Copyright Michael D. Robbins 2005

Astro-Rayological Interpretation & Charts
Iimages and Physiognomic Interpretations

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Sri Ramakrishna—Indian Saint, Mystic, Spiritual Guru

February 18, 1846, Karmarpukar, India, 5:00 AM. He of throat cancer, in  Calcutta, India on 8/16/1886 between 1-2 AM.                    

LMR quotes "Sri Ramakrishna, The Great Master," Vol 2, India, distributed by Vedanta, the original in Bengali by Swami Saradananda, translation by Swami Jagadananda.  Biography: Christopher Isherwood "Ramakrishna and his Disciples" (Vedanta Press, Hollywood, 1965, p.3) "Kamarpukau is not large enough to be on a map, it is 30 miles due south of Burdwan, which is northwest of Calcutta."  Isherwood gives "about dawn", rectified by Rudhyar to 5:25 AM LMT, however he gave the year of 1830.  Practical Astrology 3/1927 gave February 20, 1933, 7:30 AM.  "The Life of Ramakrishna" (1971) gives 1830, 5:15 AM.           


A man is truly free, even here in this embodied state, if he knows that God is the true agent and he by himself is powerless to do anything.

After installing the Deity on the lotus of your heart, you must keep the lamp of remembering God ever burning.

As long as you are a person with an ego of your own, cannot conceive, think of or perceive God other than as a person.

At a certain stage in the path of devotion, the devotee finds satisfaction in God with form, and at another stage, in God without it.

Be not a traitor in your thoughts. Be sincere; act according to your thoughts; and you shall surely succeed. Pray with a sincere and simple heart, and your prayers will be heard.

Because of the screen of Maya that shuts off God from human view, one cannot see Him playing in one's heart.

Bondage is of the mind; freedom too is of the mind. If you say 'I am a free soul. I am a son of God who can bind me' free you shall be.
(Saturn in Scorpio in 9th house. Venus & Pluto in Aries.)

But you must remember, unless one is guileless and broad-minded, one cannot have such faith.

Disease is the tax which the soul pays for the body, as the tenant pays house-rent for the use of the house.

God can be realized through all paths. All religions are true. The important thing is to reach the roof. You can reach it by stone stairs or by wooden stairs or by bamboo steps or by a rope. You can also climb up by a bamboo pole.

God cannot be seen so long as there is the slightest taint of desire. Therefore have your minor desires satisfied , and renounce the major ones through right reasoning and discrimination.

God is everywhere but He is most manifest in man. So serve man as God. That is as good as worshipping God.
(Jupiter in Cancer in 6th house)

God is in all men, but all men are not in God; that is why we suffer.

God is our inner controller; He will certainly listen to our prayer if it is sincere.

God is the master, the devotee is the servant. God is the beloved the devotee is the lover.

Good and evil cannot bind him who has realized the oneness of Nature and his own self with Brahman.

If you desire to be pure, have firm faith, and slowly go on with your devotional practices without wasting your energy in useless scriptural discussions and arguments. Your little brain will otherwise be muddled.
(Neptune conjunct Ascendant)

If you first fortify yourself with the true knowledge of the Universal Self, and then live in the midst of wealth and worldliness, surely they will in no way affect you.
(Neptune in Aquarius conjunct Capricorn Ascendant)

If you must be mad, be it not for the things of the world. Be mad with the love of God.

It is easy to talk on religion, but difficult to practice it.

Man's ego itself is Maya. It is the veil that shuts the light.

More are the names of God and infinite are the forms through which He may be approached. In whatever name and form you worship Him, through them you will realise Him.

One must be very particular about telling the truth. Through truth one can realize God.

Pray to God that your attachment to such transitory things as wealth, name, and creature comforts may become less and less every day.

Suppose a man becomes pure by chanting the holy name of God, but immediately afterwards commits many sins. He has no strength of mind. He doesn't take a vow not to repeat his sins.

The goal can never be reached unless a man makes his mind strong and firmly resolves that he must realize God in this very birth, nay, in this very moment.

The magnetic needle always points to the north, and hence it is that sailing vessel does not lose her direction. So long as the heart of man is directed towards God, he cannot be lost in the ocean of worldliness.

