Yogacharya David Hickenbottom
Ramakrishna is recognized as one of the great spiritual Masters of the 18th century (February 18, 1836-August 16, 1886). One of Paramhansa Yogananda’s great influences was Master Mahasaya, a direct disciple of Ramakrishna and author of the spiritual classic Gospel of Ramakrishna (identifying himself only by the moniker of M). Master visited the Temple at Dakshineswar and had the vision of the Divine Mother; this was the same location where Ramakrishna had lived, practiced intense sadhana and had many visions of the Divine Mother.
Papa also had a tremendous experience when he visited Ramakrishna’s room at Dakshineswar, finding himself rolling on the ground in divine ecstasy due to the holy vibrations which still permeated the room long after Ramakrishna had left his body.
When I was at Ramakrishna’s Samadhi Temple near Dakshineswar I sat in front of a lifelike statue of Ramakrishna and was lifted up into a divine vision of the Master and felt sanctified by his touch. Later that same day I travelled to Dakshineswar and stood outside the crowd who were packed into the small area where Kali was displayed (the black faced statue of the Divine Mother). As I stood contemplating whether or not to enter the press of the crowd, a priest came out from a side door, walked over to me and without saying a word he took my hand and brought me through the side door, past the crowds and right up in front; I had the darshan of the statue in front of all the others. I felt very blessed that the compassionate Mother Kali and the Master Sri Ramakrishna had conspired in such an obvious way to give me this experience.
I have many times read through the Gospel of Ramakrishna and have always taken great inspiration from it; receiving the shakti (power) that comes from its descriptions. Ramakrishna is an example of a great bhakta (the yoga of love and devotion as a means of attaining realization). He is also a proven example that once realization is attained one is in touch with all aspects of the path. Thus, a bhakta will also manifest the qualities of a jnana (wise with discrimination), a karma (one with God in action) and a raja yogi (master of meditation and pranayama).
Mother’s Experience and the Salt Doll Story
Ramakrishna (they call him the Yogi Christ of India) told a story about the salt doll who went into the ocean, thinking that she would experience what the ocean was like and come back and tell the story. But when the salt doll went into the ocean she melted, and she was unable to come back. Unlike the salt doll, I went into the ocean but the spirit of the ocean gathered the salt again to her bosom and fashioned a form and put it back on earth so that I might tell all men everywhere that God is life and life is God, and that they are He in human form if they would only know it... if they would only know it.
Mother on the Saviors of Mankind
Many have said, like you, "Why should I destroy my ego? Of what value is it? I cannot conceive of such a thing because then I would be nothing." Let us remember the great ones who have destroyed their egos in order that they might become the saviors of mankind: Krishna, Buddha, Jesus the Christ, Mohammed, Zoroaster— and in our own time, Ramakrishna, Ramana Maharshi, Ramdas, and our own beloved Guru, Paramhansa Yogananda, to name only a few. Were these non‑entities? Nothings? They were and will be for evermore the greatest personalities the world has ever known. They chose to lose their lives, the human ego centered only in the consciousness of the little self, that they might become the saviors of the world. They will be remembered long after all of the kings, presidents, and others great in the worldly sense have been forgotten.
Mother: Ramakrishna and Master Taught that All Paths End in God
Ramakrishna started at the middle, and he pursued every single religious path only to find the same God the Father at the end of each. No matter which techniques he used, which rituals he used, which creeds, it didn't make any difference.
Mother on Ramakrishna and Humility
Some of you may have read about the story of Sri Ramakrishna when a man came to him who was writing a play. He felt himself to be great indeed and he was sounding off, so to speak, in front of Ramakrishna of all the great things that he was going to do and the characters he was going to produce and whatnot. He asked Ramakrishna did he not want to take part in his play. Ramakrishna said, oh, yes, he did. “What part would you like to play?” “I would like to play the part of the dust at your feet,” said he. That’s a tremendous lesson in humility, tremendous.
Ramakrishna Reading by Ralph Hamilton (Father) and comment by Mother:
Father: He said to Mahima, one of his devotees,
“You explain AUM as containing three letters: AUM.”
