Ruzbeh N. Bharucha
I Love Ramakrishna Paramhansa for His sheer child like love for Maa Kali and His love for all of Creation.
I remember reading about Him first, when due to a personal reason, Baba Sai of Shirdi, first sent me to Shirdi, then to Avatar Meher Baba’s Meherabad and eventually sent me to Ganeshpuri, the land of Lord Nityananda. I was told not to leave Ganeshpuri for a few weeks. I stayed at an outhouse which was a dormitory, where one was provided a bed, a clean bed-sheet, a blanket and a common bathing area. There were a few private rooms but that was way above my budget. We were provided simple meals and I remember the cost of all this was a hundred and fifty rupees. For me it was a bit of money.
So I would wake up at dawn, bathe and then walk a distance, the sky pregnant with countless stars and then sit in the Muktananda Prayer room. Muktananda is Lord Nityananda’s successor and His Samadhi actively reposes here. So, I would spend some time here, then walk a few kilometers to Nityananda’s Temple, sit there, then pay obeisance to Maa Bhadrakali, and then go for breakfast.
It was a strange phase. All that I had was taken away from me, and I was on some self imposed exile. The outhouse had a few books and one day I sat and picked up a book on Sri Ramakrishna. I still remember it was an afternoon. Nobody was present. The sky was over cast. The book was a day to day account of The Master’s life. All conversations spoken and every activity indulged in. Something like Lord Meher, the volumes on Avatar Meher Baba’s life, recorded by His loved ones. I don’t remember the name of Ramakrishna’s book. Could be The Gospels of Sri Ramakrishna, but one sentence has stayed with me through these past eleven years.
Somebody in Ramakrishna’s group was talking about liberation and moksha and merging with The Creator and Ramakrishna looks at the person and says, “Let me be condemned to be born over and over again, even in the form of a dog, if I can be of help to a single soul, I will give up twenty thousand such bodies to help one man”.
I don’t know why I just began to cry. Tears gushed down and I shut the book. I really didn’t need to read anything more.
So this is Ramakrishna Paramhansa. A Master who in this one sentence has rubbished a few thousand years of philosophy, that the highest state is that to merge with The Creator and brought it down to something far more important, that till there is one person who suffers, He would come down even as a dog, to help the individual be eased off the suffering.
This is the selfless love Masters have for all of us, we the flawed amalgam of self destruction; that even if They do not come down in the physical body, still They refuse to merge with The Creator, continuing to help, guide, guard, serve Their children, in the astral and causal dimensions; continue to be used as spring boards for others to move on forward their spiritual journey and even reach the final destination; The Final Merger; while They, The Masters still continue to work for the betterment of all of Creation.
Ramakrishna’s life was a journey of love. His philosophy was simple. One could bring down or materialize one’s God, Goddess and Master, with the simplest of yogic methods…through the power of selfless love.
Thus when He wanted to experience Lord Krishna’s Energy, He realised that the only way this was going to be possible, was for Him to become the embodiment of Maa Radha’s love for Krishna. He took this to another extent. He would become Maa Radha, as how can one feel love for Krishna, but by becoming Radha; so His mannerisms too would change, His walk, talk, everything would resemble that of a woman, in His case Radha.
When He wanted to experience Rama, He became Hanuman. How can one love Rama without becoming Hanuman?
He experienced Prophet Mohamed as well as Lord Jesus The Christ and all this through the power of love.
All His life anything that took place, however tragic or hurtful, He was clear, it was Maa Kali’s way of showing Herself to Him. Once in a state of spiritual ecstasy, He went into a trance and with nobody around Him, He fell down and dislocated a bone in His left arm.
He had a tendency in the latter part of His life to be more in the spirit plane, more in spiritual ecstasy, and He realised that the immense pain that He experienced due to the dislocation, brought Him down to Mother Earth, made Him body conscious, which would force Him to focus on the work He still had to do while in the physical body. Also, He felt it was important that He fell down and broke His arm to realise that He was a medium, an instrument, a channel and this fall made Him realise His role with greater intensity and this time with more pain. He would make fun of those who considered Him as an Avatar or Divine Incarnation. He would tell them, “Have you ever heard of God breaking His arm?”.