The physicians of one class feel the patients and go away, merely prescribing medicine. As they leave the room they simply ask the patient to take the medicine. They are the poorest class of physicians.

Therefore I say, 'Even though my guru frequents a grog-shop, still to me he is the embodiment of Eternal Bliss.' All want to be the guru, but very few indeed want to be a disciple.

Through love one acquires renunciation and discrimination naturally.

Through selfless work, love of God grows in the heart. Then through his grace one realize him in course of time. God can be seen. One can talk to him as I am talking to you.

To work without attachment is to work without the expectation of reward or fear of any punishment in this world or the next. Work so done is a means to the end, and God is the end.

Travel in all the four quarters of the earth, yet you will find nothing anywhere. Whatever there is, is only here.

Unalloyed love of God is the essential thing. All else is unreal.

Unless one always speaks the truth, one cannot find God Who is the soul of truth.

We laugh at the efforts of the musk deer to find the source of the scent which comes from itself and despair at our efforts to find the peace which is our essence.

What are you to do when you are placed in the world? Give up everything to Him, resign yourself to Him, and there will be no more trouble for you. Then you will come to know that everything is done by His will.
(Uranus, Mercury & Moon in Pisces)

When one has love for God, one doesn't feel any physical attraction to wife, children, relatives and friends. One retains only compassion for them.

When the divine vision is attained, all appear equal; and there remains no distinction of good and bad, or of high and low.

Work, apart from devotion or love of God, is helpless and cannot stand alone.

So long as the bee is outside the petals of the lily, and has not tasted the sweetness of its honey, it hovers around the flower emitting the buzzing sound; but when it is inside the flower, it noiselessly drinks the nectar. So long as a man quarrels and disputes about doctrines and dogmas, he has not tasted the nectar of true faith; when he has tasted it, he becomes quiet and full of peace.

Wherever I look, I see men quarrelling in the name of religion --- Hindus, Mohammendans, Brahmos, Vaishnavas, and the rest. But they never reflect that He who is called Krishna is also called Siva, and bears the name of the Primal Energy, Jesus, and Allah as well --- the same Rama with a thousand names. A lake has several ghats. At one the Hindus take water in pitchers and call it 'jal'; at another the Mussalmans take water in leather bags and call it 'pani'. At a third the Christians call it 'water'. Can we imagine that it is not 'jal', but only 'pani' or 'water'? How ridiculous! The substance is One under different names, and everyone is seeking the same substance; only climate, temperament, and name create differences. Let each man follow his own path. If he sincerely and ardently wishes to know God, peace be unto him! He will surely realize Him.

Those whose spiritual awareness has been awakened never make a false move. They don't have to avoid evil. They are so replete with love that whatever they do is a good action. They are fully conscious that they are not the doer of their actions, but only servants of God.

“Dislodging a green nut from it's shell is almost impossible, but let it dry and the lightest tap will do it.”

“A devotee who can call on God while living a householder's life is a hero indeed. God thinks: 'He is blessed indeed who prays to me in the midst of his worldly duties. He is trying to find me, overcoming a great obstacle -- pushing away, as it were, a huge block of stone weighing a ton. Such a man is a real hero.'”

When the flower blooms, the bees come uninvited.”

“The world is indeed a mixture of truth and make-believe. Discard the make-believe and take the truth.” 

“Longing is like the rosy dawn. After the dawn out comes the sun. Longing is followed by the vision of God.” 

“You see many stars at night in the sky but find them not when the sun rises; can you say that there are no stars in the heaven of the day? So, O man! as you behold not God in the days of your ignorance, say not that there is no God.” 

“Bondage is of the mind ; freedom too is of the mind. If you say 'I am a free soul. I am a son of God who can bind me' free you shall be.” 

“"A poor devotee points to the sky and says, "God is up there." An average devotee says, "God dwells in the heart as the Inner Master." The best devotee says, "God alone is and everything I perceive is a form of God."” 

“Unalloyed love of God is the essential thing. All else is unreal.” 

“God is the master, the devotee is the servant. God is the beloved the devotee is the lover.” 

The sum and substance of the whole matter is that a man must love God, must be restless for Him. It doesn't matter whether you believe in God with form or God without form. You may or may not believe that God incarnates Himself as man. But you will realize Him if you have that yearning. Then He himself will let you know what He is like. If you must be mad, why should you be mad for the things of the world? If you must be mad, be mad for God alone.

