Sri Ramakrishna was a great soul who realised all major religions and had vision of Ma Kali, Sri Rama, Sri Krishna, Sri Hanuman, Sri Mohammad, Sri Christ and son. He was born on February 18, 1836 (5.15 AM) at Kamarpukur (Hooghly district, West Bengal) to the parents named as Khudiram Chattopadhyaya and Chandra Devi. He was named as Gadadhar, the bearer of mace, an epithet of Vishnu.
Gadadhar experienced the spiritual ecstasy as early as at the age of six or seven. One day, he saw a flight of snow-white cranes passing in the backdrop of dark thunder clouds. Instantly, he fell unconscious and experienced an indescribable joy. Gadadhar was interested in reading & hearing the religious stories of puranas and in company of wandering monks & pilgrims on the way to Puri. Gadadhar, while playing the roles of Shiva, Radha or Krishna, often lost himself in the character he was portraying. At the age of sixteen (year 1852), Ramkumar, the elder brother of Gadadhar called him to Calcutta to assist in his Priestly duties and to study bread earning education. Gadadhar was not keen in bread earning education. Saradamani, a little girl of five, was selected as the bride for Sri Ramakrishna. The marriage ceremony was performed in the year 1859.
Spiritual Experiences & Vision of Gods:
Rani Rasmani, a rich widow belonging to the sudra caste, purchased twenty acre of land in Dakshineswar, in 1847 (6.4 Km away from Calcutta) and created a temple garden and constructed several temples including Ma Kali temple, Shiva temples, Radha-Krishna temple etc. in 1855. Sri Ramakrishna accepted the duty of priest in the temples.
The worship in the Kali temple intensified Sri Ramakrishna’s yearning for a living vision of mother Kali. He began to spend whole night in meditation. Without any great knowledge of scriptures, or the guides to help him, and with only simplicity & purity, he longed for a vision of the divine mother. He began his sadhanas for twelve years, but the vision did not come. His longing for the mother was so intense that in agony, he would rub his face against the ground and weep desperately that people, thinking he had lost his earthly mother. One day, he was very restless that it might not realise Her in this life. He determined to put an end to his life. He jumped like a madman to seize the sward of mother Kali, suddenly the blessed mother revealed Herself. The buildings and everything vanished from his sight and limitless, infinite, effulgent ocean of consciousness revealed. He fell unconscious and experienced undiluted bliss. He continued his spiritual practices more intensely. During that period of meditation, he would hear strange clicking sounds in the joints of his legs. As his spiritual mood deepened, he felt more and more to be a child of the Divine Mother. He learnt to surrender completely to Her.
Later he practiced the various attitudes of the Vaishnava schools, from Dasya bhava to madhura bhava. In each case his sadhanas ended in complete union with his object of worship. He began to meditating on Sri Hanuman by assuming the attitude of a servant. His way of life began to resemble those of a monkey. He lived on fruits and roots. He jumped from place to place instead of walking. After a short while he was blessed with a vision of Sita, the divine consort of Rama, who entered his body and disappeared there with the words, “I bequeath to you my smile.”
A Brahmin woman came to Dakshineswar. She was adept in the Tantric and Vaishnava methods worship. After listening of the experiences, visions and symptoms of madness of Sri Ramakrishna, she proclaimed openly that Sri Ramakrishna, like Sri Chaitanya, was an incarnation of God. He accepted Brahmani as his guru (in year 1861). Sri Ramakrishna now set himself to the task of practising spiritual disciplines according to traditional methods laid down in the tantra and Vaishnava scriptures. He practised all the disciplines of the sixty four principal Tantra books, and it took him never more than three days to achieve the results promised in any one of them. After the observance of a few preliminary rites, he would be overwhelmed with a strange divine fervour and would go into Samadhi, where his mind would dwell in exaltation. He saw in a vision the ultimate cause of universe as a huge luminous triangle giving birth every moment to an infinite number of worlds. He heard the Anahata Sabda, the great sound of Om. He acquired eight supernatural powers of yoga. The most remarkable experience was awakening of the Kundalini Sakti, the serpent power. He further saw that the Kundalini went upward the different lotuses bloomed. And the phenomenon was accompanied by visions and trances. Later on he described to his disciples and devotees the various movements of the Kundalini: birdlike, monkey-like, and so on.
After completing the Tantric sadhana in year 1863, Sri Ramakrishna followed the discipline of Vaishnavism. Vaishnavism humanizes God. God is regarded as the devotee’s Parent, Master, Friend, Child, Husband or Sweetheart, each succeeding relationship representing an intensification of love. There came to Dakshineswar, a wandering Vaishnava monk, Jatadhari, whose ideal deity was Ramalala. Soon Ramalala became the favourite companion of Sri Ramakrishna too. A very sweet relationship sprang up between him and Ramalala, for whom he felt the love of a mother. One day, jatadhari left, leaving the image with Sri Ramakrishna. Sri Ramakrishna was blessed with a vision of Sri Rama through Ramalala. In love pursuit, he regarded himself as one of the gopis of Vrindavan, mad and longing for her divine sweetheart, Sri Krishna. Day and night, he wept bitterly and forgotten food and drink. The yearning turned into mad frenzy; for the divine Krishna began to play taunt, now and then revealing Himself, but always keeping at a distance. It is advised in the Vaishnava scriptures that one to propitiate Radha and obtain her grace to realize Sri Krishna. So he turned his prayer to her. Within short time he enjoyed her blessed vision. The love of Radha is the precursor of the resplendent vision of Sri Krishna, and Sri Ramakrishna soon experienced that vision.