All He wanted was to help everybody experience the true love for The Divine and mainly to realise the greatest reality, that The Creator, was truly ever present with each individual, wanting each one of us to realise our very own union with The Creator. He was clear that having the experience of all Religions, by having direct realisation of Gods, Goddesses, Prophets and Avatars, all paths led to Oneness, that all Religions led to The One, that there was no false way, but only different ways, and diet, clothes, language, rituals, customs, prayers, may all differ, but eventually there was only Oneness that existed; Oneness was the only reality. All His life He tried to impress this one simple philosophy…The Creator, in active form was the Goddess (Shakti) and dormant form was (God-Creator-Allah-Ahura-Brahm- a), but both existed as One. He would say, a snake sleeping was like Male Energy of God and a snake moving about was The Goddesses Energy. What one called the Snake, or the dormant One, or the active One, didn’t really make a difference.
He operated from such childlike love for The Goddess Kali that instead of quoting various philosophical stuff and scriptures, He would give simple childlike answers. When He was asked that if God and Mankind were in reality One, then, what separated the two where love was concerned. For Him, there was one simple difference between the Divine and mankind. He told the disciple that, “If one does ninety-nine good turns to a person and one bad, the person remembers the bad one and forgets the others. But if he does ninety-nine bad turns to God and one good, The Lord remembers the good one and forgets all the rest. This is the difference between human and Divine Love. Remember this.”
He was like a child and often admitted that though He was a child He was not stupid. His innocence often was misconstrued as Him being simple (often mentally challenged) or just stupid. He was aware that His love, which was like that of a child, often like that of an infant, could never be fathomed by the world, only Maa Kali could understand it. That is why when He was suffering in His final months in the body and often His disciples wanted Him to continue to be amongst them physically, He would ponder, contemplate, whether He should or not, and then as always leave the decision to the Mother. “She will take me away lest, finding me guileless and foolish, people should take advantage of Me and persuade Me to bestow on them the rare gifts of spirituality.”
For Him, spirituality was the rarest and the only gift worth seeking, the only miracle worth yearning, the only sigh of the soul worth emanating. All else was bollocks.
He was of the opinion that nobody was bad or evil. It was God operating in that form for His or Her own Divine Play. For Him, God and Goddess operated in the pretext of the wicked, the pious, the honest and the fraud.
Everything was the embodiment of God, one just needed to love selflessly to realise His and Her presence.
He endured horrific pain in many of the last months of His physical life, and every Sage made it clear that if He wanted to He could avoid the pain and agony. All He needed to do was to get His consciousness to His throat and within a few days or weeks He would be cured. When asked why He did not cure Himself, all He answered was, how could He bring His consciousness to His throat as His consciousness was only with and within Maa Kali? For Him, it was impossible to remove His attention from Maa, thus, there was no way that He could focus on His throat for days or weeks.
When He left His body, He called out Maa’s Name thrice, Kali, Kali, Kali, and then left the physical body.
Ok, now enough of my ramblings. So who is Ramakrishna Paramhansa?
Swami Vivekanand once said that, “The time was ripe for one to be born who in one body would have brilliant intellect of Shankara and the wonderful expansive, infinite heart of Chaitanya; one who would see in every sect the same spirit working, the same God; one who would see God in every being, one whose heart would weep for the poor, for the weak, for the outcast, for the downtrodden, for everyone in the world, inside India or outside India; and at the same time whose grand brilliant intellect would conceive of such noble thoughts as would harmonize all conflicting sects, not only in India but outside India, and bring a marvelous harmony, the universal religion of head and heart into existence. Such a man was born…He was a strange man, this Ramkrishna Paramhansa.”
