Spiritual journey of Swami Ramakrishna Paramhamsa


An Indian saint and a mystic renowned as the founder of the Ramakrishna Mission, better known in the west as the Vedanta Society, Swami Ramakrishna Paramahansa, as an assistant in the temple of the goddess Kali from 1855, devoted his life to his religious ideals. He was a pantheist, believing that all religious paths lead to God-consciousness. To many Hindus he represented a “supremely realised self” and an incarnation of the divine.
Born into a Brahman family, Ramakrishna’s striking characteristic in childhood was his emotional and aesthetic sensitivity and power. When overwhelmed by beauty and emotion, he would lose consciousness in an ecstatic trance. His early spiritual experiences included going into a state of rapture while watching the flight of cranes, and losing consciousness of the outer world while playing the role of the God Shiva in a school play.
In 1861, a renouncing mendicant woman named ‘Yogesvari’, arrived at the temple. A master of Tantric discipline, she became Krishna’s first guru and guided him through a remarkable transformation over a four-year period that overcame his sense of separation from the world. Altering his continuous visionary state to instead make it his ‘mansion of mirth,’ Krishna again returned to the Hindu practices of his childhood.
Four years later another renouncing named ‘Totapuri’ came to the temple, giving Krishna instruction in the state of the ‘Absolute’, a state of consciousness devoid of all conceptual forms. The result was another trance-like state which allegedly lasted nearly a year, almost causing Krishna’s physical death.
After recovering from this experience, Krishna returned to his ‘mansion of mirth’ and began to expand his religious awareness by studying Islam and Christianity. Both teachings brought visionary realisations which he realised, were similar to those he experienced of his own Hindu deities. These brief but no less intense visions became the experiential basis for his claim that all religions can lead to same realisation of the divine. By 1879, he was attracting disciples among the intellectual circles in Calcutta, many of whom had been previously adopting European and Christian customs. He spent his last years teaching these disciples and streams of visitors. One of these disciples, ‘Vivekenanda’, later known as ‘Swami- Vivekananda’, recorded his instructions from 1882-1886 and spread Krishna’s message to the world. He died of throat cancer in Calcutta, India on 8/16/1886.


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