Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, a spiritual scientist

Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa had no education in the conventional sense of the term. In fact, when he was first admitted to the school in the Kamarpakur village. After a few years, he left the school saying that this school which teaches us how to gather money and food is not my cup of tea.

His first spiritual experience was very unique. It did not happen when he was sitting in a temple and meditating, or when he was reading the scriptures. It happened when as a young boy of seven or eight, he was walking along the paddy fields with a small bag of kurmuras around his neck. Looking up, he saw the sky was dark, and a flock of white cranes suddenly flew across the black clouds. He was not doing japa, he was not reading, he was not sitting in a temple, he was in was open paddy field, looking up at the open sky and when he saw the white cranes fly across the geese or cane, he looked at that wondrous contrast of nature and he simply simply said, oh my God, and fell down. I don’t know exactly what words he used in Bengali. And he was in a trance for some time.

So this is the first beginning of his enquiry into the spiritual, which is why he is a spiritual scientist. He was original in his own way.

After some time people discovered him lying there and took him back.

Afterwards he always used to describe that as a blissful experience when he saw that contrast, saw the great universal, expansive nature of the universe and the supreme reality. He was attuned to this from his childhood. Later on, he put in a lot of effort to stabilize it.

Anyway, then there are many other instances in his life.

He got him married very young. In those days, you know, after marriage the bride used to live in her parents’ house and he used to live in the other house. Many years passed.

The Rani Rasomoni of Dakshineshwar, decided to build a temple for Bhadrakali on the banks of the Ganga. But she could not find a priest to take care of the worship as she came from the fishermen’s community and the orthodox Brahmins decided that they will not do puja for her. Finally, Sri Ramakrishna’s brother became the priest and Sri Ramakrishna used to worship the Krishna who is still there. She persuaded him to become the priest of the Kali temple. From that time, his sadhana and spiritual experiments began and it was so tremendous that any ordinary man would have probably died and gone before he finished anything, because it was a very stormy sadhana. Then, gradually and slowly, it became a love affair as a child and she as the mother. Finally it came to a stage when somebody discovered him sitting in the temple, taking flowers and instead of offering it to the mother, putting it on his own head.

His only call was, ‘Mother, reveal yourself’. This went on for quite some time. He didn’t care for society. In fact they were thinking whether they should hire another priest to do the puja, because he was completely absorbed in this sadhana in this loving relationship with the mother. He would hold her chin and give the food and cajole her to eat it. He would say, why is she not eating it?

Then one day he said, I have worked very hard, I have surrendered myself, enough is enough.

Believe me, this is an excellent, very very scientifically done with complete attention and in a unique way as any scientist would. This is why I say scientific. He was open to study anything that would contribute to his understanding the truth which he called the mother.

Maybe in this life this body is not fit to find this truth. In that frenzy he said, let me end this body so that maybe next time in another body I might find the Truth. And he said, without finding this truth, life is useless for me, it’s better it ends. He decided that he would end his life. So he took Mother’s sword and as he was on the verge of killing himself, he got his first vision, experience. The sword fell from his hand and he saw light everywhere. In that first experience he did not see the mother in any form. He was in a state where there was only flowing light, nothing else. It became such an intimate relationship that he used to feel the mother everywhere. Sometimes he saw her as all pervading, sometimes he saw her actually walking and talking and going up to the Nahabath and standing there and looking at the moon.

His experiment did not stop there.

He was a being, who came to show that all paths lead to the same goal. And therefore for him, while this was the first, he was ready to experiment whenever opportunity provided an opening. So he was a spiritualist.

Dakshineswar was on the way between Ganga Sagar. Many people visited the temple. In that process came Bhairavi Brahmani, who was a Vaishnava Tantra Yogi. And it was Bhairavi Brahmani who taught him many of the inner practices.

She said to him, I have some things to teach you, are you ready? He said, yes. She lived with him for many years. It was during his time that she gathered a group of scholars to find out, to declare that he was not an ordinary man but an avatar. Scholars were called from all over India. Three days of discussions went on under the hospitality of Rani Rasmani. Some people said yes, some people said no. Finally it occurred to him they didn’t ask the person they were discussing. So they said let us call him and ask him what he thinks about this matter. Unfortunately or fortunately at that time he was taking out something to wash and he fell down and broke his arm. So his arm was in a sling. They said, they are saying that you are an avatar, what do you say yourself?

He said, look I don’t know about your Shastras and all that, but if you think I am an Avatar, this is the first time there is an Avatar with a broken hand.