Father: Mahima said,
"Revered Sir, AUM means creation, preservation, and destruction."
Father: Ramakrishna said,
"But for me it is like the sound 'dongggg' of a big bell which is at first audible, then inaudible, and ultimately melts away into infinite space. So the phenomenal melts away in the Absolute. The gross, subtle and causal states lose themselves in the Great Cause, the Absolute. And waking, dream, and dreamless sleep states become merged in the fourth state, samadhi. When the bell sounds, it creates waves like those in the ocean when a heavy stone is thrown into it. From the Absolute, phenomena came out. From the same Absolute, which is the Great First Cause, has also evolved the gross, subtle and causal bodies. And from the same Absolute again, which is the fourth state, come the other three states of consciousness. The waves of the ocean are once more dissolved in the ocean. By this illustration of 'dongggg', I show that the eternal word AUM is symbolic of the evolution and the involution of phenomena from and into the Absolute. I have seen all these things. My Divine Mother has shown me that in the infinite ocean of the Absolute, waves rise and again merge into it."
Father: And so on.
Mother: You see, when you reach a certain stage in your spiritual consciousness, then you can hear this sound at will. For instance, while Father was speaking there, I went within myself and I could hear it. And gradually it just fills your whole being, and there is this feeling toward the tendency of bliss. And when you can merge into that infinite stream of Aum, then you attain this bliss of God. It doesn't come all at once, but by gradual stages. But the thing is practice, again.
Sayings of Ramakrishna:
“A devotee who can call on God while living a householder's life is a hero indeed. God thinks: 'He is blessed indeed who prays to me in the midst of his worldly duties. He is trying to find me, overcoming a great obstacle -- pushing away, as it were, a huge block of stone weighing a ton. Such a man is a real hero.'”
“Dislodging a green nut from its shell is almost impossible, but let it dry and the lightest tap will do it.”
“The grace of God is a wind which is always blowing.”
“God had created the world in play.”
“A man is truly free, even here in this embodied state, if he knows that God is the true agent and he by himself is powerless to do anything.”
“Bondage is of the mind; freedom too is of the mind. If you say 'I am a free soul. I am a son of God who can bind me' free you shall be.”
“Disease is the tax which the soul pays for the body, as the tenant pays house-rent for the use of the house.”
“God can be realized through all paths. All religions are true. The important thing is to reach the roof. You can reach it by stone stairs or by wooden stairs or by bamboo steps or by a rope. You can also climb up by a bamboo pole.”
“God is everywhere but He is most manifest in man. So serve man as God. That is as good as worshipping God.”
“God is in all men, but all men are not in God; that is why we suffer.”
“If you desire to be pure, have firm faith, and slowly go on with your devotional practices without wasting your energy in useless scriptural discussions and arguments. Your little brain will otherwise be muddled.”
“If you first fortify yourself with the true knowledge of the Universal Self, and then live in the midst of wealth and worldliness, surely they will in no way affect you.”
“If you must be mad, be it not for the things of the world. Be mad with the love of God.”
“If you want to go east, don't go west.”
“It is easy to talk on religion, but difficult to practice it.”
“Longing is like the rosy dawn. After the dawn out comes the sun. Longing is followed by the vision of God.”
“Many are the names of God and infinite the forms through which He may be approached.”
“Many good sayings are to be found in holy books, but merely reading them will not make one religious.”
“More are the names of God and infinite are the forms through which He may be approached. In whatever name and form you worship Him, through them you will realise Him.”
“One must be very particular about telling the truth. Through truth one can realize God.”
“Pray to God that your attachment to such transitory things as wealth, name, and creature comforts may become less and less every day.”
“The fabled musk deer searches the world over for the source of the scent which comes from itself.”
“The physicians of one class feel the patients and go away, merely prescribing medicine. As they leave the room they simply ask the patient to take the medicine. They are the poorest class of physicians.”
"The world is indeed a mixture of truth and make-believe. Discard the make-believe and take the truth.”
“Through love one acquires renunciation and discrimination naturally.”
“Through selfless work, love of God grows in the heart. Then through his grace one realizes him in course of time. God can be seen. One can talk to him as I am talking to you.”
