Life of the master
Ramakrishna Paramahamsa was born as Gadadhar Chattopadhyaya on 18 February 1836 in the village of Kamarpukur about sixty miles northwest of Kolkata. His parents, Kshudiram and Chandramani Devi, were poor but very pious and virtuous.
From early days, he was disinclined towards formal education and worldly affairs. He was, however, a talented boy, and could sing and paint well.
He was fond of serving holy men and listening to their discourses. He was also very often found to be absorbed in spiritual moods.
At the age of 6, he experienced the first ecstasy while watching a flight of white cranes moving against the background of black clouds. This tendency to enter into ecstasy intensified with age.
His father died in 1843, so the family responsibilities fell on his elder brother Ramkumar, who then moved to Kolkata to earn a living. In Kolkata, Ramkumar opened a Sanskrit school (in 1852) and later on worked as a priest (in 1855) in Dakshineswar Kali temple.
When Ramkumar died in 1856, Gadadhar was appointed the priest of Dakshineswar Kali temple.
Gadadhar developed intense devotion for Mother Kali and spent hours in loving adoration of her image,which culminated in the vision of Mother Kali as boundless effulgence engulfing everything around him.
There are many wonderful stories about him worshipping Kali. It is said that even Kali used to consume the food offering that he gave her.
Ramakrishna got married to Sarada devi in 1859, but their marriage never consummated.
Impelled by a strong inner urge to experience different aspects of God , he followed, with the help of a series of Gurus, the various paths described in the Hindu scriptures, and realized God through each of them.
His first teacher was Bhairavi Brahmani who taught him difficult tantra sadhana, which he excelled in. Then he attained Nirvikalpa Samadhi with the help of Totapuri, a advaita vedanta saint.
Then he broke the frontiers of Hinduism, glided through the paths of Islam and Christianity, and attained the highest realization through each of them in a short span of time. He looked upon Jesus and Buddha as incarnations of God, and venerated the ten Sikh Gurus.
He used to say “As many faiths, so many paths”.
Ramakrishna was probably the first famous hindu master who not only accepted other religions, but also actually did the spiritual practices of the other religions and attained god realization in them.
Sri Ramakrishna came into contact with several leaders and members of Brahmo Samaj at that time and exerted much influence on them. Soon Dakshineswar became a veritable parliament of religions.
His fame grew and he soon had many devotees under him. Most notable of his devotees is Narendranath who became Swami Vivekananda.
He didnt write any book, but gave discourses were compiled by his devotees.
He left his body in 16 August 1886 leaving behind the message of unity of all religions at a time when humanity was destroying each other.
Vivekananda established Ramakrishna mission in 1897, way after the death of his guru.
After the death of Ramakrishna in 1886 his young disciples(including swami vivekananda) organised themselves into a new monastic order.The first monastery,Ramakrishna Math, was set up in baranagar in 1886.
Vivekananda became a wandering monk and in 1893 he was a delegate for Parliament of World’s Religions, held in Chicago.
The Ramakrishna Math shifted places before finally being established in January 1899 in a newly acquired plot of land at Belur by Vivekananda. This monastery, known as the Belur Math, serves as the Mother House for all the monks of the Order who live in the various branch centres of the Math and/or the Mission in different parts of India and the world.
Ramakrishna Mission was founded by Swami Vivekananda in 1897, in honour of his guru Ramakrishna Paramahamsa. The organization chiefly propagates the Hindu philosophy of Advaita Vedanta and four yogic ideals–jnana, bhakti, karma, and Raja Yoga. Apart from religious and spiritual teaching the organization carries out extensive educational and philanthropic work in India.This aspect came to be a feature of many other Hindu movements. In the history of indian spirituality, it was the first such institution which catered to the society as well as to the monks. It has 201 centers around the world and publishes many important Hindu texts. It is affiliated with the monastic organisation Ramakrishna Math, with whom it shares members. Today it has over 205 centres worldwide with philanthropic and educational activities. The Math runs:
1200 educational institutions(containing a deemed university, colleges, schools,vocational centres,blind boys schools etc).
14 hospitals, 116 Dispensaries, 57 Mobile-Medical Units, 7 Nursing Training Institutes.
It also conducts relief and rehabilitation operations, during natural or man-made disasters and provides various services for the development of rural and tribal areas.
Sri Sri Ramakrishna Kathamrita,(or The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna), was a compilation of his discourses,released in 1942.
It was compiled by Mahendranath Gupta, who later on became known as one of the early teachers of Paramahamsa Yogananda.