"It is said that truthfulness alone constitutes the spiritual discipline of the Kaliyuga.
If a man clings tenaciously to truth he ultimately realizes God."

"God can be realized when a man acquires sattva. Householders engage in philanthropic work, such as charity, mostly with a motive. That is not good. Yet it is very difficult to leave motives out of one's actions."

"All will surely realize God. All will be liberated. It may be that some get their meal in the morning, some at noon, and some in the evening, but none will go without food. All, without any exception, will certainly know the real Self."

"The rishis of old attained the Knowledge of Brahman. One cannot have this so long as there is the slightest trace of worldliness. How hard the rishis laboured ! Early in the morning they would go away from the hermitage, and would spend the whole day in solitude, meditating on Brahman. At night they would return to the hermitage and eat a little fruit or roots. They kept their mind aloof from the objects of sight, hearing, touch, and other things of a worldly nature. Only thus did they realize Brahman as their own inner consciousness."

"In the kaliyuga, man, being totally dependent on food for life, cannot altogether shake off the idea that he is the body. In this state of mind it is not proper for him to say: 'I am He'. When a man does all sorts of worldly things, he should not say, 'I am Brahman'. Those who cannot give up attachment to worldly things, and who find no means to shake off the feeling of 'I', should rather cherish the idea, 'I am God's servant; I am His devotee.' One can also realize God by following the path of devotion."

"People speak of doing good to the world. Is the world such a small thing? And who are you, pray, to do good to the world? First realize God, see Him by means of spiritual discipline. If He imparts power, then you can do good to others, otherwise not."

If you first fortify yourself with the true knowledge of the Universal Self, and then live in the midst of wealth and worldliness, surely they will in no way affect you.

As a wet-nurse in a wealthy family brings up her master’s child, loving it as if it were her own, yet knowing well that she has no claim upon it, so you also think that you are but trustee and guardians of your children whose real father is the Lord himself.

Because of the screen of Maya (illusion) that shuts off God from human view, one cannot see Him playing in one’s heart.

Many good sayings are to be found in holy books, but merely reading them will not make one religious. One must practice the virtues taught in such books in order to acquire love of God.
(Capricorn Ascendant)

Unless one always speaks the truth, one cannot find God Who is the soul of truth.

One must be very particular about telling the truth. Through truth one can realize God.

When the divine vision is attained, all appear equal; and there remains no distinction of good and bad, or of high and low.

Good and evil cannot bind him who has realized the oneness of Nature and his own self with Brahman.

"It is God alone who has planted in man's mind what the Englishman calls free will. People who have not realized God would become engaged in more and more sinful actions if God had not planted in them the notion of free will. Sin would have increased if God had not made the sinner feel that he is responsible."

"If a man has faith in God, then even if he has committed the most heinous sins- such as killing a cow, a brahmin, or a woman - he will certainly be saved through his faith. Let him say to God, 'O Lord, I will not repeat such an action', and he need not be afraid of anything."

"Give up all such notions as: 'Shall we be cured of our delirium?', 'What will happen to us?', 'We are sinners!' One must have this kind of faith: 'What? Once I have uttered the name of Rama, can I be a sinner any more?'"
(Sun conjunct Uranus)

"Once someone gave me a book of the Christians. I asked him to read it to me. It talked of nothing but sin. The wretch who constantly says, "I am bound, I am bound',
only succeeds in being bound. He who says day and night, 'I am a sinner, I am a sinner' verily becomes a sinner."

"Suicide is a heinous sin, undoubtedly. A man who kills himself must return again
and again to this world and suffer its agony. "But I don't call it suicide if a person
leaves his body after having the vision of God. There is no harm in giving up one's body that way. After attaining Knowledge some people give up their bodies. After the gold image has been cast in the clay mold, you may either preserve the mold or break it."

"All the sins of the body fly away if one chants the name of God and sings his glories. The birds of sin dwell in the tree of the body. Singing the name of God is like clapping your hands. As, at the clap of the hands, the birds in the tree fly away, so do our sins disappear at the chanting of God's name and glories."


Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa

Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa
Born February 18, 1836
Kamarpukur, West Bengal, India
Died 16 August 1886
Garden House in Cossipore.
Historically, in India, emphasis is given to the teachings of saints and less attention is paid to dates and details. In the case of Ramakrishna, however, there exist first-hand accounts of the details of his life. This was possible because many of his disciples were well-educated and had a strong desire to present only facts that could be verified from multiple sources.[2] Some credit for collecting and recording such facts goes to Swami Saradananda, a disciple of Ramakrishna. He wrote a biography from the legends and stories which were growing around Ramakrishna.

The best-known record of Ramakrishna's teachings is the Bengali Kathamrita written by Mahendranath Gupta (Sri M.). Swami Nikhilananda's translation of this into the English language, The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna, is the most widely read. In the preface to his translation, Nikhilananda states, "I have made a literal translation, omitting only a few pages of no particular interest to English-speaking readers." Some claim, however, that Nikhilananda's omissions were quite significant and have led to Western difficulties in interpreting the Kathamrita.

Gadadhar was born in the village of Kamarpukur, in what is now the Hooghly district of West Bengal. Gadadhar’s parents, Khudiram and Chandramani, were poor and made ends meet with great difficulty. Gadadhar was extremely popular in his village. He was considered handsome and had a natural gift for the fine arts. He, however, disliked going to school, and was not interested in the pursuit of money. He loved nature and spent his time in fields and fruit gardens outside the village with his friends. He was seen visiting monks who stopped at his village on their way to Puri. He would serve them and listen with rapt attention to the religious debates they often had.

When arrangements for Gadadhar to be invested with the sacred thread were nearly complete, he declared that he would have his first alms as a Brahmin from a certain low-caste woman of the village. This was a shock in the days when tradition required that the first alms be from a brahmin, but he was adamant. He said he had given his word to the lady and if he did not keep his word, what sort of Brahmin would he be? No argument, no appeal, no amount of tears are said to have budged him from his position. Finally, Ramkumar, his eldest brother and the head of the family after the passing away of their father, gave in.

Meanwhile, the family's financial position worsened every day. Ramkumar ran a Sanskrit school in Calcutta and also served as purohit priest in some families. About this time, a rich woman of Calcutta, Rani Rashmoni, founded a temple at Dakshineswar. She approached Ramkumar to serve as priest at the temple of Kali and Ramkumar agreed. After some persuasion, Gadadhar agreed to decorate the deity. When Ramkumar retired, Gadadhar took his place as priest.

Career as priest
When Gadadhar started worshipping the deity Bhavatarini, he began to question if he was worshipping a piece of stone or a living Goddess. If he was worshipping a living Goddess, why should she not respond to his worship? This question nagged him day and night. Then, he began to pray to Kali: "Mother, you've been gracious to many devotees in the past and have revealed yourself to them. Why would you not reveal yourself to me, also? Am I not also your son?"

He is known to have wept bitterly and sometimes even cry out loudly while worshipping. At night, he would go into a nearby jungle and spend the whole night praying. One day, the famous account goes, he was so impatient to see Mother Kali that he decided to end his life. He seized a sword hanging on the wall and was about to strike himself with it, when he is reported to have seen light issuing from the deity in waves. He is said to have been soon overwhelmed by the waves and fell unconscious on the floor.

Gadadhar, however, unsatiated, prayed to Mother Kali for more religious experiences. He especially wanted to know the truths that other religions taught. Strangely, these teachers came to him when necessary and he is said to have reached the ultimate goals of those religions with ease. Soon word spread about this remarkable man and people of all denominations and all stations of life began to come to him.

Initiationwas initiated in Advaita Vedanta by a wandering monk named Totapuri, in the city of Dakshineswar. Totapuri was "a teacher of masculine strength, a sterner mien, a gnarled physique, and a virile voice". Ramakrishna would soon affectionately address the monk as Nangta, the "Naked One". Nikhilananda interjects that this is because as a renunciate, Nangta did not wear any clothing.[3]