“To work without attachment is to work without the expectation of reward or fear of any punishment in this world or the next. Work so done is a means to the end, and God is the end.”
“Travel in all the four quarters of the earth, yet you will find nothing anywhere. Whatever there is, is only here.”
“Unalloyed love of God is the essential thing. All else is unreal.”
“Unless one always speaks the truth, one cannot find God Who is the soul of truth.”
“When one has love for God, one doesn't feel any physical attraction to wife, children, relatives and friends. One retains only compassion for them.”
“When the divine vision is attained, all appear equal; and there remains no distinction of good and bad, or of high and low.”
“When the flower blooms, the bees come uninvited.”
“Work, apart from devotion or love of God, is helpless and cannot stand alone.”
[This article drawn from the Wikipedia website. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ramakrishna]
Birth and childhood
Ramakrishna was born in 1836, in the village of Kamarpukur, in the Hooghly district of West Bengal, into a very poor but pious, orthodox brahmin family. His parents were Khudiram Chattop‚dhy‚ya, and Chandramani DevÓ. Various supernatural incidents are recounted by Saradananda in connection with Ramakrishna’s birth. It is said that Ramakrishna was named Gadadhar in response to a dream Khudiram had in Gaya before Ramakrishna’s birth, in which Lord Gadadhara, the form of Vishnu worshipped at Gaya, appeared to him and told him he would be born as his son. Chandramani Devi is said to have had a vision of light entering her womb before Ramakrishna was born. Ramakrishna was born as the fourth and last child to his parents.
Gadadhar, as Ramakrishna was known in his early days, was an extremely popular figure in his village. He had a natural gift for the fine arts like drawing and clay modeling. However, he disliked attending school, and rejected his schooling saying that he was not interested in mere "Bread Winning Education". He became increasingly less interested in formal attendance. Though Gadadhar shunned the traditional school system, he showed great desire and ability to learn. He easily mastered the songs, tales and dramas which were based on the religious scriptures. At a very early age he was well versed in the Purānas, the Rāmāyana, the Mahābhārata, and Śrīmad Bhāgavatam, by hearing them from wandering monks and the Kathaks — a class of men in ancient India who preached and sang the Purānas for the uneducated masses. He learned to read and write in Bengali. He was able to follow Sanskrit even though he could not speak the language. He would visit with wandering monks who stopped in Kamarpukur on their way to Puri. He would serve them and listen to their religious debates with rapt attention. Gadadhar loved nature and spent much time in fields and fruit orchards outside the village with his friends.
At the age of six or seven, Gadadhar had an intense experience of spiritual ecstasy. He was walking along the paddy fields and suddenly looked up to find a flock of white cranes flying with dark thunder-clouds as a background. To him, that was a beautiful sight, he was so absorbed that he lost consciousness of everything outward. He later said that in that state he had experienced an indescribable joy. Gadadhar had experiences of similar nature a few other times in his childhood.
Gadadhar's father died in 1843. This event had a profound effect on the boy and is considered as one of the determinative points in Ramakrishna's religious life. This loss drew him closer to his mother, and he spent his time in household activities, including the daily worship of the household deities. He also became more involved in contemplative activities such as reading the sacred epics.
At the age of nine, Gadadhar was to be invested with the sacred thread. When the arrangements for the ceremony were nearly complete, he declared that he would have his first alms from a certain low-caste woman of the village, as he had promised this to her. This was met with firm opposition from Gadadhar’s family, as tradition required that the first alms be received from a brahmin, but the boy was adamant that a promise made could not be broken. Finally, Ramkumar, his eldest brother and head of the family after the passing away of their father, gave in.
When Ramakrishna was into his teens, the family's financial position worsened. Ramkumar ran a Sanskrit school in Calcutta and also served as a purohit priest in some families. Ramakrishna moved to Calcutta in the year 1852 and started assisting his elder brother in the priestly work.
Career as priest
Dakshineswar Kāli Temple, where Ramakrishna spent a major portion of his adult life.