Totapuri, the non-dualistic Vedanta philosophy, who experienced the ultimate reality of Brahman, initiated Sri Ramakrishna into the monastic order in 1864 and performed the rituals of destroying his attachment to relatives, friends, body, mind, sense organs, ego, and world. Totapuri asked the disciple to withdraw his mind from all objects of relative world, including god and goddesses, and to concentrate on the absolute. Sri Ramakrishna remained completely absorbed in Samadhi for three days.
After nirvikalpa Samadhi, Sri Ramakrishna realised that world became glorious manifestation of the divine mother; maya became Brahman. Sri Ramakrishna discovered that maya operates in the relative world in two ways, and he termed these “avidyamaya and vidyamaya”. Avidyamaya represents the dark forces of creation: sensuous desires, evil passions, greed, lust, cruelty, and so on. It sustains the world system on the lower planes. It is responsible for the round of person’s birth and death. It must be fought and vanquished. But vidyamaya is the higher force of creation: the spiritual values, the enlightening qualities, kindness, purity, love, devotion. Vidyamaya elevates man to the higher planes of consciousness. Sri Ramakrishna remained in bhavamukha, on the threshold of relative consciousness, the border line between the absolute and the relative. He was to keep himself at the “sixth centre” of Tantra, from which he could see not only the glory of the seventh, but also the divine manifestations of the kundalini in the lower centres. He thus bridged the gulf between the personal and impersonal, the immanent and the transcendent aspects of reality. Sri Ramakrishna described: “when I think of the Supreme Being as inactive-neither creating nor preserving nor destroying, I call Him Brahman or Purusha, the impersonal God; when I think of Him as active-creative, preserving and destroying, I call Him Sakti or Maya or Prakriti, the personal God. The Divine Mother and Brahman are one.”
From now on the Sri Ramakrishna began to seek company of devotees and holy men. Sadhus of all denominations-monists and dualists, Vaishnavas and Vedantists, Saktas and worshippers of Rama-flocked there in ever increasing numbers. Ascetics and visionaries came to seek Sri Ramakrishna’s advice. Sri Ramakrishna had not read books, yet he possessed an encyclopaedic knowledge of religions and religious philosophies. To him the service of people was the same as the worship of God.
Towards the end of 1866, he began to practice the disciplines of Islam, under the direction of his mussalman guru, Sufi Govinda Rai. He dressed as Mussalman and repeated the name of Allah. After three days, he saw the vision of a figure, perhaps Mohammad. The figure gently approached him and finally lost himself in Sri Ramakrishna. Thus he realised the Mussalman God.
In 1870, Sri Ramakrishna went with a tour party to Varanasi, Paryagraj, Vrindavan and Mathura. There, he visited the great women Vaishnava saint, Gangamayi. He later visited Nadia, the birth place of Sri Chaitanya.
In 1872, Sarda Devi (aged of around 18 years) paid her first visit to her husband at Dakshineswar. He taught her duties of household affairs and mysteries of spiritual life. They lived together above worldly plane. On an auspicious day, Sri Ramakrishna arranged a special worship of Kali, the Divine Mother and instead of an image of the Deity; he placed on the seat the living image, Sarda Devi herself. The worshipper and the worshipped went into deep Samadhi and in the transcendental plane their souls were united.
Sometime in November, 1874, Sri Ramakrishna was seized with irresistible desire to learn the truth of the Christian religion. He began to listen to reading from the bible, by Sambhu Charan Mallick. Sri Ramakrishna became fascinated by the life and teachings of Jesus. One day, when his eyes became fixed on the painting of the Madonna and Child. Intently watching it, he became gradually overwhelmed with divine emotion. The figure in the picture took on life, and the rays of light emanating from them entered his soul. Christ possessed his soul. For three days he did not set foot in the Kali temple. On fourth day, in the afternoon, as he was walking in the Panchavati, he saw coming towards him a person with beautiful large eyes, serene countenance, and fair skin. As the two faced each other, a voice rang out in the depths of Sri Ramakrishna’s soul: “Behold the Christ, who shed His heart’s blood for redemption of the world, who suffered a sea of anguish for love of men. It is He, the Master Yogi, who is in eternal union with the God. It is Jesus, Love Incarnate.” The son of Man embraced the son of the Divine Mother and merged in him. Sri Ramakrishna realised his identity with the Christ, as he had already realised his identity with Kali, Rama, Hanuman, Krishna, Brahman, and Mohammad. Sri Ramakrishna accepted the divinity of Buddha. He also showed great respect for the Tirthankaras, who founded Jainism, and for the ten Gurus of Sikhism.
In April 1885, the Master’s throat became inflamed. The doctor diagnosed the illness as cancer. The master wished to make Narendra his spiritual heir who continued the work after Sri Ramakrishna’s passing. Sunday, August 15, 1886, the master’s pulse became irregular and he took maha-Samadhi at 1.02 AM on 16th August, 1886.
Reference: The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna – by Swami Nikhilananda