(18th February, 1836 - 16th August, 1886 )
"Ever since the advent of Sri Ramakrishna the Eastern Horizon has been aglow with the dawning rays of the sun, which in course of time will illumine the country with the splendour of the mid-day sun."
- Swami Vivekananda
SRI RAMAKRISHNA : (1836-1886)
Sri Ramakrishna (1836 - 1886) represents the very core of the spiritual realisations of the seers and sages of India. His whole life was literally an uninterrupted contemplation of God. He reached a depth of God-consciousness that transcends all time and place and has a universal appeal. Seekers of God of all religions feel irresistibly drawn to his life and teachings. Sri Ramakrishna, as a silent force, influences the spiritual thought currents of our time. He is a figure of recent history and his life and teachings have not yet been obscured by loving legends and doubtful myths. Through his God-intoxicated life Sri Ramakrishna proved that the revelation of God takes place at all times and that God-realisation is not the monopoly of any particular age, country, or people. In him, deepest spirituality and broadest catholicity stood side by side. The God-man of nineteenth-century neither found any cult nor did He show a new path to salvation. His message was His God-consciousness. When God-consciousness falls short, traditions become dogmatic and oppressive and religious teachings lose their transforming power. At a time when the very foundation of religion, faith in God, was crumbling under the relentless blows of materialism and scepticism, Sri Ramakrishna, through his burning spiritual realisations, demonstrated, beyond doubt, the reality of God and the validity of the teachings of all the prophets and saviours of the past and thus restored the falling edifice of religion on a secured foundation. Drawn by the magnetism of Sri Ramakrishna's divine personality, people flocked to him from far and near -- men and women, young and old, philosophers and theologians, philanthropists and humanists, atheists and agnostics, Hindus and Brahmos, Christians and Muslims, seekers of truth of all races, creeds and castes. His small room in the Dakshineswar temple garden on the outskirts of the city of Kolkata became a veritable parliament of religions. Everyone who came to Him felt uplifted by His profound God-consciousness, boundless love, and universal outlook. Each seeker saw in Him the highest manifestation of his own ideal. By coming near Him the impure became pure, the pure became purer, and the sinner was transformed into a saint. The greatest contribution of Sri Ramakrishna to the modern world is His message of harmony of religions. To Sri Ramakrishna all religions are the revelation of God in His diverse aspects to satisfy the manifold demands of human minds. Like different photographs of a building taken from different angles, different religions give us the pictures of one truth from different standpoints. They are not contradictory but complementary. Sri Ramakrishna faithfully practised the spiritual disciplines of different religions and came to the realisation that all of them lead to the same goal. Thus he declared, "As many faiths, so many paths." The paths vary, but the goal remains the same. Harmony of religions is not uniformity; it is unity in diversity. It is not a fusion of religions, but a fellowship of religions based on their common goal -- communion with God. This harmony is to be realised by deepening our individual God-consciousness. In the present-day world, threatened by nuclear war and torn by religious intolerance, Sri Ramakrishna's message of harmony gives us hope and shows the way. May His life and teachings ever inspire us.
SRI SARADA DEVI, THE HOLY MOTHER (1853 - 1920)
(22nd December, 1853 – 21st July, 1920)
"She is the incarnation of Saraswati (the wisdom aspect of the Divine Mother). She is born to bestow knowledge on others."
- Sri Ramakrishna
The spiritual consort of Sri Ramakrishna and popularly known as Holy Mother amongst the devotees, is an enigma. On the surface, it appears to be just a homely life of a Bengali women lived mostly in a rural setting yet her deportment discloses unmistakable marks of dignity and love of a divine order. Her humility, Her touches of serene silence, and the gracious and unbounded richness of Her motherly affection, flashes the heavenly splendour of Her inner life.
In the words of Sister Nivedita (Margaret Noble, a disciple of Swami Vivekananda) " To me it has always appeared that She (Sarada Devi) is Sri Ramakrishna´s final word as to the ideal of Indian womanhood ...... In her one sees realized that wisdom and sweetness to which the simplest of women may attain. And yet, to myself the stateliness of her courtesy and her great open mind are almost as wonderful as her sainthood.