In 1855 Ramkumar was appointed as the priest of Dakshineswar Kali Temple, built by Rani Rashmoni — a rich woman of Calcutta who belonged to the untouchable kaivarta community, Ramakrishna moved in with his brother only after some persuasion, since the temple was constructed by a low caste woman. Ramakrishna, along with his nephew Hriday, became assistants to Ramkumar in the Kali temple. Ramakrishna was given the task of decorating the deity. When Ramkumar passed away in 1856, Ramakrishna took his place as the priest of the Kāli temple. Ramakrishna was allotted a room in the north-western corner of the temple courtyard, where he spent the rest of his life.
Bhavatārini Kāli, the deity that Ramakrishna worshipped.
After Ramkumar's demise Ramakrishna became more contemplative. He began to look upon the image of the goddess Kāli as his mother and the mother of the universe. He became seized by a desire to have a vision of Kāli — a direct realization of her reality. He believed the stone image to be living and breathing and taking food out of his hand. After the regular forms of worship he would sit in front of the statue for long periods, singing hymns, talking and praying to her, till he lost all consciousness of the outward world. Sometimes he would weep bitterly and sometimes even cry out loudly while worshipping, and would not be comforted, because he could not see his mother Kali as perfectly as he wished. At night, he would go into a nearby jungle and spend the whole night meditating on God, without any consciousness of even his clothes falling off. People became divided in their opinions — some held Ramakrishna to be mad, and some took him to be a great lover of God.
One day, he was so impatient to see Mother Kāli that he decided to end his life. He seized a sword hanging on the wall and was about to strike himself with it, when he is reported to have seen light issuing from the deity in waves. Ramakrishna describes his first vision of Kali as follows—
I had a marvellous vision of the Mother, and fell down unconscious.…It was as if houses, doors, temples and everything else vanished altogether; as if there was nothing anywhere! And what I saw was an infinite shoreless sea of light; a sea that was consciousness. However far and in whatever direction I looked, I saw shining waves, one after another, coming towards me. They were raging and storming upon me with great speed. Very soon they were upon me; they made me sink down into unknown depths. I panted and struggled and lost consciousness.
… What was happening in the outside world I did not know; but within me there was a steady flow of undiluted bliss, altogether new, and I felt the presence of the Divine Mother.
After this vision of Kali, Ramakrishna became more and more aware of the presence of Kali and completely surrendered himself to Kali. Childlike, he obeyed what he called the will of the Mother in everything, no matter how trivial or philosophical. People thought he was insane, but he never cared for what the world might think of him. Although Rani Rasmani and her son-in-law Mathur Babu had faith in Ramakrishna and left him free do whatever he liked, they thought that Ramakrishna was suffering from the effects of unduly prolonged continence. So Mathur arranged for prostitutes to visit Ramakrishna, but their attempts to seduce Ramakrishna only failed. He took the prostitutes to be forms of Divine Mother herself.
Rumors spread to Kamarpukur that Ramakrishna had gone mad as a result of his over-taxing spiritual exercises at Dakshineswar. Ramakrishna's mother and his elder brother Rameswar decided to get Ramakrishna married, thinking that marriage would be a good steadying influence upon him — by forcing him to accept responsibility and to keep his attention on normal affairs rather than being obsessed with his spiritual practices and visions. Far from objecting to the marriage, Ramakrishna, mentioned Jayrambati, three miles to the north-west of Kamarpukur, as being the village where the bride could be found at the house of one Ramchandra Mukherjee. The five-year-old bride, Sarada, was found and the marriage was duly solemnised in 1859. Ramakrishna was 23 at this point, but the age difference was typical for 19th century rural Bengal. Ramakrishna left Sarada in December 1860 and did not return until May 1867.
According to the Ramakrishna Mission, Sarada was Ramakrishna’s first disciple. He attempted to teach her everything he had learned from his various gurus. She is believed to have mastered every religious secret as quickly as Ramakrishna had. Impressed by her religious potential, he began to treat her as the Universal Mother Herself and performed a puja considering Sarada as a veritable Tripura Sundari Devi.
