SRI RAMAKRISHNA PARAMAHAMSA
The Master related his first vision of Kali to his close disciples:
“I had a marvelous vision of the Mother and fell down unconscious.…Within me there was a steady flow of undiluted bliss that I had never before experienced, and I felt the immediate presence of the Divine Mother.” Even after this beatific vision Sri Ramakrishna was not satisfied, and he longed to have unbroken communion with Her, sometimes rolling on the ground crying, “Mother, be gracious unto me! Reveal Yourself to me!”
The Master later recounted:
"Sometimes I would lose outer consciousness from that unbearable agony. Immediatlyl after that I would see the Mother's luminous form bestowing boons and fearlessness! I used to see Her smiling, talking, cosoling, or teaching me in verious ways."
The Divine Mother also sent him teachers to initiate him into the complicated practices of tantra, the difficult abstractions of Vedanta, the varied devotional moods of Vaishnavism, and even the ‘foreign’ faiths of Islam and Christianity. Each he practiced with full sincerity. And the goal presented in each opened up to him as direct experience. In the heart of every tradition he saw his Mother Kali shining. Sri Ramakrishna’s famous declaration “yato mat, tato path”—”as many faiths, so many paths”—was not the result of intellectual comparison or a modern open-mindedness. It came from his own realization, a gift of Goddess Kali to the world. The Master realized that this liberal view was singularly unique. He came to understand that the Divine Mother was working through his body and mind. She is the reality that Sri Ramakrishna incarnated. It was Her message that Sri Ramakrishna revealed.
Sri Ramakrishna proved that God-realization is not the monopoly of any particular age, country, or people. In him, deepest spirituality and broadest catholicity stood side by side. He did not found any cult, nor did he show a new path to salvation. His message was his God-consciousness. When God-consciousness falls short, traditions become dogmatic and oppressive, and religious teachings lose their transforming power. At a time when the very foundation of religion—faith in God—was crumbling under the relentless blows of materialism and skepticism, Sri Ramakrishna demonstrated the reality of the time-honored teachings of all the prophets and saviors of the past, and thus restored the falling edifice of religion on a secure foundation. Drawn by the magnetism of Sri Ramakrishna’s divine personality, people flocked to him—men and women, young and old, philosophers and theologians, philanthropists and humanists, atheists and agnostics, Hindus and Brahmos, Christians and Muslims, seekers of truth of all races, creeds and castes. His small room in the Dakshineswar temple garden became a veritable parliament of religions. Those who came to him felt uplifted by his profound teachings, boundless love, and universal outlook. Each seeker saw in him the manifestation of their own ideal.
Sri Ramakrishna’s life and teachings point unequivocally towards spiritual freedom. It is not birth, not upbringing, not culture that decides your path. It is yearning. With yearning for the Divine, it does not matter what path you walk; and without yearning, you will not be able to walk any path. Sri Ramakrishna reveals the purest and safest approach to an often misunderstood goddess. There are many ways of worshiping Kali. While many may be authentic, not all are safe. Sri Ramakrishna mastered the sixty-four branches of tantra—many difficult and controversial. But when the time came to train his own disciples, he made the path to God simple and beautiful. He said:
“Pray to the Divine Mother with a longing heart. Her vision dries up all craving for the world and completely destroys lust and greed. It happens instantly if you think of Her as your own mother. She is by no means a godmother. She is your own mother….This attitude of regarding God as Mother is the last word in sadhana. ‘O God, Thou art my Mother and I am Thy child’—this is the last word in spirituality.”
(The above taken from the Kali Mandir website and combines excerpts from Return to the Source by Swami Bhajanananda Saraswati with some coments by the late Rev. Swami Adishwarananda Puri.)
We read in the Bhagavad Gita that the blessed Lord incarnates in every age when there is a decline in dharma, for the protection of the righteous and the destruction of the wicked. Devotees of Sri Ramakrishna recognize in him the latest incarnation, who came to restore the soul of India in her darkest hour, to restore her ancient dignity and spiritually uplift the world. Born in 1836, Sri Ramakrishna grew up in an orthodox brahmana family in the village of Kamarpukur. In 1852 Sri Ramakrishna moved to Kolkata, joining his older brother, Ramkumar. Two years later he accepted to officiate as pujari (priest) at Rani Rasmani’s newly-built Kali temple in Dakshineswar, which would become his home for the next 30 years.
As Kali’s priest, he began to ask himself if the goddess he was sincerely serving was real or not. If She was real, could one experience Her directly? His intense longing for the vision of Mother Kali became so great, so overwhelming, that the Mother could not keep Herself hidden from him any longer.
Sri Ramakrishna, the great world-teacher and incarnation of divinity, who taught the universality of religion, the motherhood of God and the mystical path of love, is considered by many as the central force behind the spiritual awakening of this age. Through his extraordinary purity and devotion and his unprecedented spiritual disciplines and experiences, Sri Ramakrishna unleashed a spiritual current of grace, making the divine mystery accessible to all.