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Ramakrishna Paramahansa was a great saint, mystic and a spiritual guru. He made people realise that God alone is real and everything else is an illusion by his teachings. By his life, he has demonstrated the world the state of mind.
His life is the best example of devotion to god, self-realization and ideals and values of Hinduism. The original name of Ramakrishna Paramahansa was Gadadhara. Gadadhara got his name as Ramakrishna Paramahansa by his patron Mathura Mohan Biwas, son-in-law of Rani Rasmanai proprietress of Dakshineswar Kali temple. Later he was called as Paramahamsa by his guru Totapuri. From then he was called as Ramakrishna Paramahansa Paramahamsa.
There was a couple Khudiram and Chandramani in a Brahmin family of Chattopadhyaya in Bengal at the Karmapukur village in Hooghly district. This couple was simple, honest and devoted to Lord Rama. They were blessed with a baby boy(Ramakrishna Paramahansa) on 17th February 1836. Before the birth of this boy, Chandramani had many divine visions and dreams about that baby. Even Khudiram also had a vision about that baby’s spiritual greatness and attainment. They named that boy as “Gadadhara” meaning the macebearer. Along with Ramakrishna Paramahansa, this couple had five children.
Gadadhara was not interested in his studies. But he showed great interest in the religious stories, epics and biographies of great saints. In childhood, he would often perform meditation leading to a state of trance. His father’s death in 1843 brought a drastic change in the boy. He began to enjoy the company of sadhus and holy persons. This made him practise meditation more and more.
After the death of his father, his elder brother Ram Kumar took his father’s position of priest in Dakshineswar Kali temple. At the age of 17, Gadadhara joined his elder brother Ram Kumar who kept a teaching toll besides working as a family priest. Gadadhara was given the duties of a priest. He performed this satisfactorily. He impressed everyone with his devotion, honesty and purity of heart. Later he was appointed as the permanent priest in Dakshineswar Kali temple. Here he practised asceticism and meditation reciting the thousand names of God. Gradually his visions of Divine Mother Kali became divine intoxication.
At the age of 23, to please and comfort his old mother, he married Sardamani Devi. His wife became his valuable partner in his austerities, sadhana and meditations. He often suffered from divine madness and spiritual fits. This led him to god realization. He looked at his wife as the visible representation of the Divine Mother. He treated his wife as Divine mother and performed Shodashi Puja with her in the seat of Goddess Kali.
Once, a wandering monk Totapuri visited the Dakshineswar temple. He became Ramakrishna Paramahansa’s mentor. Ramakrishna Paramahansa was motivated by him and learned Advaita Vedanta from him. After that, Ramakrishna Paramahansa remained in a state of trance for six month under the guidance of his guru Totapuri. This state of trance is described as complete absorption of the soul into the divine ocean of consciousness. From this point of time disciples began to appear in Ramakrishna Paramahansa’s life.
Ramakrishna Paramahansa realized God through various religious practices, sadhanas and prayers. He heard about the life story of Jesus Christ and followed his teachings practically. He also practised Islam. He regarded Buddha as the incarnation of God. From all these practices, he found that they all brought him to the same divine reality at the end. So he realised that God is one and common to all religions. Though he was a devotee of goddess Kali, he showed respect to other visitors who worshipped other gods and spoke to them about the past Indian saints who were devoted to other deities.
Ramakrishna Paramahansa believed that every man and every woman is holy. He always said that we can achieve god through work, not by salvation. He says that God resides in every person. So, being kind to human is being kind to god.
Through his speech, Ramakrishna Paramahansa used to explain that god is both formed and formless. He used to ask the visitors whether they conceived god as having qualities or as being beyond qualities and proceeded to teach them according to the way they viewed the divine. His acceptance of different approaches to worship god such as Christianity, Islam, etc., is the best tradition of the Universalist approach to religion that is common throughout our country India. Some people think that if one religious approach is right, the others must be wrong. But Indian mind tends to accept someone like Ramakrishna Paramahansa who preaches universality of religion. Ramakrishna Paramahansa described god as a mother who cooks food to her children according to their taste and ability to digest. A mother sacrifices herself for her children and does anything to satisfy them and bring happiness in them. So, god as a mother makes different religions and beliefs according to each person’s needs and tastes.
Ramakrishna Paramahansa had many disciples. Vivekanand was one of the prominent of these disciples. The original name of Vivekanand was Narendranath. Once, Vivekanand visited the temple of Dakshineshwar where he became the devotee and disciple of Ramakrishna Paramahansa. Ramakrishna Paramahansa’s genuine spiritual greatness and God-realization revolutionized him. Initially, Vivekanand argued with Ramakrishna Paramahansa against image-worship, rituals and sadhana. He wanted a direct proof about the existence of God. Gradually he realized Ramakrishna Paramahansa’s greatness. His association with Ramakrishna Paramahansa changed his life completely. He became a great spiritual teacher, guide and guru. With the inspiration of Ramakrishna Paramahansa Paramhansa, Swamy Vivekananda electrified his audience at the World Parliament of Religions meeting in Chicago in 1893.
Along with his fellow disciples of Ramakrishna Paramahansa and monks, Vivekanand created Ramakrishna Paramahansa Mission on may 1st 1897, to promote the teachings of his Guru Ramakrishna Paramahansa. It is a non-profit organisation. Its headquarters are in Belur. The main goal of the Ramakrishna Paramahansa Mission is to help people in attaining salvation. Vivekananda promoted Hinduism which focused on education, feeding the poor and developing libraries and other institutions. He worked to show that not only the Christian missionaries that could benefit society but also the Hindu religion can improve society combating social ills, through this mission.
Ramakrishna Paramahansa did not write any book nor delivered any public lectures. He used to speak a simple language by drawing observation of nature and ordinary things of daily use. His conversations were noted down by his disciples. One of his disciples Mahendranath Gupta published these conversations in the form of a book “Sri Ramakrishna Paramahansa Kathamrita” in the Bengali language. Its English version “The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna Paramahansa” was released later in 1942.
Once, Ishwarchandra Vidyasagar and Bankim Chandra Chatterjee met Ramakrishna Paramahansa. They were impressed and influenced by his spiritual personality. Ramakrishna Paramahansa had many devotees who felt highly privileged to spend hours in his teachings and sermons. Some of his followers are Girish Ghosh, Zamidar Rakhal, Chandra Ghosh etc.
During his last days, Ramakrishna Paramahansa suffered from acute throat trouble which is diagnosed as Clergyman’s sore throat. This gradually developed into cancer. On 16th August 1886, Ramakrishna Paramahansa died and entered Mahasamadhi. After that Ramakrishna Paramahansa's wife, Sarada Devi became a saint to carry on his message.
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