Sri Ramakrishna was born on Wednesday, February 18, 1836 in Kamarpukur, a village in Bengal, India. It is amazing to see that a boy who was born in a village and spent his childhood in that environment, became a source of great inspiration for millions of people in India and abroad. All over the world, through various religions and philosophies, people are still trying to solve the mystery of life and God. This boy, who later became Sri Ramakrishna, realized all the aspects of life and God and the essence of all scriptures and religions.
This year according to the Hindu calendar Sri Ramakrishna’s birthdate falls on Monday, March 3, 2014. On this day, let us first remember how a few known personalities looked at Sri Ramakrishna:
Leo Tolstoy called Sri Ramakrishna a “remarkable sage.”
Romain Rolland considered Sri Ramakrishna to be the “consummation of two thousand years of spiritual life of the three hundred million people.”
Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “Sri Ramakrishna’s life enables us to see God face to face. He was a living embodiment of godliness.”
Maharshi Aurobindo wrote, “When skepticism had reached its height, the time had come for spirituality to assert itself and establish the reality of the world as a manifestation of the spirit, the secret of the confusion created by the senses, the magnificent possibilities of man and the ineffable beatitude of God. This is the work whose consummation Sri Ramakrishna came to begin and all the development of the previous two thousand years and more since Buddha appeared has been a preparation for the harmonization of spiritual teaching and experience by the Avatar (Incarnation of God) of Dakshineshwar (Sri Ramakrishna).”
Jawaharlal Nehru described Sri Ramakrishna as “one of the great Rishis of India, who had come to draw our attention to the higher things of life and of the spirit.”
Sri Ramakrishna’s life and teachings appeal to me for several reasons. The following are a few of these reasons:
1. Sri Ramakrishna as a young man had an intense desire to realize God. Through his determination and self-effort he realized God. Later on with various teachers he had the same experience of God through various paths.
2. He had no formal education, but hundreds of educated people of Kolkata would come to him to learn about the most important aspect of life.
3. Sri Ramakrishna’s teachings are simple but very profound. He explains the essence of scriptures through simple stories and analogies from the day-to-day life of common people.
4. His teachings cover all levels of spiritual life; from the period of curiosity and initial questioning to the state of realization of God.
5. We all talk about having interfaith dialogue and tolerance of other faiths. Sri Ramakrishna realized God through his own tradition and then through other religions. He realized through his experiences that all religions are various paths leading to the same God.
6. At the time of Sri Ramakrishna, many youngsters and the elite started believing that all Hindu scriptures and their religious ideas were primitive and useless. Sri Ramakrishna single handedly destroyed these doubts and wrong ideas from the minds of the youngsters and elite and established the essential truths of the scriptures. Since his words had the power of direct experience of the Truth, they prevail over all skepticism and faulty arguments.
7. He prepared a few spiritual giants whose influence, even today, inspires millions of people to be good and to do unselfish service for humanity. His idea of ‘seeing God in all and serving each one as though doing worship to God’ was revolutionary. He said that a human being is an insignificant little insect crawling on the Earth. How can this limited being do good to the world? Instead, we should realize that by doing good to the world we actually do good to ourselves.
8. His every act and word was a manifestation of the Ultimate Truth described by the scriptures. At the end of his life, he could not eat any food due to the cancer of his throat. His beloved disciple, Narendra, asked him to pray to the Divine Mother to enable him to eat a little so that he could keep his body for the good of many. Upon inquiry, Sri Ramakrishna said that the Divine Mother had told him, “Are you not eating through the millions of mouths of all beings? Why worry if one mouth stops eating?”
9. Sri Ramakrishna guided each disciple according to his/her mental chemistry.
10. Sri Ramakrishna never uttered a degrading word for anyone and for any religious path. He always encouraged everyone. People with various paths and sects went to him and each one felt that Sri Ramakrishna belonged to his/her path or sect. Sri Ramakrishna encouraged householders and said that they can also realize God.
Let us remember a few of his teachings:
(i) The goal of life is “God Realization.”
(ii) The main obstacles in God Realization are lust and greed.
(iii) Never think that ‘My religion is true and other religions are false.’ All religions are nothing but different paths made to suit people of different temperaments to reach the same God.
(iv) Use your common sense in the spiritual path. (Remember the story, “Elephant is Narayana, but so is the Elephant-driver.”)
(v) Have intense desire and determination to realize God and make efforts for it. (Remember the story of the determined farmer who worked hard to bring water to his field.)
(vi) Spiritual progress is based upon the positive transformation that happens in life including the manifestation of virtues described in the scriptures. Spiritual progress cannot be judged by the amount of lectures one has given about spirituality. (Remember the story of Poddo who had not cleaned the temple, but did not hesitate from blowing the conch loudly)
(vi) As one gallon container cannot hold 10 gallons of milk, a finite human mind cannot comprehend the infinite God (Brahman). Think that there is a huge hill of sugar grains. An ant took one grain of sugar in its mouth from the hill and was going towards its hole. While going the ant thought that next time it will take the whole sugar-hill in her hole. A Salt-doll wanted to measure the depth of an ocean. She took a measuring stick and went to the ocean. As soon as she went into the ocean, she was totally merged in the ocean. How can she measure the depth of the ocean? A human mind tries to comprehend infinite Brahman. But, when it goes closer to Brahman, it starts losing its separate identity. Finally, when it merges with Brahman, there is no one else left to measure the Brahman.
One can learn many things about Sri Ramakrishna’s life and teachings from the following books:
May we get inspiration for our spiritual development from Sri Ramakrishna’s life and teachings.