India, with her wealth of spiritual tradition, has
produced many spiritual giants. One of the greatest was Ramakrishna (1836-1886). His life
was a testament to truth, universality, love and purity.
Born in a rural village outside Calcutta, Ramakrishna even as a boy naturally gravitated
toward leading a spiritual life. This tendency only intensified, as he grew older. When as
a young man he became a temple priest, he was seized by an unquenchable thirst for union
with God, and he immersed himself in intense meditation and other spiritual practices.
Ramakrishna was constantly absorbed in the thought of God. He would often go into high
spiritual states where he would merge with the Infinite Reality. For him, the Vedantic
teaching of unity of all existence was more than theory; he literally saw, and knew, this
to be true. In his thirst for the divine, Ramakrishna followed different religious paths
including various branches of Hinduism. Not content to stop there however, he also
practised Islam and later meditated deeply on the Christ, experiencing the same divine
Reality through these non-Hindu paths. Thus, he came to the conclusion, based on his
direct experiences, that all religions lead to the same goal.
In addition, through his many Sikh devotees, he learned of their faith and its great
founders, and similarly he was told of the wonderful life and teachings of the Buddha.
This exposure to Sikhism and Buddhism further confirmed his experience of the universality
of spiritual truth. Ramakrishna's love for humanity was limitless. He often said human
beings were the highest manifestations of God. His disciples saw this love firsthand, and
the monastic order which Shri Ramakrishna inspired, has achieved the distinction of being the first order
in India to serve humanity. Service to God in humankind is one of the foremost ideals of
the Ramakrishna Order.
Among his many other noteworthy characteristics were his universality and childlike
purity, his intense sincerity, his vast knowledge of things spiritual and human (which
came not from book learning, but from direct perception), and his extraordinary power to
Ramakrishna's teachings regarding the highest truths of spiritual life were delivered in
the simplest language and were punctuated by parables and homely metaphors as
illustrations. Many noted writers and philosophers-Mahatma Gandhi, Leo Tolstoy, Aldous
Huxley, Christopher Isherwood, Thomas Merton, Arnold Toynbee, Joseph Campbell-have been
deeply impressed and influenced by him.
SlideShow of Gems from Gospel of Shri Ramakrishna.