Ramakrishna was born in 1836 in Bengal. His parents were poor but very pious, his father having been dispossessed of all he owned because he had refused to bear false witness for a great landowner. Ramakrishna is said to have been a very beautiful child, whose first spiritual experience came at the age of six. He tells us that while wandering along between rice fields, eating puffed rice, “I raised my eyes to the sky as I munched my rice. I saw a great black cloud spreading rapidly until it covered the heavens. Suddenly at the edge of the cloud a flight of snow-white cranes passed over my head. The contrast was so beautiful that my spirit wandered far away. I lost consciousness and fell to the ground. The puffed rice was scattered. Somebody picked me up and carried me home.”

From the age of twenty he became a priest of the Temple of Kali at Dakshineswar. Kali is the Divine Mother, the wife of God who brings forth all form. To her worship Ramakrishna gave himself in a way it is difficult to imagine. Carried away by visions, frenzies, fevers and trances, he was almost lost to the world for ten years. After many years, there came to him a woman known as the Bhairavi Brahmani (Brahmin Nun) who taught him to untangle the meaning of his visions and experiences. Then having found a stability within his revelation, another teacher came, Tota Puri (the naked one). Until the coming of Tota Pun, Ramakrishna had worshipped as a Bhakti, through forms and images of the gods, not so much outwardly, but through contact with the living forces emerging as forms within. Tota Puri taught him how to go into the formless.

Ramakrishna says of this, “Tota Puri taught me to detach my mind from all objects and to plunge it into the heart of the Atman (self). But despite all my efforts, I could not cross the realm of name and form and lead my spirit to the Unconditional state. I had no difficulty in detaching my mind from all objects with the one exception of the too familiar form of the radiant Mother, the essence of pure knowledge, who appeared before me as a living reality. I said to Tota Puri in despair, ‘It is no good, I shall never succeed in lifting my spirit to the “Unconditioned” state and find myself face to face with the Atman.’ He replied severely, ‘What! You say you cannot? You must!’ Looking about him, he found a piece of glass. He took it and stuck the point between my eyes, saying, ‘Concentrate your mind on that point.’ Then I began to meditate with all my might, and as soon as the gracious form of the Divine Mother appeared I used my discrimination as a sword, and I clove Her in two. The last barrier fell and my spirit immediately precipitated itself beyond the plane of the ‘conditional’, and I lost myself in Samadhi (unconditioned bliss).

“The Universe was extinguished. Space itself was no more. At first the shadows of ideas floated in the obscure depths of the mind. Monotonously a feeble consciousness of the ego went on ticking. Then that stopped too. Nothing remained but Existence. The soul was lost in Self. Dualism was blotted out. Finite and infinite space were as one.”

In this state, Ramakrishna remained as rigid as a corpse for days on end, much to the astonishment of Tota Puri, to whom he had now become, not the pupil, but the master. He stayed in the cataleptic state so long, that his body all but died. He himself says that he tempted providence. When he returned he was ill with dysentery for six months. Yet even before he was well, he began an investigation of all the great religions, and found that they all led to the same path.

It was not until 1867 that he began to communicate with the world again, and unfold deeps of wisdom, love and power. And not until 1874 that he began to preach, and slowly attract sincere disciples to him. The first of these were two cousins, one a medical student and complete atheist, the other a family man.

The results of his presence upon his close disciples, as with the other Masters, acted powerfully upon their inner nature. Vivekananda, his greatest propagandist, describes his second visit to Ramakrishna as follows: “I found him sitting alone on his small bed. He was glad to see me, and called me affectionately to sit near him on one side of the bed. But a moment later I saw him convulse with some emotion. His eyes were fixed upon me, he muttered under his breath, and drew slowly nearer. I thought he was going to make some eccentric remark as on the previous occasion. But before I could stop him he placed his right foot upon my body. The contact was terrible. With my eyes open I saw the walls and everything in the room whirling and vanishing into nothingness…. The whole universe and my own individuality were at the same time almost lost in a nameless void, which swallowed up everything that is. I was terrified, and believed I was face to face with death. I could not stop myself from crying out, ‘What are you doing? I have parents at home’. Then he began to laugh, and passing his hand over my chest, he said, ‘All right. Let us leave it at that for the moment! It will come, all in good time!’ He had no sooner said these words than the strange phenomena disappeared.

Another disciple said of him. “There he lived without any book-learning whatsoever; this great intellect never learnt even to write his own name, but the most brilliant graduates of our university found in him an intellectual giant.”

He lived until August 15th, 1886. At nightfall he became unconscious, and all thought him to be dead. But towards midnight he awoke and was sat up. He talked for a while, then in ringing tones called out the name of the Divine Mother and lay back. Passing into an ecstasy he stayed in the body for another half hour, then passed on.

Website; Ramakrishna and His Disciples.

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