At no point in his life was Sri Ramakrishna interested in Siddhis or having this power. His only thing was purifying the mind and reaching for the Divine. He had the capacity to do anything, but he was not caught by any such things.

Whichever sadhu came, he studied from them. And there was a peculiarity. One Bairagi sadhu came who used to carry a small Ram lala with him, which he treated like a real being. He fed it, he looked after it, he put it to sleep. Few days after he stayed there, he came crying and said, what is this? Now Ram Lala is refusing to come, he says I will stay with him. So from Shakta to Vaishnava to Ram Lala, he went on going into every aspect of spiritual life. This is why I said, as a scientist, he experimented, didn’t accept anything unless he found it.

Next, in the Vedantic finality came Totapuri. Totapuri was a Vedantin asked him, would you like to learn Vedanta?

He said, yes, but what does it entail?

Totapuri was a person who belonged to an order that didn’t stay for more than three days in one place. He stayed there for months because he found someone who he thought was a wonderful disciple to learn. He taught him. Then, he said, the highest state of Vedanta is to go into Nirvikalpa Samadhi, where there is only one reality which is everywhere. So I want to teach you that.

The story is, he said, sit down, fix your attention here. He took a piece of broken glass, and said, here, put your attention there. He fixed his attention there and said, ‘now take everything out of your mind, except awareness’. He said, ‘I can take everything out but mother is there. Whenever I close my eyes, she is standing before me, what am I to do?’

Now here, it’s a real student and a proper scientist.

He said, ‘you will have to cut her off’.

For him Mother was the dearest but he agreed because he wanted to go and find out what it is. For him Truth was more important.

He said, okay, I will do as you say.

Totapuri said, use your mind as a sword and if she appears cut through and break her.

Yes, he said, and he broke through, which must have been a very difficult thing for him to do, considering that he always kept saying, Mago, Mago, Mago!

And then he was in that state for three and a half days.

Totapuri was worried, used to push little food into his mouth at times. And then after three and a half days, he woke him up.

And the story is that by the time Totapuri left, he was convinced of the fact that it is possible to attain this state even by worshipping the Mother. When he came, he did not believe it. So already the great sadhak has begun to become a teacher. The first student I would say was Totapuri, although we think he is a Guru.

He didn’t stop there. He used to be very close to Michael Madhusudan Dutta. So he picked up Christian sadhana. He practiced Christian prayers, he had a cross, finally he had a vision in which he said that Jesus Christ came and merged into him.

But look at this originality, he said he didn’t have such a sharp nose as we see in pictures, it was little blunt. This is the originality of Sri Ramakrishna.

Then he knew a Sufi Islamic sadhana. Now during that period, he used to wear a lungi and did not look at the temple. He used to turn his face away because he was doing that sadhana with complete attention. Of Of course, he could not bring himself to eat beef, but apparently once he just put his finger in, it was enough.

He is also the person who did what is known as the Vamachara without drinking wine. In Vamachara, the Panchamakaras also consist of Madhu, which is wine. He didn’t. All he had to say was Madhu and he would be more drunk than people who drank a bottle of wine.

After all that finally he started teaching and all these young boys gathered around him. That also was very experimental. He encouraged everybody to find out for themselves. And this is a true teacher whose role in this world is to teach. He approached each person in a different way. He was fully equipped to understand all the sadhanas. If a Vaishnava came to him, he never told him, you become a Shakta or a Vedantin. He taught him accordingly. If a Shakta came to him, if a Vedantin came to him, he taught him accordingly.

There is a beautiful story of how Mahendranath Gupta, who is also called M, wrote the gospel of Ramakrishna, first met him in the garden, after having a fight with his wife. Suddenly he asked him, do you believe in God with form or without form? Mahendranath Gupta was in the Brahmo Samaj. He said, I believe in God without form. Okay, fine. He said, this is a wonderful thing. But this God of yours without form, is he everywhere or is he in some special heaven somewhere? He said, he is everywhere, he is all-pervading. He said, if he is all-pervading, then that Mother’s image which is in the temple also should contain the Brahman, right? So why do you exclude it?

Nobody had asked him this question before. He had met professors and various people. He said that is true, but then ignorant people don’t know about it, so we have to tell them. He said this is the problem with you fellows. You don’t know anything, but you want to teach others. With that M was silenced and he went back home, deciding that maybe I will come some other time.