After his marriage Ramakrishna returned to Calcutta and took upon himself the charges of the temple again, but instead of toning down, his spiritual fervour and devotion only increased. He was unable to attend to any external duties, he suffered from sleeplessness, and burning sensations throughout his body. Physicians were consulted, and one of them told, "It seems to me that the patient's condition is due to some kind of spiritual excitement — medicine won't cure him."
Yogeshwari and Tantra
In 1861, a female guru called Bhairavi Brahmani appeared at Dakshineshwar. Her real name was Yogeshwari, but details about her life before her arrival in Dakshineswar is unknown. She was adept in Tantric and Vaishnava methods of worship. When Ramakrishna first met her, he described her about his madness for God, his spiritual experiences and his physical symptoms. Bhairavi reassured him saying that all these physical manifestations come to an ardent lover of God. She quoted from the scriptures and declared that the same things happened to Radha and Chaitanya and that scriptures have recommended cure for such physical symptoms. She then smeared Ramakrishna's body with sandal-wood paste and put garlands on his neck, and the pain Ramakrishna experienced vanished in three days. Ramakrishna accepted Bhairavi as a teacher and she taught him the practice of the eight-fold methods of Yoga prescribed by Patanjali.
Bhairavi initiated Ramakrishna into tantric practices, which expose the sense and spirit to all the disturbances of the flesh and imaginations, so that these may be overcome.
Under her guidance, he went through a full course of sixty four major tantric sadhanas. The tantric sadhanas generally include, among others, a set of heterodox practices called Vamachara (left-hand path), which utilizes as a means of liberation activities like eating of parched grain, fish and meat along with drinking of wine and sexual intercourse. According Ramakrishna and his biographers, Ramakrishna did not directly participate in the last two of those activities. Ramakrishna, though he would acknowledge that the left-hand path as another means of spiritual enlightenment, did not recommend it to anybody. Later, when Narendra (Vivekananda) asked him about the left-hand path, he would say, "It is not a good path. It is very difficult and often brings about the downfall of the aspirant."
Bhairavi also taught Ramakrishna the kumari-puja, a form of ritual in which the Virgin Goddess is worshipped symbolically in the form of a young girl. Under the tutelage of Bhairavi, Ramakrishna also became an adept at Kundalini Yoga. Ramakrishna completed his tantric sadhana in 1863.
Bhakti and Bhavas
Towards Kali he cultivated the Santa bhava — the passive "peaceful" attitude.
He practiced Dasya Bhava — the attitude of a servant towards his master. In doing so, he completely identified himself with Hanuman, the monkey god. Ramakrishna ate and walked like a monkey, spent much of his time in trees and even fixed a tail to the end of his spine. Later, he had a vision of goddess Sita, which merged with his body.
About the year 1864 there came to Dakshineswar a wandering Vaishnava monk, Jatadhari, whose Ideal Deity was Rama. He always carried with him a small metal image of Ramalala — the child Rama. Ramakrishna practised image worship and practiced Vatsalya Bhava — the attitude of a parent towards a child. While worshipping Ramalala as the Divine Child, Ramakrishna's character became prominent with motherly tenderness, and he began to regard himself as a woman. His speech and gestures changed. During his worship he had the vision of Ramachandra.
At Dakshineswar, Ramakrishna engaged in a practice called Madhura Bhava— the attitude of Gopis and Radha towards their lover, Krishna. Ramakrishna, in order to realise this love, dressed himself in women's attire for several days, thought of himself as Radha. At the end of this sadhana, he attained savikalpa samadhi — vision and union with Krishna. Ramakrishna said —
I spent many days as the handmaid of God. I dressed myself in women's clothes, put on ornaments, and covered the upper part of my body with a scarf, just like a woman...Otherwise, how could I have kept my wife with me for eight months? Both of us behaved as if we were the handmaids of the Divine Mother. I cannot speak of myself as a man.
At some point, Ramakrishna visited Nadia, the home of Chaitanya and Nityananda, the 15th-century founders of Bengali Gaudiya Vaishnava bhakti. He had an intense vision of two young boys merging into his body.