I [Ramakrishna] said to Totapuri in despair: "It's no good. I will never be able to lift my spirit to the unconditioned state and find myself face to face with the Atman." He [Totapuri] replied severely: "What do you mean you can't? You must!" Looking about him, he found a shard of glass. He took it and stuck the point between my eyes saying: "Concentrate your mind on that point." [...] The last barrier vanished and my spirit immediately precipitated itself beyond the plane of the conditioned. I lost myself in samadhi.[4] After the departure of Totapuri, Ramakrishna reportedly remained for six month in a state of absolute contemplation:

For six months in a stretch, I [Ramakrishna] remained in that state from which ordinary men can never return; generally the body falls off, after three weeks, like a sere leaf. I was not conscious of day or night. Flies would enter my mouth and nostrils as they do a dead's body, but I did not feel them. My hair became matted with dust.[5]

Married life
Rumors spread to Kamarpukur that Ramakrishna had gone mad as a result of his over-taxing spiritual exercises at Dakshineswar. Alarmed, neighbors advised Ramakrishna’s mother that he be persuaded to marry, so that he might be more conscious of his responsibilities to the family. Far from objecting to the marriage, he, in fact, mentioned Jayrambati, three miles to the north-west of Kamarpukur, as being the village where the bride could be found at the house of one Ramchandra Mukherjee. The five-year-old bride, Sarada, was found and the marriage was duly solemnised. Sarada was Ramakrishna's first disciple. He attempted to teach her everything he had learned from his various gurus. She is believed to have mastered every religious secret as quickly as Ramakrishna had. Impressed by her religious potential, he began to treat her as the Universal Mother Herself and performed a puja considering Sarada as veritable Tripura Sundari Devi. He said, 'I look upon you as my own mother and the Mother who is in the temple'. Ramakrishna impressed upon Sarada Devi that she was not only the mother of his young disciples, but also of all humanity. Initially, Sarada Devi was initially shy about playing this role, but slowly, she filled it with courage.

Her renunciation is believed by devotees to be a striking quality that she shared with her husband in a measure equal to, if not beyond, his. The true nature of their relationship and kinship was believed to be beyond the grasp of ordinary minds. Ramakrishna concluded, after close and constant association with her, that her relationship and attitude toward him were firmly based on a divine spiritual plane. Devotees believe that as they shared their daily lives, no other thought other than that of the divine presence, arose in their minds. An account of such continuous divine relationship between two souls of opposite gender is unique in religious records, not known in any of the past hagiographies. After the passing away of Ramakrishna, Sarada Devi became a religious teacher in her own right.

Later life
He soon came to be known as Ramakrishna Paramahansa, and like a magnet, is said to have begun to attract seekers of God. He taught the basic truths of religion ceaselessly for about fifteen years through parables, metaphors, songs, and above all by his own life.

He developed throat cancer and attained Mahasamadhi at a garden house in Cossipore on 16 August, 1886, leaving behind a devoted band of 16 young disciples headed by Swami Vivekananda, who would eventually become a well-known saint-philosopher, orator, and leader of the householder disciples. Among his contemporaries, Keshab Chandra Sen and Pandit Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar, Hindu reformers, were his admirers.


(1881, Calcutta)The key concepts in Ramakrishna's teachings were the oneness of existence; the divinity of all living beings; the unity of God and the harmony of religions; that the primal bondage in human life is lust and greed (kamini and kanchana in Bengali).

Ramakrishna emphasized that God-realization is the supreme goal of all living beings[6]. Religion, for him, was merely a means for the achievement of this goal. Ramakrishna's mystical realization, classified by Hindu tradition as nirvikalpa samadhi (literally, "constant meditation", thought to be absorption in the all-encompassing Consciousness), led him to know that the various religions are different ways to reach The Absolute, and that the Ultimate Reality could never be expressed in human terms. This is in agreement with the proclamation in the Rig Veda that "Truth is one but sages call it by many names." As a consequence of this view, Ramakrishna actually spent periods of his life practicing his own understandings of Islam, Christianity and various Yogic and Tantric sects within Hinduism.