Ramakrishna was born to good, kind hearted, pious parents. His father at the age of sixty or above took a pilgrimage to Gaya in 1835. Gaya is the place where one goes to pray to Lord Vishnu/Narayan, for the ancestors and appease them and try to convince the departed ones not to make a nuisance of themselves, but to go about calmly blessing those unfortunate enough to still infest planet Earth. It was in this auspicious place that Ramakrishna’s father dreamed of Lord Vishnu who promised him that He, Lord Vishnu would be born as his child. Virtually during the same period Ramakrishna’s mother who had not accompanied her husband on the pilgrimage, whilst praying to Lord Shiva, had a vision that she was going to mother a child filled with Divinity.
Thus, on February 18, 1836, in a small town near Calcutta (before Mamta Banerjee gets an out of body experience let me rephrase and say Ramakrishna was born in Kolkata), and His parents named Him Gadādhar (as the dream had been envisioned while in Gaya) which means the Bearer of the Mace, Lord Vishnu.
Since a child Ramakrishna often fell into spiritual rapture or trance. While enacting a religious play or talking about God or playing with friends, whenever there was any mention of God or The Divine, He would either be filled with Divine Presence or He would pass out due to spiritual Oneness, where the body was too weak and young to be able to withstand The Divine Presence and Energy.
He was filled with love for one and all and His parents and siblings feared that He was not going to be suited to handle the world and its strange cunningness and hypocrisy.
In 1866, at the age of sixteen, due to the contact and influence of His older brother, He was appointed as the Priest of the Kāli Temple at Dakshineśwar, a beautiful Temple, on twenty acres of land, four miles away from Calcutta-Kolkata, dedicated to numerous Gods but mainly to Goddess Kali, on the banks of the holy Ganges. Thus, began His journey on the highway to the Absolute Reality. The Temple and the nearby estate was owned by Rāni Rāsmani and managed by Mathur Mohan, her son in law. They loved Ramakrishna and recognized the Divinity in Him long before anybody else did so.
He was so devoted and in love with Maa Kali that He became a small child, missing His Mother. His belief was simple. If one wanted the grace of The Mother, one had to love Her as Her child. Not as a Brahmin, not as a Priest, not as a devotee, not as a disciple but as a child. He would weep, dance, sing, talk, feed The Mother.
He didn’t care about what the world thought of Him. Rāni Rāsmani and Mathur Mohan were completely for Him. It was as though The Goddess made them realise the Divinity within Ramakrishna first, or else nobody would have allowed Him to stay, leave aside serve The Mother, in the manner in which He did so; completely unconventional. Sometimes He would miss Her so passionately that He would put His head and face in the mud and weep for hours, crying out, ‘My Mother where have You gone’. Those who visited the Temple would be heartbroken thinking that He was crying for His mother, who had given Him physical birth to the body. Often He would not eat for days and keep awake for nights. One day distraught at the separation from Kali, He decided to kill Himself.
“I felt as if My heart were being squeezed like a wet towel. I was overpowered with a great restlessness and a fear that it might not be My lot to realize Her in this life. I could not bear the separation from Her any longer. Life seemed to be not worth living. Suddenly My glance fell on the sword that was kept in The Mother’s Temple. I determined to put an end to My life. When I jumped up like a madman and seized it, suddenly The Blessed Mother revealed Herself. The buildings with their different parts, the Temple, and everything else vanished from My sight, leaving no trace whatsoever, and in their stead I saw a limitless, infinite, effulgent Ocean of Consciousness. As far as the eye could see, the shining billows were madly rushing at Me from all sides with a terrific noise, to swallow Me up! I was panting for breath. I was caught in the rush and collapsed, unconscious.
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.”
This is how Maa Kali graced Ramakrishna. His need to see Her only increased, and slowly He began to have more visions. Kali no longer was a Statue in the Temple. She was His Mother. He could see Her. Hear Her. Feed Her. Talk to Her.
Most people were convinced that He had gone nuts. When He prayed to Rama He became Hanuman and behaved like Him. He got a vision of Maa Sita, blessing Him for His love. According to Ramakrishna, Sita Maa entered His body and disappeared within, not before blessing Him that, “I bequeath to You My smile”.