Totapuri and Vedanta
Ramakrishna was initiated in Advaita Vedanta by a wandering monk named Totapuri, in the city of Dakshineswar. Totapuri was "a teacher of masculine strength, a sterner mien, a gnarled physique, and a virile voice". Ramakrishna address the monk as Nangta or Langta — the "Naked One".
I [Ramakrishna] said to Totapuri in despair: "It's no good. I will never be able to lift my spirit to the unconditioned state and find myself face to face with the Atman." He [Totapuri] replied severely: "What do you mean you can't? You must!" Looking about him, he found a shard of glass. He took it and stuck the point between my eyes saying: "Concentrate your mind on that point." [...] The last barrier vanished and my spirit immediately precipitated itself beyond the plane of the conditioned. I lost myself in samadhi.
After the departure of Totapuri, Ramakrishna reportedly remained for six months in a state of absolute contemplation:
For six months in a stretch, I [Ramakrishna] remained in that state from which ordinary men can never return; generally the body falls off, after three weeks, like a mere leaf. I was not conscious of day or night. Flies would enter my mouth and nostrils as they do a dead body, but I did not feel them. My hair became matted with dust.
Islam and Christianity
I devoutly repeated the name of Allah, wore a cloth like the Arab Moslems, said their prayer five times daily, and felt disinclined even to see images of the Hindu gods and goddesses, much less worship them—for the Hindu way of thinking had disappeared altogether from my mind.
His Muslim practices culminated in Ramakrishna experiencing the prophet Muhammad merging with his body.
Years later, as he contemplated an image of the Madonna and Christ child at a devotee's house, he began a phase of Christian spiritual practice. This phase culminated in a vision of the merging of Ramakrishna's body with that of Christ.
To get rid of the ego that he belonged to a higher brahmanical caste, he used to serve the Pariahs — servants and cleaners who belonged to the lowest caste. He would eat food cooked by the lowest classes. He explained his state as follows:
'Sometimes I used to go to the closet of the servants and sweepers and clean it with my own hands, and prayed, "Mother! destroy in me all idea that I am great, and that I am a Brahman, and that they are low and pariahs, for who are they but Thou in so many forms?"'
'I would sit by the Ganges, with some gold and silver coins and a heap of rubbish by my side, and taking some coins in my right hand and a handful of rubbish in the left, I would tell my soul, "My soul! this is what the world calls money, impressed with the queen's face. It has the power of bringing you rice and vegetables, of feeding the poor, of building houses, and doing all that the world calls great, but it can never help thee to realise the ever-existent knowledge and bliss, the Brahman. Regard it, therefore, as rubbish." Then mixing the coins and the rubbish in my hands, while repeating all the time, "money is rubbish, money is rubbish," I lost all perception of difference between the two in my mind, and threw them both into the Ganges. No wonder people took me for mad.'
By the 1870s, Ramakrishna had established a reputation as a mystic and had attracted a large number of male devotees from the emerging urban Bengali bourgeoisie class, most of whom including Narendranath Dutta, had been educated at English schools. He came to be known among his devotees as Sri Ramakrishna Paramhansa. The name Ramakrishna is said to have been given him by Mathur Babu, the son-in-law of Rani Rasmani. Many prominent people of Calcutta like Pratap Chandra Mazumdar, Shivanath Shastri and Trailokyanath Sanyal began visiting him during this time (1871-1885). He also met Swami Dayananda. Through his meetings with Keshab Chandra Sen of the Brahmo Samaj, he had become known to the general populace of Calcutta.
After fifteen years of teaching, in April 1885 the first symptoms of throat cancer appeared and in the beginning of September 1885 he was moved to Shyampukur. But the illness showed signs of aggravation and he was moved to a large garden house at Cossipore on December 11, 1885 on the advice of Dr. Sarkar, who was treating him. On August 15, 1886 his health deteriorated, and at 01:02 a.m. on the 16th he attained mahasamadhi. At noon, Dr. Sarkar pronounced that life had departed not more than half an hour before. He left behind a devoted band of 16 young disciples headed by Swami Vivekananda.