In the words of Swami Vivekananda "You have not yet understood the wonderful significance of Mother´s life none of you. But gradually you will know. Without Shakti (Power) there is no regeneration for the World. Mother has been born to revive that wonderful Shakti in India, and making her the nucleus, once more will Gargis and Maitryees be born into the World".
When Holy Mother came to Dakshineswar at the age of sixteen, Sri Ramakrishna asked Her whether She had come to pull Him down to a worldly life. Without hesitation She said, "No, I am here to help you realise your Chosen Ideal." From then on, Holy Mother lived with Sri Ramakrishna as His spiritual companion, devoted wife, disciple, and always the nun. She was the embodiment of purity. Her mind was never sullied by the faintest breath of worldliness, though she lived with Sri Ramakrishna for the greater part of fourteen years. She never missed communion with God whom she described as lying in the palm of her hand, though she was engaged day and night in various activities.
Holy Mother was an unusual awakener of souls. With her disciples she served as teacher, dissolving their doubts as mother, who through love and compassion won their hearts and as the Divinity, who assured them of liberation. Although being nearly illiterate, She, through simple words, taught them the most profound truths. Her affectionate maternal love tamed their rebellious spirits; but her great power lay in her solicitude for all. Often She said, "I am the Mother, who will look after them if not I?" She encouraged them when they were depressed because of slow spiritual progress, and She took upon herself their sins and iniquities, sufferings on that account.
Holy Mother was conscious of her divine nature, but She rarely expressed this awareness. For many years Sri Ramakrishna practised great austerities and formally renounced the world. But Holy Mother lived as a simple householder. As a teacher she taught the realisation of God alone is real, and everything else, impermanent. Holy Mother -- humility itself -- claimed that she was in no way different from other devotees of the Master. Her disciples felt awed and uplifted when she blessed them by touching their head with the same hand which had touched the feet of God. She was fully aware of her disciples' present limitations and their future possibilities. No one went away from her with a downcast heart.
The outstanding virtues of Indian womanhood are courage, serenity, self-control, sweetness, compassion, wisdom, and an intuitive relationship with God. Holy Mother possessed all these virtues. Since the acquisition of such gifts is the dream of all women, Holy Mother may aptly be seen as the symbol of aspiration of women everywhere.
SWAMI VIVEKANANDA, (1863-1902)
(12th January, 1863 - 4th July, 1902)
Swami Vivekananda was born in Calcutta on 12th January 1863 of Sri Viswanath Dutta and Bhubaneswari Devi. About Him his Guru Sri Ramakrishna had a vision and said, " I FOUND that my mind was soaring high in Samadhi along a luminous path. It soon transcended the stellar universe and entered the subtler region of ideas. As it ascended higher and higher, I found on both sides of the way ideal forms of gods and goddesses. The mind then reached the outer limits of that region, where a luminous barrier separated the sphere of relative existence from that of the Absolute. Crossing that barrier, the mind entered the transcendental realm, where no corporeal being was visible. Even the gods dared not peep into that sublime realm, and were content to keep their seats far below. But the next moment I saw seven venerable sages seated there in Samadhi. It occurred to me that these sages must have surpassed not only men but even the gods in knowledge and holiness, in renunciation and love. Lost in admiration, I was reflecting on their greatness, when I saw a portion of that undifferentiated luminous region condense into the form of a divine child. The child came to one of sages, tenderly clasped his neck with his lovely arms, and addressing him in a sweet voice, tried to drag his mind down from the state of Samadhi. That magic touch roused the sage from the superconscious state, and he fixed his half-opened eyes upon the wonderful child. His beaming countenance showed that the child must have been the treasure of his heart. In great joy the strange child spoke to him, ´I am going down. You too must go with me.´ The sage remained mute but his tender look expressed his assent. As he kept gazing at the child, he was again immersed in Samadhi. I was surprised to find that a fragment of his body and mind was descending to earth in the form of a bright light. No sooner had I seen Narendra than I recognized him to be that sage.
- Sri Ramakrishna
(Quoted from The Life of Swami Vivekananda By His Eastern and Western Disciples, Vol.-I, p. 80-81)
Some Great Men on Swami Vivekananda
Rabindra Nath Tagore
If you want to know India, study Vivekananda. In him everything is positive and nothing negative.
