Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa was born on 18th February 1836 in the village of Kamarpukur in West Bengal. His parents were Kshudiram Chattopadhyay and Chandramani Devi. Sri Ramakrishna’s parents experienced supernatural incidents and visions before his birth. Gadadhar (Sri Ramakrishna’s childhood name) was a cheerful boy with a natural tendency to inspire love and attraction in anyone who met him. Although Sri Ramakrishna attended a village school for some years, he later rejected the traditional schooling as he was not interested in wasting time on the so called “bread winning education”. He was however a talented boy and could sing and paint well. He was fond of serving holy men and listening to their discourses. Sri Ramakrishna experienced his first spiritual ecstasy at the age of six while watching a flock of white cranes flying against the backdrop of dark clouds. This tendency to enter into ecstasy intensified with age.
Sri Ramakrishna moved to Calcutta in 1852 to assist his brother Ramkumar in his priestly duties. In 1855, Ramkumar was appointed as chief priest in the Kali Temple at Dakshineswar in Calcutta and Sri Ramakrishna joined him to assist him. When Ramkumar died a few months later, Sri Ramakrishna was appointed as the priest. Sri Ramakrishna developed intense devotion to Mother Kali. His intense Sadhana led him to the vision of the Goddess Kali as boundless effulgence engulfingevery object around him.
Not satisfied with his vision of the Mother of the Universe, Sri Ramakrishna soon sought out ways to realize God in different moods (Bhavas). His experiments crossed the limits of Hinduism, glided through paths of Islam and Christianity. He attained the highest realization through each of these paths in a short period. Drawing from his experiences, Sri Ramakrishna declared that “Yatho mat, tatho path” (as many faiths, so many paths).
Sri Ramakrishna married Sri Sarada Devi, who was his spiritual consort. Their pure family life, devoid of any physical relations, continues to inspire lakhs of households across the world.
Many devotees were drawn by his sweet words and inspiring speeches. He urged his house-hold devotees to shun “Kama and Kanchana” (lust and money) and to divert one’s attentions completely to the realization of God. The other important category of his disciples was a group of educated youth from middle class families of West Bengal, whom he trained to become monks and to be the torch bearers of his message to the world. Most prominent among them was ‘Narendranath’, who later as Swami Vivekananda carried the universal message of Vedanta across the world, awakening the soul of India.
All the conversations of Sri Ramakrishna were in simple language using parables and stories drawn from simple things of daily life and from nature. His conversations titled Sri Ramakrishna Kathamruta which were recorded in the form of a book by one of his disciples continues to be very popular even today due to its universal appeal and relevance.
The intensity of his spiritual life and untiring spiritual ministration to the endless stream of devotees took a toll on his health and in the early hours of 16thAugust 1856, Sri Ramakrishna gave up his physical body and passed into eternity.