Sunday, September 1, 2019

The Life Story of Sri Ramakrishna - Ramachandra Datta

Ramachandra Datta, the author of the book, was an older cousin of Swami Vivekananda,  and was trained in western sciences but also the first to proclaim that Ramakrishna was an incarnation of god. Ramachandra took it upon himself to spread the master's message after he passed away in 1899.

Ramakrishna is addressed as Paramahamsadev in the book. Born to a pious couple in 1836 as Ramakrishna Gadadhar Chattopadhyay, Ramakrishna was the third son of Kshudiram Chattopadhyay and Chandramani Devi (the eldest being Ram Kumar, then Rameshwar). He moved to Calcutta as he grew older to study Sanskrit. In Calcutta he was liked by Rani Rasmoni Dasi, a rich lady, who founded the temples at Dakshineswar in the name of her guru, with a shrine for Kali and another for Krishna. She made Ram Kumar the priest of the temples.

Ramakrishna also joined his brother. He had a special connection with the Kali temple and was made priest of the Kali temple.  He would go into raptures over his 'mother' goddess Kali, and would cry helplessly or go into trance - a  state where he would not eat and even lose control of his bodily functions. So deeply was he immersed in his devotion. This period lasted for six months. Later Ramakrishna turned to sadhana. His ways were different and he was considered crazy by some, but none could doubt his ardour and devotion to 'mother'.

Ramakrishna Paramahamsa practiced different religions for a while - Islam, Christianity. He would tell the others that he would converse with his 'mother'. He would never undertake any action without first informing and seeking permission from his 'mother'. Enough to say that such devotion was construed as 'mad'. He was influenced by tantra, Vaishnava and Advaita Vedanta - not to mention Kali. He was married to Sarada Devi but the marriage was never consummated. Sarada Devi took Ramakrishna Paramahamsa's work further in the years that she outlived him.

Ramakrishna Paramahamsa's most notable disciple was Swami Vivekananda who visited him when his Professor Dr. William Hastle urged him to meet Ramakrishna of Dakshineshwar to understand the meaning of a Wordsworth poem.

Ramakrishna Paramahamsa died of throat cancer in August 1886. Swami Vivekananda started the Ramkrishna Math and Ramakrishna Mission to propagate Ramakrishna Paramahamsa's teachings. I bought this book at the Ramakrishna Math in Hyderabad. I am glad I visited Dakashineshwar and Kalighat and saw the room where Ramakrishna Paramhamsa stayed. It was a special experience. 

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