Imagine telling this to one and all. Immediately doctors were called, medication began and ofcourse nothing seemed to work. Rani and Mathur knew and believed in Him. In spite of a number of formal complaints about this strange loving child like mad Man, they refused to remove Ramakrishna from His duties as the Priest. In spite of the fact that once when Rani was in prayer, Ramakrishna slapped her hard. The Rani kept quiet as she realised that all through her prayer her thoughts were on a legal matter and not on prayers and Maa Kali.
And Mathur seeing all this and seeing his mother-in-law getting smacked right across the face in Her very Temple, made him approach Ramakrishna and politely tell Him (and I am sure at a safe distance) that there was a particular protocol even to rituals and the taking care of the Goddess. He gave the example that even God did not allow ‘flowers of two colours to grow on the same stalk’. Ramakrishna smiled as though He understood every word uttered by Mathur. The very next day Mathur was presented with two hibiscus flowers, glorious looking, but on the same stalk, there was one red hibiscus flower and a white one.
Ramakrishna was consumed with the need to be devoured by The Mother’s Energy, not in spurts and bouts, but all the time. “I do not know what these things are. I am ignorant of mantras and the scriptures. Teach me, Mother, how to realise Thee. Who else can help Me? Art Thou not My only refuge and guide?”
For me, His most beautiful prayer to The Goddess. “I have taken refuge in Thou My Mother Kali. Teach Me what to do and what to say. Thy Will is paramount everywhere and is for the good of Thy children. Merge My will in Thy Will and make Me Thy instrument O Mother.”
What a beautiful prayer. This prayer itself can take mules like me and you through the sands of maya and the ocean of our personal daftness.
Everybody was of the opinion that marriage and sex would cure Ramakrishna from this strange obsession of Mother Kali and also make Him behave like so called normal people. But here too Mother Kali intervened. Yes, He was married at the age of twenty three but to a five year old girl called Saradamani, who even at such a tender age only prayed that though the Moon may have certain flaws, make Her nature flawless.
Ramakrishna showed no so called improvement in His temperament and His love for Maa Kali. It was in the end with the intervention of two super souls, the first being a Brāhmani, an adept in Tantra and Vaishnava methods of worship. She was fifty years of age and our Ramakrishna told Her that He too felt that He was loosing His mind. After a brief interaction with Him and after meditation She informed Him that what He was experiencing was a phenomenon called Mahā–bhāva, which was considered as the most glorious ecstasy of Divine Love, recorded by Sages, to have been experienced only by Rādhā Maa and Sri Chaitanya. She described His symptoms and Ramakrishna nodded and smiled like a child. He wasn’t nuts.
It was She who openly announced to one and all that Ramakrishna was an Incarnation of God, virtually an Avatar. He learnt all about Tantra and all that She had to teach Him in exactly three days. Then He merged with Radha Energy to experience and merge with Krishna too.
In a matter of few days Ramakrishna accomplished what other Sages took decades to experience. His philosophy was simple. There wasn’t a mantra or a ritual that could replace pure, simple, child like love for The One.
Ramakrishna spent three years with Brāhmani and then She realised that Her Son, would need a new Guide and Guru. The new Master was Totāpuri, whom Sri Ramakrishna called the Naked One, for the obvious reason, The Master roamed about in the buff. He reintroduced Ramakrishna to the non-dualistic Vedānta philosophy, which basically believes that statues, rituals, ceremonies is all hogwash, the only thing that really matters is to tear the veil that separates The One from the individual, and to merge into Oneness. Where the body played no role and it was all about The Spirit and the merging of The Spirit with The Great Spirit.
In a ceremony where everything had to be thrown into the ceremonial fire, the impressions of Gods and Goddesses, nothing but The Formless Absolute was to be focused on. Ramakrishna found this difficult. How could He remove His consciousness from His Mother Kali.