Ramakrishna (1881, Calcutta)
The key concepts in Ramakrishna’s teachings were the oneness of existence; the divinity of all living beings; and the unity of God and the harmony of religions. Ramakrishna emphasised that God-realisation is the supreme goal of all living beings. Religion, for him, was merely a means for the achievement of this goal. Ramakrishna’s mystical realisation, classified by Hindu tradition as nirvikalpa samadhi (literally, "bliss without differentiation", thought to be absorption in the all-encompassing Consciousness), led him to know that the various religions are different ways to reach The Absolute, and that the Ultimate Reality could never be expressed in human terms.
Ramakrishna taught that that the primal bondage in human life is to kaminikanchan, or "women and gold". Devotees insist that this phrase warns against lust and greed, but religion scholars and historians have tended to take it more literally. He seems to have overcome sexual desires by "becoming female":
A man can change his nature by imitating another's character. By transposing onto yourself the attributes of a woman, you gradually destroy lust and the other sensual drives. You begin to behave like a woman. I have noticed that men who play female parts in the theater speak like women or brush their teeth like women while bathing.
Avidyamaya and vidyamaya
Devotees believe that Ramakrishna’s realisation of nirvikalpa samadhi also led him to an understanding of the two sides of maya, or illusion, to which he referred as Avidyamaya and vidyamaya. He explained that avidyamaya represents dark forces (e.g. sensual desire, evil passions, greed, lust and cruelty), which keep the world-system on lower planes of consciousness. These forces are responsible for human entrapment in the cycle of birth and death, and they must be fought and vanquished. Vidyamaya, on the other hand, represents higher forces (e.g. spiritual virtues, enlightening qualities, kindness, purity, love, and devotion), which elevate human beings to the higher planes of consciousness. With the help of vidyamaya, he said that devotees could rid themselves of avidyamaya and achieve the ultimate goal of becoming mayatita - that is, free from maya.
Harmony of religions
Ramakrishna recognised differences among religions but realised that in spite of these differences, all religions lead to the same ultimate goal, and hence they are all valid and true. Regarding this, the distinguished British historian Arnold J. Toynbee has written: “… Mahatma Gandhi’s principle of non-violence and Sri Ramakrishna’s testimony to the harmony of religions: here we have the attitude and the spirit that can make it possible for the human race to grow together into a single family – and in the Atomic Age, this is the only alternative to destroying ourselves.”
Ramakrishna’s proclamation of jatra jiv tatra Shiv (wherever there is a living being, there is Shiva) stemmed from his Advaitic perception of Reality. This would lead him teach his disciples, "Jive daya noy, Shiv gyane jiv seba" (not kindness to living beings, but serving the living being as Shiva Himself).
Ramakrishna, though not formally trained as a philosopher, had an intuitive grasp of complex philosophical concepts. According to him brahmanda, the visible universe and many other universes, are mere bubbles emerging out of Brahman, the supreme ocean of intelligence.
Like Adi Sankara had done more than a thousand years earlier, Ramakrishna Paramhansa revitalised Hinduism which had been fraught with excessive ritualism and superstition in the Nineteenth century and helped it become better-equipped to respond to challenges from Islam, Christianity and the dawn of the modern era. However, unlike Adi Sankara, Ramakrishna developed ideas about the post-samadhi descent of consciousness into the phenomenal world, which he went on to term "vignana". While he asserted the supreme validity of Advaita Vedanta, he also he accepted both the Nitya (or the eternal substance) and the Leela (literally, "play", indicating the dynamic phenomenal reality) as aspects of Brahman. The idea of the descent of consciousness shows the influence of the Bhakti movement and certain sub-schools of Shaktism on Ramakrishna’s thought. The idea would later influence Aurobindo's views about the Divine Life on Earth.
you all know, the health of our Pujya Swami Satchidanandaji has not been very good from the past few weeks. Due to weak functioning of the kidneys, collection of fluid in the body and lack of fluid output, the doctors had to resort to dialysis. In spite of regular dialysis the situation has not improved. In fact the condition is not at all encouraging.
At this point in time, we request all devotees to kindly send out
a fervent prayer to Param Pujya Papa and Mataji to relieve Pujya
Swamiji of all his bodily aches, pains and struggles, in whatever
manner they choose.