Sri Ramakrishna (1836-1886)
Sri Ramakrishna represents the
very core of the spiritual realizations of the seers and sages of India. His
whole life was literally an uninterrupted contemplation of God. He reached a
depth of God-consciousness that transcends all time and place and has a
universal appeal. Seekers of God of all religions feel irresistibly drawn to
his life and teachings. Sri Ramakrishna, as a silent force, influences our
spiritual thought currents even to this day.
A Seminal Figure:
He is a figure of recent history and his life and teachings have not yet
been obscured by loving legends and doubtful myths. Through his
God-intoxicated life Sri Ramakrishna proved that the revelation of God takes
place at all times and 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. The God-man of 19th century India
did not found any cult, nor did he show a new path to salvation.
His message was his God-consciousness. When it 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, through his burning spiritual realizations, demonstrated
beyond doubt the reality of God and the validity of the time-honored
teachings of all the prophets and saviors of the past.
His Magnetism :
Drawn by the magnetism of Sri Ramakrishna's divine personality, people
flocked to him from far and near -- 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 on the outskirts of the city of Calcutta became a veritable
parliament of religions.
Everyone who came to him felt uplifted by his profound God-consciousness,
boundless love, and universal outlook. Each seeker saw in him the highest
manifestation of his own ideal. By coming near him the impure became pure,
the pure became purer, and the sinner was transformed into a saint.
Champion of Religious Harmony :
The greatest contribution of Sri Ramakrishna to the modern world is his
message of the harmony of religions. To Sri Ramakrishna all religions are
the revelation of God in his diverse aspects to satisfy the manifold demands
of human minds. Like different photographs of a building taken from
different angles, different religions give us the pictures of one truth from
different standpoints. They are not contradictory but complementary.
The Theory of Multiple Paths:
Sri Ramakrishna faithfully practiced the spiritual disciplines of
different religions and came to the realization that all of them lead to the
same goal. Thus he declared, "As many faiths, so many paths." The paths
vary, but the goal remains the same. Harmony of religions is not uniformity;
it is unity in diversity. It is not a fusion of religions, but a fellowship
of religions based on their common goal -- communion with God.
This harmony is to be realized by deepening our individual
God-consciousness. In the present-day world, threatened by nuclear war and
torn by religious intolerance, Sri Ramakrishna's message of harmony gives us
hope and shows the way. May his life and teachings ever inspire us.