“Nangta began to teach Me the various conclusions of the Advaita Vedānta and asked Me to withdraw the mind completely from all objects and dive deep into the Ātman. But in spite of all My attempts I could not altogether cross the realm of name and form and bring My mind to the unconditioned state. I had no difficulty in taking the mind from all the objects of the world. But the radiant and too familiar figure of The Blissful Mother, the Embodiment of the essence of Pure Consciousness, appeared before Me as a living reality. Her bewitching smile prevented Me from passing into the Great Beyond. Again and again I tried, but She stood in My way every time. In despair I said to Nangta: ‘It is hopeless. I cannot raise My mind to the unconditioned state and come face to face with Ātman.’ He grew excited and sharply said: ‘What? You can’t do it? But You have to.’ He cast His eyes around. Finding a piece of glass He took it up and stuck it between my eyebrows. ‘Concentrate the mind on this point!’ He thundered.”
Then with stern determination I again sat to meditate. As soon as the Gracious Form of the Divine Mother appeared before Me, I used my discrimination as a sword and with it clove Her in two. The last barrier fell. My spirit at once soared beyond the relative plane and I lost myself in Samādhi.”
He went into Samadhi for three days. The huge Master was spellbound. What had taken Him forty years, this frail, small man, with a shy smile had achieved in days, and that to was in Samadhi for three days.
According to Ramakrishna, The Divine Mother then told Him not to operate from The Absolute, as that would make Him redundant to helping mankind but to operate from Bhāva–mukha, which is from the threshold of relative consciousness, the border line between the Absolute and the Relative. This meant to live and operate on the border of the Absolute and the Relative; to be on the threshold of Merging and yet mingle with mankind and the physical world, which meant that He could experience love and devotion for Maa Kali but when needed, become one with The Absolute Authority, The Creator in The Formless State. It was something that Avatar Meher Baba spoke about too. So did Sai Baba of Shirdi, who sometimes would say that He is The One and most often say that He was the servant of The Great Fakir, Allah Malik. A state of being a child, servant, slave and sometimes when the need be God Himself. The worshiper and The One being worshiped in the same body. Hmmmmmm.
As time passed His name and fame grew. Disciples came and so did devotees. (I have been made to write about His love for Swami Vivekananda in great length in the article on Swami Vivekananda and there were many who loved Him as much or may be more than Vivekananda.)
Through His fame and name grew, Ramakrishna remained childlike. He would go into a trance and the state of Samadhi in such quick succession, which is rarely witnessed by anybody in the history of spirituality. (I am sure there must have been such Divine Cases but I am unaware about them, thus, I write from my relative and professional state of Diving Ignorance.)
Just after experiencing the Absolute, He wanted to experience The Radiance and Divinity of Islam and He surrendered Himself to a Muslim Guru, forgot all about Hinduism and Gods and everything, stayed outside the Temple premises and three days later experienced Prophet Mohammed approach Him and merge within Him. He said that where Hinduism leads to, so does Islam, and they both lead to The One, The Absolute.
A few years later He did the same with Christianity. One day staring at a painting of Mother Mary and Infant Jesus, He felt Them come alive and Divine Rays entered within Him. Christ possessed Him through and through and He went into a state of Samadhi. So strong was the power that He cried out to Kali. “Maa what are You doing to Me?” He didn’t enter The Kali Temple for three days. On the fourth day He saw a Man with the most calm face Who approached Ramakrishna and Ramakrishna realised that this Man was none other than Christ in Spirit Form. The One who suffered for all of Mankind, the Son of God who took on the pain and Karma of all of Creation, Jesus The Christ who is One with God and who was Love Incarnate. Christ embraced Ramakrishna and merged with Him.
Ramakrishna always believed that Christ was an Incarnation of God, and so was Buddha and Krishna.
As time passed, Ramakrishna segregated His followers in two categories. One were householders and those who wanted to walk the path of renunciation. For the former, the householders, the rules were simple. Do one’s duty, give it one’s hundred percent, but always do it as your Dharma, don’t get entangled into it, one’s main goal is to serve The Lord and Master and Goddess, and don’t get sucked into the politics and muck that surrounds home, work and the world. Be within, but still outside. Don’t bother about the fruit of labour but do your work like seva to the One you pray and love. “The wind carries the smell of the sandal-wood as well as that of ordure, but does not mix with either. Similarly a perfect man lives in the world, but does not mix with it.”
