Friday, 2 May 2014

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.

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