauty, walking towards him. Suddenly, a monkey came and saluted Her. In an instant, he knew that She was Sita Devi, the Divine Consort of Sri Rama. Nearing him, She gifted him with Her divine smile. Then, She merged into Ramakrishna’s body. This experience taught Ramakrishna, that Sri Rama was indeed an Incarnation of God.  

Arrival of Bhairavi Brahmani
One morning, in 1861, Ramakrishna saw a boat coming towards the bathing ghat of the temple garden. A middle aged nun, stepped out of the boat. Ramakrishna immediately called Hriday and asked him to bring the nun. When the nun came, with joy she exclaimed: “My son! You are here! How long I have been searching for you.” Then she explained that the she was a Bhairavi, an adept in Tantra. Through spiritual insight, she came to know that she had to teach Ramakrishna and she had been searching for him. Like a child, Ramakrishna trusted her words and started conversing with her. 

The advent of the Brahmani was another turning point in Ramakrishna’s life. All this while, he had no one to listen to him or discuss about his spiritual experiences. Hriday and Mathur Babu were unable to help him spiritually. In fact, like ordinary worldly people, they also thought that Ramakrishna was either insane or sick. The Brahmani cleared his mind and said, “In this world, some people are crazy over money. Some are mad after lust. But you are mad after God.”

Then, the Brahmani helped Ramakrishna to undertake all the sixty four disciplines of Tantra. Some the Tantra disciplines are dangerous. She was amazed to find that Ramakrishna could complete the disciplines and achieve the intended results within a very short time. She was even more amazed to find that Sri Ramakrishna had already reached God realization even without the aid of a guru. Further, she assured Sri Ramakrishna that all his experiences were recorded in the Bhakti scriptures and it was the same state that was experienced by Srimati Radharani of Vrindavan and Sri Krishna Chaitanya, an Incarnation of God. 

The Brahmani also declared that the exalted state of spiritual experiences of Ramakrishna was not humanly possible. According to the scriptures, only Incarnations of God like, Srimati Radha and Sri Chaitanya could achieve the state known as Mahabhava. Therefore, the Brahmani concluded that Sri Ramakrisna must be an Incarnation of God. To prove this point, the Brahmani was ready to meet all the scholars well-versed in the scriptures.

Accordingly, Mathur Babu convened a gathering of renowned scholars to discuss the matter. Pandit Vaishnava Charan, the leader of the Vaishnava community and a reputed scholar in Philosophy and Theology, and Gauri Kanta Tarkabhushana, a well-known scholar and observer of Tantra were among the participants in the gathering. After listening to the Brahmani’s contention, well supported by scriptural texts, they fully endorsed her view that Sri Ramakrishna was an Incarnation of God. 

7. As Many Faiths, So Many Paths

Within a few years of its consecration, the Dakshineswar Temple attracted many devotees and holy personalities. This is mainly due to the generosity of Rani Rasmani and Mathur Babu who spent a large amount in feeding the holy men and devotees. Many pilgrims to the Holy City of Puri, often halted at Dakshineswar. Some of them, came into close contact with Sri Ramakrisna.  

After completing the Tantrik disciplines, Sri Ramakrisna took up several other paths leading to God. Around 1864, a great Vaishnava called Jatadhari came to Dakshineswar. He was a wandering monk. He worshipped Ramlala (Child Rama) in a wooden image. After years of meditation, prayer and worship, he had reached an exalted spiritual state. He could actually see and feel the presence of Ramlala all the time.   

Sri Ramakrishna also saw that Ramlala was living with Jatadhari. Naturally, he too started playing with Ramlala. Day by day, Ramlala became more attached to Sri Ramakrishna. Like a naughty child, He teased Sri Ramakrishna. Sometimes, he refused to take food, unless Sri Ramakrishna feed him. One day, Jatadhari came to Sri Ramakrishna and bid farewell. He left Ramlala in Sri Ramakrishna’s care saying that Ramlala was happy to be with Ramakrishna and He had refused to leave Dakshineswar. 

Soon after this, Totapuri, a naked monk came to Dakshineswar. He was a follower of Advaita. After forty years practice, he had reached the state of a Paramahamsa and attained Nirvikalpa Samadhi (Non-dual state). Finding Sri Ramakrishna a fit person to learn the Advaita philosophy, he approached him. Upon obtaining the permission of the Divine Mother, Ramakrishna agreed to be a disciple of Totapuri. On an auspicious day, Ramakrishna, shaved his head and took the monastic vow. Then, he was initiated into the Advaita mantra. After giving the instruction for meditation on the Formless Brahman, Totapuri locked him in a small hut. On the third day, he opened the door of the hut. Sri Ramakrishna was in Nirvikalpa Samadhi. Totapuri was amazed that his disciple could reach that state within three days, whereas he himself had to struggle for it for forty years. 

Totapuri had never stayed in any place for more than three days. However, the attraction he felt for Ramakrishna, kept him in Dakshineswar for more than eleven months. Every day, he talked to Ramakrishna about Advaita Philosophy. Ramakrishna soon realised that Totapuri was bigoted and his knowledge was one-sided. He did not believe in the forms of God and often ridiculed Ramakrishna for worshiping the image of Bhavatarini. However, through the companionship of Sri Ramakrishna, finally, Totapuri accepted the Divine Mother, as the Shakti aspect of Divinity.

Towards the end 1866, Ramakrishna met Govinda Rai, a Sufi mystic. Soon, the idea came to Ramakrishna to experience Truth following the Islamic faith. He, then, got the Islamic initiation from Govinda Rai and learned the methods of worship and prayer in the Islamic way. During this time, Ramakrishna dressed like the Muslim, ate their food, and prayed to Allah regularly. He also stopped going to the Hindu temple. On the third day, he saw a radiant Being, with long beard and grave appearance. It was the Prophet Mohammed.

On another occasion, Ramakrishna was sitting in the parlour of Jadu Mallick. He was looking at the photos on the wall and his eyes fell on Madonna with the Child. The more he gazed at the picture, the more he felt attracted towards it. Suddenly, a ray of light came from the picture and entered him. Images of Christian performing worship came before his eyes. This experience continued for three days. During this time, he forgot everything about the Hindu God and Goddesses. On the fourth day, as he was sitting under the Panchavati, he saw a tall luminous figure approaching him. It soon dawned on him, that it was Jesus Christ. The serene figure, then, entered and merged in Ramakrishna. This experience convinced him that Jesus Christ too, was an Incarnation of God.