Avidyamaya and vidyamaya
See also: Avidyamaya and vidyamaya and mayatita
Devotees believe that Ramakrishna's realization of nirvikalpa samadhi also led him to an understanding of the two sides of maya, or illusion, to which he referred as Avidyamaya and vidyamaya. He explained that avidyamaya represents dark forces (e.g. sensual desire, evil passions, greed, lust and cruelty), which keep the world-system on lower planes of consciousness. These forces are responsible for human entrapment in the cycle of birth and death, and they must be fought and vanquished. Vidyamaya, on the other hand, represents higher forces (e.g. spiritual virtues, enlightening qualities, kindness, purity, love, and devotion), which elevate human beings to the higher planes of consciousness. With the help of vidyamaya, he said that devotees could rid themselves of avidyamaya and achieve the ultimate goal of becoming mayatita - that is, free from maya.

Other teachings's proclamation of jatra jiv tatra Shiv (wherever there is a living being, there is Shiva) stemmed from his Advaitic perception of Reality. This would lead him teach his disciples, "Jive daya noy, Shiv gyane jiv seba" (not kindness to living beings, but serving the living being as Shiva Himself). This view differs considerably from what Ramakrishna's followers call the "sentimental pantheism" of, for example, Francis of Assisi.

Ramakrishna, though not formally trained as a philosopher, had an intuitive grasp of complex philosophical concepts.[7] According to him brahmanda, the visible universe and many other universes, are mere bubbles emerging out of Brahman, the supreme ocean of intelligence [8].

Like Adi Sankara had done more than a thousand years earlier, Ramakrishna Paramahamsa revitalized Hinduism which had been fraught with excessive ritualism and superstition in the Nineteenth century and helped it become better-equipped to respond to challenges from Islam, Christianity and the dawn of the modern era[9]. However, unlike Adi Sankara, Ramakrishna developed ideas about the post-samadhi descent of consciousness into the phenomenal world, which he went on to term "vignana". While he asserted the supreme validity of Advaita Vedanta, he also proclaimed that he accepts both the Nitya (or the eternal substance) and the Leela (literally, "play", indicating the dynamic phenomenal reality) as aspects of Brahman.

The idea of the descent of consciousness shows the influence of the Bhakti movement and certain sub-schools of Shaktism on Ramakrishna's thought. The idea would later influence Aurobindo's views about the Divine Life on Earth.

Ramakrishna Paramahamsa Parmahamsa is perhaps the best known saint of nineteenth century India. He was born in a poor Brahmin family in 1836, in a small town near Calcutta, West Bengal. As a young man, he was artistic and a popular storyteller and actor. His parents were religious, and prone to visions and spiritual dreams. Ramakrishna's father had a vision of the god Gadadhara (Vishnu) while on a religious pilgrimage. In the vision, the god told him that he would be born into the family as a son.

Young Ramakrishna was prone to experiences of spiritual reverie and temporary loss of consciousness. His early spiritual experiences included going into a state of rapture while watching the flight of a cranes, and loosing consciousness of the outer world while playing the role of the god Shiva in a school play.

Ramakrishna had little interest in school or practical things of the world. In 1866, he became a priest at a recently dedicated temple to the Goddess Kali located near Calcutta on the Ganges River. It was built by a pious widow, Rani Rasmani. Ramakrishna became a full-time devotee to the goddess spending increasing amounts of time giving offerings and meditating on her. He meditated in a sacred grove of five trees on the edge of the temple grounds seeking a vision of the goddess Kali.

At one point he became frustrated, feeling he could not live any longer without seeing Kali. He demanded that the goddess appear to him. He threatened to take his own life with a ritual dagger (normally held in the hand of the Kali statue). At this point, he explained how the goddess appeared to him as an ocean of light:

When I jumped up like a madman and seized [a sword], suddenly the blessed Mother revealed herself. The buildings with their different parts, the temple, and everything vanished from my sight, leaving no trace whatsoever, and in their stead I saw a limitless, infinite, effulgent Ocean of Consciousness. As far as the eye could see, the shining billows were madly rushing at me from all sides with a terrific noise, to swallow me up. I was caught in the rush and collapsed, unconscious … within me there was a steady flow of undiluted bliss, altogether new, and I felt the presence of the Divine Mother.

Mahendranath Gupta, Ramakrsna Kathamrta translated by Swami Nikhilananda as The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna (Mylapore: Sri Ramakrsna Math, 1952), Book 1, p. 15 's behavior became more erratic as time passed and began to worry his family and employer. He would take on ritual and mythical roles identifying with figures from the Puranas (medieval Indian holy books describing the adventures of gods). His parents found him a wife hoping his mental instability was a result of his celibacy.