Some time ago Vivekananda said that there was the power of Brahman in every man, that Narayana [i.e. God] wanted to have our service through the poor. This is what I call real gospel. This gospel showed the path of infinite freedom from man´s tiny egocentric self beyond the limits of all selfishness. This was no sermon relating to a particular ritual, nor was it a narrow injunction to be imposed upon one´s external life. This naturally contained in it protest against untouchability not because that would make for political freedom, but because that would do away with the humiliation of man a curse which in fact puts to shame the self of us all.
Vivekananda´s gospel marked the awakening of man in his fullness and that is why it inspired our youth to the diverse courses of liberation through work and sacrifice.
In recent times in India, it was Vivekananda alone who preached a great message which is not tied to any do´s and don´ts. Addressing one and all in the nation, he said: In every one of you there is the power of Brahman (God); the God in the poor desires you to serve Him. This message has roused the heart of the youths in a most pervasive way. That is why this message has borne fruit in the service of the nation in diverse ways and in diverse forms of sacrifice. This message has, at one and the same time, imparted dignity and respect to man along with energy and power. The strength that this message has imparted to man is not confined to a particular point; nor is it limited to repetitions of some physical movements. It has, indeed, invested his life with a wonderful dynamism in various spheres. There at the source of the adventurous activities of today´s youth of Bengal is the message of Vivekananda which calls the soul of man, not his fingers.
Romain Rolland (French Noble Laurite 1930)
He [Vivekananda] was energy personified, and action was his message to men. For him, as for Beethoven, it was the root of all the virtues.
His preeminent characteristic was kingliness. He was a born king and nobody ever came near him either in India or America without paying homage to his majesty.
When this quite unknown young man of thirty appeared in Chicago at the inaugural meeting of the Parliament of Religions, opened in September 1893, by Cardinal Gibbons, all his fellow-members were forgotten in his commanding presence. His strength and beauty, the grace and dignity of his bearing, the dark light of this eyes, his imposing appearance, and from the moment he began to speak, the splendid music of his rich deep voice enthralled the vast audience of American Anglo-Saxons, previously prejudiced against him on account of his colour. The thought of this warrior prophet of India left a deep mark upon the United States.
It was impossible to imagine him in the second place. Wherever he went he was the first. Everybody recognized in him at sight the leader, the anointed of God, the man marked with the stamp of the power to command. A traveller who crossed his path in the Himalayas without knowing who he was, stopped in amazement, and cried, ´Shiva... !´
It was as if his chosen God had imprinted His name upon his forehead.
He was less than forty years of age when the athlete lay stretched upon the pyre.
But the flame of that pyre is still alight today. From his ashes, like those of the Phoenix of old, has sprung anew the conscience of India the magic bird faith in her unity and in the Great Message, brooded over from Vedic times by the dreaming spirit of his ancient race the message for which it must render account to the rest of mankind.
´My India, arise!´
´For the next fifty years let all other vain Gods disappear for that time from our minds. This is the only God that is awake, our own race everywhere His hands, everywhere His feet, everywhere His ears, He covers everything. All other Gods are sleeping. What vain Gods shall we go after and yet cannot worship the God that we see all round us, the Virat ? ...The first of all worship is the worship of the Virat of those all around us ..... These are all our Gods men and animals, and the first Gods we have to worship are our own countrymen.´
Imagine the thunderous reverberations of these words!...
The storm passed; it scattered its cataracts of water and fire over the plain, and its formidable appeal to the Force of the Soul, to the God sleeping in man and His illimitable possibilities! I can see the Mage erect, his arm raised, like Jesus above the tomb of Lazarus in Rembrandt´s engraving: with energy flowing from his gesture of command to raise the dead and bring him to life.
Did the dead arise? Did India, thrilling to the sound of his words, reply to the hope of her herald? Was her noisy enthusiasm translated into deeds? At the time nearly all this flame seemed to have been lost in smoke. Two years afterwards Vivekananda declared bitterly that the harvests of young men necessary for his army had not come from India. It is impossible to change in a moment the habits of a people buried in a Dream, enslaved by prejudice, and allowing themselves to fail under the weight of the slightest effort. But the Master´s rough scourge made her turn for the first time in her sleep and for the first time the heroic trumpet sounded in the midst of her dream the Forward March of India, conscious of her God. She never forgot it. From that day the awakening of the torpid Colossus began. If the generation that followed, saw, three years after Vivekananda´s death, the revolt of Bengal, the prelude to the great movement of Tilak and Gandhi, if India today has definitely taken part in the collective action of organized masses, it is due to the initial shock, to the mighty ´Lazarus, come forth,´ of the message from Madras.