There is also a story about how he came back. One day, Sri Ramakrishna was sitting in his room talking to these boys. He told them a story about a temple priest who used to feed opium in the milk to a peacock. One day he fed him, the next day the peacock came again because of the opium. Third day it came, so every day it started. Then he said that peacock is going to come now. So everybody thought, what is this, which peacock? After a while, it was a Sunday, Mahendranath Gupta walked in. When he saw him, he said, the peacock is coming. Everybody started laughing. When he came inside, he asked the boys what happened. He said, yeah, I am also beginning to enjoy.

This is how he trained people. I think his greatest discovery apart from his spiritual discovery was Swami Vivekananda. He actually said that Noren will lead when I am not there. All the principles of the Ramakrishna mission, all the teachings that Swamiji brought in were basically coming from Thakur. He only changed and modernized it a little bit.

There is a story that when the Belur Math was being built, some of his Guru Bhais criticized him for fun saying that all this is new thing about service etc. Thakur only taught us how to get to Samadhi. He said alright, went inside, took his Kamandalu and walked out. He said, if you know what he taught, run the place, I am out.

So they went and told him, we were just discussing the matter, come back, Dada and brought him back.

Once at Deoghar, during the famine, he sat with the villagers and said to Mathur babu, I will not move from here until you get supplies, food and medicine for these suffering people. If you don’t, I am going to stay in this village and die.

Swamiji said, that is the compassion which I am trying to teach. The worship of human being as Daridra Narayana is the greatest worship that you can do. And please believe me, this is from Thakur, not from me. So, the discovery of not only Swami Vivekananda, but the twelve stalwarts who worked with him, each of whom like a true scientist, he treated differently and brought up in a different way.

There is a story, Swami Premananda was a very mild-mannered person. Once when he was coming in the boat to Dakshineshwar, some people criticized Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, what is that mad Brahmin priest doing there, spoiling young people and so on. So, Sri Ramakrishna asked him, ‘what did you answer? He said, I didn’t say anything, I just kept quiet and came. He said, what kind of a man you are, they are criticizing your Guru and you just came away! So others were hearing it. Weightlifter and gym man, when he was coming on the boat, somebody criticized Sri Ramakrishna saying that what kind of a man he is and so on. When they got off, he caught the boat and shook it and some people fell into the water. So he came back very proudly and told Thakur, you know they criticized me, you know what I did? I shook the boat. He said, who are you to protect me? Who are you? You are nobody. Why did you do this? You are not supposed to do this. But he had told the other person, you have to do it. Here he says, you are not supposed to do it.

With Swami Vivekananda he used to say, whenever people who gave money as loan for interest bought any sweet for Ramakrishna, he couldn’t eat it, he couldn’t even touch it. Something would happen to him. But when Swamiji came as Narendra Datta, he said you give him the sweets, nothing will happen.

Somebody told him that Naren has started eating paan. He said he will eat anything you like. If you do that, I won’t look at your face again.

You see this, this is the way of a great teacher that he looks at what points are required in each person and guides the other. There is no exception, that you stick to truth, keep your senses under control and lead a simple life. These three are necessary. So, not only was he a spiritual scientist experimenting and finding out for himself, he also brought up his disciples in such a way that each one became a stalwart in his own right. This is the sign of a great teacher, which is why I said that it is not possible for me to say that he is an ordinary human being. An ordinary human being can do only one sadhana, end there. Here is a being who experimented everywhere and then finally when he said all sadhana, all rivers lead to the same goal, he was talking from his own personal experience and conviction and not from any book that he read. He could not actually read many books. This is why I call Sri Ramakrishna a spiritual scientist and perhaps the original, because before that we don’t see anybody on the horizon like that.

So there is a message here, which is, no matter which way you approach the Truth, stick to your way, put all your attention. It’s very important that you lead a truthful life.

For outward living, the only way to purify your life is by doing seva to other people who are unfortunate. Swamiji exemplified it by his whole activity. What we see today in all parts of the world, the Ramakrishna Mission and the wonderful monks who are here and the brahmacharis, this came from a small spark of Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, a temple priest sitting in Dakshineshwar, who trained an electric, lightning-like figure to go out and do this work.

When Swami Vivekananda was asked in England, can you please define your master, he said, for some time he kept quiet, then he said, a speck of dust from those blessed feet could have created a thousand Vivekanandas, what more shall I say and keep quiet. This is Sri Ramakrishna for you.

Om Shanti, Shanti, Shanti.

Sri M

About The Satsang Foundation

The Satsang Foundation, founded by Sri M, is a meeting point for spiritual seekers of all persuasions. The Satsang Foundation also extends a helping hand to the less privileged of society.