For those who wanted to walk the path of renunciation it was clear, avoid women and money. Nothing wrong with either but their lure can pull you into the by-lanes of chaos. But He believed that “The Knowledge of God may be like a man, while the Love of God is like a woman. Knowledge has entry only up to the outer rooms of God, but no one can enter into the inner mysteries of God save a lover, for a woman has access even into the harem of the Almighty.” (All women activists, Ramakrishna Paramahamsa has taken Samadhi.)
He believed that faith and love were two pillars that were mandatory for all those in search of God and to merge with God. Often He would cite the example of Lord Rama. When Lord Rama had to cross the ocean to go to Lanka and destroy Ravana and His army, He had to build a pathway. He had to walk His way to Lanka. But Hanuman had so much faith in Lord Rama that He could just fly across the ocean and He could do so due to His faith in Lord Rama and the love He had for Lord Rama. “Here the servant achieved more than the Master, simply through faith.”
Baba Sai of Shirdi so often would say, faith and patience, are mandatory for all spiritual growth as well as to swim in the ocean of maya.
He was a friend, child, mentor, Guru to all, but He never let anybody who came to Him ever forget that the goal is to move towards God and Goddess. To realise that all are One and that Oneness rocks.
His relationship with Maa Sarada was that of love and worship. When Sarada Maa was of age, He worshipped Her and made Her the living personification of The Divine Mother and She too wanted it no other way. It was a Divine Relationship. Fame, name, glory did not matter to Ramakrishna. Then came the last chapter of His life in the physical body. First, He broke a bone in His arm. It took five months or more to heal. Excruciating pain that was needed for Him to remain body conscious to complete the work He had come to Mother Earth for. To spread Oneness and make more and more people walk the path of seva, selfless love and worship.
Then came cancer of the throat. It started in April 1885. The spiritual ecstasy, the state of Samadhi, the constant exchange of Energy, the guidance, all took a toll on His frail body. He often spoke for twenty hours at a stretch. He only gave and gave off Himself. The laws of the five elements that the body is subjected to, took its toll. Somebody had to pay the Karmic bill. The pain was excruciating. The suffering was unimaginable. He, who had cured innumerable people refused to do anything that His Mother did not want Him to do.
The doctors advised Him complete rest and no more trances and spiritual ecstasy. But He had no control over all this. Yes, sometimes He would get tired of the relentless outpour of devotees and their needs and questions.
“Why do You bring here all these worthless people, who are like milk diluted with five times its own quantity of water? My eyes are almost destroyed with blowing the fire to dry up the water. My health is gone. It is beyond My strength. Do it Yourself, if You want it done. This (pointing to His Own body) is but a perforated drum, and if you go on beating it day in and day out, how long will it last?”
But then moments later He would remind one and all that He would come back taking birth as a dog if it meant to take care of one soul in need.
He was so childlike that once He told His loved ones. “It was revealed to me in a vision that during my last days I should have to live on pudding. During my present illness my wife was one day feeding me with pudding. I burst into tears and said, ‘Is this my living on pudding near the end, and so painfully?’ “
Ramakrishna Paramhansa became a skeleton. He could cure Himself but He made it clear that if The Mother directed Him to, He would. Once He was hungry but couldn’t swallow food. He shut His eyes and told Maa Kali that He wanted to eat but He couldn’t. He then opened His eyes and told those near Him that Maa Kali told Him that His children were eating food which meant He had consumed the food, so why create such a noise about going hungry. He only smiled that sweet child like smile.
On August 15, 1886, He spent time with His children and then went into a state of Samadhi. His last words were Kali, Kali, Kali.
The innocent Drum of Mother Kali, eventually rested silently.
Ruzbeh N. Bharucha