Sri Ramakrishna was born on 18th February 1836 in a poor and pious Brahmin family in Kamarpukur, a village about 90 kilometers to the north-west of Kolkata. His parents were Kshudiram Chattopadhyaya and Chandramani Devi. From his early boyhood Sri Ramakrishna was devoted to God and spiritual matters and showed lack of interest in worldly affairs. At the age of nineteen he was appointed a priest at the newly built Kali temple at Dakshineswar in Kolkata. From then on for another eleven years he remained absorbed in the practice of various spiritual disciplines of Hinduism. After attaining the highest goals of these disciplines, which included the experience of Advaita or non-dual state of consciousness, he turned to the spiritual paths of Islam and Christianity. These paths led him finally to the same ultimate Reality which he had earlier attained through the spiritual paths of Hinduism. Although Sri Ramakrishna had been ordained a monk, he lived like an ordinary person, and hardly ever left the precincts of the Kali temple where he was given a room to stay. The fame of his holiness began to spread, and disciples, mostly belonging to the educated middle class in Kolkata, began to gather around him. He trained some of his young disciples to become monks. The foremost among them was Swami Vivekananda. Sri Ramakrishna passed away on 16th August 1886 at the age of fifty years.
Some of his sayings are:
- You see many stars in the sky at night, but not when the sun rises. Can you therefore say that there are no stars in the heavens during the day? O man, because you cannot find God in the days of your ignorance, say not there is no God.
- Seekest thou God? Then seek Him in man! His Divinity is manifest more in man than in any other object. Man is the greatest manifestation of God.
- It is said that truthfulness alone constitutes the spiritual discipline of the Kaliyuga (i.e.modern age). If a man clings tenaciously to truth he ultimately realizes God.
- Rain water never stands on high ground, but runs down to the lowest level. So also the mercy of God remains in the hearts of the lowly, but drains off from those of the vain and the proud.
- Look at the anvil of a blacksmith-how it is hammered and beaten, yet it moves not from its place. Let men learn patience and endurance from it.
Some of his teachings are:
- Religions are like so-many paths leading to the same goal, i.e.,God. Man reaches his religious goal when he attains his highest moral development.
- Be in the world but not of it. Perform your duties as well as you can, but do not count too much upon the fruits of your action. Rather, surrender them to God. Try to feel as if you are only a tool at the hands of God.
- God is both personal and impersonal. It is difficult to conceive an impersonal God. So, to begin with, God has to be thought of as a person. Can anyone think of the white colour without thinking of a white object? One can look at the morning sun, but not at the midday sun. Similarly, when God is manifest in a person we know what God is like, otherwise God is impersonal and beyond thought and speech.