About this time, an elderly holy woman named Bhairavi Brahmani appeared and determined that Ramakrishna's madness was "spiritual madness" rather than ordinary madness. He was literally mad for the vision of God. She convened a group of respected religious leaders who examined Ramakrishna's symptoms. They concluded that this was a case of divine madness similar in nature to that of other famous saints such as Caitanya (a fifteenth century Bengali saint). From this point on, people began to treat Ramakrishna with more respect though his unusual behavior in worship and meditation continued. The holy women stayed with Ramakrishna for some time teaching him yogic and tantric meditation techniques.

A yogin named Totapuri then became Ramakrishna's mentor. Ramakrishna adopted the role of renunciant and learned a nondualist form of Vedanta philosophy from him. In this system, God is understood to be the formless unmanifest energy that supports the cosmos. Ramakrishna experienced a deep form of trance (nirvilkalpa samadhi) under the guidance of this teacher. This state can be described as complete absorption of the soul into the divine ocean of consciousness.

Disciples began to appear at this point in Ramakrishna's life. He embarked on a long period of teaching where he gathered a group of disciples around him. This period of his life is well documented by two sets of books written by his disciples. These references are listed below.

Ramakrishna explained on different occasions that god is both formed and formless and can appear to the devotee either way. He often asked visitors whether they conceived of god as having qualities or as being beyond qualities. He then proceeded to teach the devotee according to the way he or she viewed the divine. His acceptance of different approaches to the worship of God and the validity of different religious paths, such as Christianity and Islam, is in the best tradition of the universalist approach to religion common throughout India today.

One extraordinary quality of Ramakrishna's message was its universal appeal to a broad cross section of Indian society. In the West, religions like Christianity and Judaism tend to be exclusive, and find the contradictions that arise from a religion that is too broad to be objectionable. If one religious approach is right, the others must be wrong. But the Indian mind tends to more readily accept someone like Ramakrishna who preaches universality of religion and accepts and even promotes individuality in the seeker's approach to God. For instance, Ramakrishna appealed to the upper classes who are likely to follow a Vedantist or philosophical approach to religion by sometimes describing God as a nondual formless essence.

His description of Kali as an ocean of light had much in common with the ocean of Brahman that the Brahmins (the traditional priestly caste) seek to encounter when they are initiated into the Gayatri mantra, or the mantra of the sun. One divine ocean of consciousness may be difficult to distinguish from another.

Ramakrishna also appealed to those with an interest in yoga and esoteric practices by practicing a nondual form of meditation prescribed by Totapuri which seeks samadhi.

The most popular religious practice by far in India is bhakti, or devotion to a deity. Ramakrishna's message was welcomed by both the rural and urban religious people who did puja to the divine mother Kali as a protective and benevolent deity (Kali also has a fierce and destructive side which she generally does not show to those who worship her). These devotees saw him as a great teacher and bhakta who sang the names of God and talked incessantly about God. They too did puja and sang Kali's name in hopes of having healthy children, getting good jobs or marriages, or producing a plentiful harvest. The sincere devotee could even hope for a vision or dream of the divine mother.

Those who followed the Vedic prescription of religious universalism summed up in the phrase "There is but one Truth, but sages call it by different names" noted that Ramakrishna practiced the rituals of many religions, and found that they all brought him to the same divine reality in the end. For those who worshiped many different saints and deities throughout India, this universal approach echoed their own multi-faceted religious practices.

Finally, for those with a strong sense of Hindu nationalism, Ramakrishna's chief disciple, Swami Vivekananda, entered onto the world stage by doing a keynote address at the World Parliament of Religions meeting in Chicago in 1893, and he electrified his audience. Hindus for generations could point to their indigenous traditions with pride after his exemplary speech.

Vivekananda also promoted a more activist form of Hinduism, which focused on education, feeding the poor, and developing libraries and other institutions. His works were a way of showing Hindus that it was not only the Christian missionaries that could benefit society, but that Hindu religion was also valuable with respect to improving society and combating social ills.

Ramakrishna died of cancer of the throat in 1886, leaving his wife Sarada Devi who was considered a saint in her own right to take charge of his disciples and carry on his message.


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