This message of energy had a double meaning: a national and a universal. Although, for the great monk of the Advaita, it was the universal meaning that predominated, it was the other that revived the sinews of India.
The world finds itself face to face with an awakening India. Its huge prostrate body, lying along the whole length of the immense peninsula, is stretching its limbs and collecting its scattered forces. Whatever the part played in this reawakening by the three generations of trumpeters during the previous century (the greatest of whom we salute, the genial Precursor: Ram Mohan Roy), the decisive call was the trumpet blast of the lectures delivered at Colombo and Madras.
And the magic watchword was Unity. Unity of every Indian man and woman (and world-unity as well); of all the powers of the spirit dream and action; reason, love, and work. Unity of the hundred races of India with their hundred different tongues and hundred thousand gods springing from the same religious centre, the core of present and future reconstruction. Unity of the thousand sects of Hinduism. Unity within the vast Ocean of all religious thought and all rivers past and present, Western and Eastern. For and herein lies the difference between the awakening of Ramakrishna and Vivekananda and that of Ram Mohan Roy and the Brahmo Samaj in these days India refuses allegiance to the imperious civilization of the West, she defends her own ideas, she has stepped into her age-long heritage with the firm intention not to sacrifice any part of it, but to allow the rest of the world to profit by it, and to receive in return the intellectual conquests of the West. The time is past for the preeminence of one incomplete and partial civilization. Asia and Europe, the two giants, are standing face to face as equals for the first time. If they are wise they will work together, and the fruit of their labours will be for all.
This ´greater India´, this new India whose growth politicians and learned men have, ostrich fashion, hidden from us and whose striking effects are now apparent is impregnated with the soul of Ramakrishna. The twin star of the Paramahansa and the hero who translated his thoughts into action, dominates and guides her present destinies. Its warm radiance is the leaven working within the soil of India and fertilising it. The present leaders of India: the king of thinkers, the king of poets, and the Mahatma Aurobindo Ghosh, Tagore, and Gandhi have grown, flowered, and borne fruit under the double constellation of the Swan and the Eagle a fact publicly acknowledged by Aurobindo and Gandhi.
I have come here [Belur Math] to pay my homage and respect to the revered memory of Swami Vivekananda, whose birthday is being celebrated today [6 February 1921]. I have gone through his works very thoroughly, and after having gone through them, the love that I had for my country became a thousand-fold. I ask you, young men, not go away empty-handed without imbibing something of the spirit of the place where Swami Vivekananda lived and died.
Sister Nivedita (Miss Margaret Noble, a disciple of Swami Vivekananda)
"The truth he preaches would have been as true, had he never been born. Nay more, they would have been equally authentic. The difference would have lain in there difficulty of access, in their want of modern clearness and incisiveness of statement, and in their loss of mutual coherence and unity. Had he not lived, texts that today will carry the bread of life to thousands might have remained the obscure disputes of scholars. He taught with authority, and not as one of the Pundits. For he himself had plunged to the depths of the realization which he preached, and he came back, like Ramanuja, only to tell its secrets to the Pariah, the outcast and the foreigner."
In his first appearance in the world scenario in 1893 at the Parliament of Religions held in Chicago, U. S. A., Swami Vivekananda represented the Hinduism and the Vedantic truth of the ancient Indian Culture. He preached the message of harmony and peace and the equal validity of all religions. He is the founder of the Vedanta Centre in various places in U. S. A., Britain, France and other countries in the West, Asian countries and especially in India. The Ramakrishna movement deals in the emancipation of the humanity, equal potential divinity in each soul of the being, the validity of each religion. This movement has become popular and accepted by the different nations of the World for its core spirit of the harmony of religions and peace among the people at large. It was the message of the Vedantic teaching of "The truth is one; sages call it by various names", which was realized and manifested in practice in the life of Sri Ramakrishna, the Guru of Swami Vivekananda.