A Brief Life Sketch of Thakur Sri Ramakrishna
Birth of Sri Ramakrishna – father Khudiram and mother Chandramani – primary school – worship of Raghuvir – company of sadhus and listening to the Puranas – beholds a miraculous light – comes to Calcutta, and company of sadhus at Kali Temple in Dakshineswar – sees a miraculous divine form – Thakur like one mad – company of sadhus, Bhairavi Brahmani, Totapuri and Thakur’s listening to Vedanta at the Kali Temple – practices spiritual disciplines according to the Tantra and the Puranas – Thakur’s talk with the Mother of the Universe – goes on pilgrimage – Thakur’s inner circle – Thakur and his devotees – Thakur and the Brahmo Samaj – reconciliation of all religions: Hinduism, Christianity, Islam, and so on – Thakur’s women devotees – his family of devotees.
Sri Ramakrishna was born to a pious brahmin family in the inland village of Kamarpukur on the second lunar day of the bright fortnight of Phalgun. The village is in the Hooghly district, about eight miles west of Jehanabad (Aram Bag) and about twenty-six miles south of Burdwan.
There is a difference of opinion on the date of his birth.
During Sri Ramakrishna’s illness, Ambika Acharya read his horoscope and dated his birth on the third of Kartik, 1286 B.Y., A.D. 1879. This gives a date of 1756 Shaka, the 10th of Phalgun, Wednesday, the second day of the bright fortnight, Purva Bhadrapada Nakshatra. His calculation is: 1756/109/59/12. On the other hand Kshetra Nath Bhatt’s calculation in 1300 B.Y. is 1754/10/9/0/12. According to this calculation it is 1754 Shaka, the 10th of Phalgun, Wednesday, the second day of the bright fortnight, Purva Bhadrapada, 1239 B.Y., 20 February 1833. All tally. At this time there is a conjunction of the sun, the moon, and Mercury. It is the sign of Aquarius. Because of the conjunction of Jupiter and Venus, he would be the chief of a religious sect.
Narayana Jyotirbhushan made a new horoscope (at Belur Math). According to his calculation, 1242 B.Y., 6th of Phalgun, Wednesday; 17 February 1836, 4 a.m., the second day of the bright fortnight of Phalgun, when there is a conjunction of the three planets, all the points tally except the 10th of Phalgun given by Ambika Acharya: 1757/10/5/59/28/21. Sri Ramakrishna lived for fifty years. Thakur’s father, Sri Khudiram Chatterji, was a man of firm faith and great devotion. His mother, Chandramani Devi, was the personification of simplicity and kindness. They had lived in a village called Dere about three miles from Kamarpukur, but because of problems relating to Khudiram’s refusal to give evidence in a lawsuit in favour of the landlord at Dere, he moved to Kamarpukur with his family.
Sri Ramakrishna’s childhood name was Gadadhar. He learned elementary reading in primary school but the arithmetic book by Shuvankara confused him, so he left school to stay at home and attend to the household deity, Raghuvir. He himself plucked flowers for worship and performed the daily puja.
His voice was exquisitely sweet, and he could sing almost all the songs he heard in theatrical performances. He was cheerful from childhood. Everyone in the neighbourhood – men and women and children – loved him dearly and felt the attraction of his cheerful nature.
Holy men frequently visited a guesthouse at the garden of the Lahas, near Gadadhar’s home. He would visit them there and serve them. And when the storytellers read from the Puranas, he would listen with rapt attention. In this way he learned all the stories of the Ramayana, the Mahabharata, and the Srimad Bhagavata.
One day when he was eleven years old, Thakur crossed a field to Anur, a nearby village. He later narrated how he had suddenly lost all sense-consciousness when he saw a miraculous light. People thought he had fainted, but he had attained the superconscious state of bhava samadhi.
After the death of his father, Khudiram, Thakur came to Calcutta with his elder brother. He was then seventeen or eighteen years old. In Calcutta he spent some days at Nathair Bagan and a few days at the house of Govinda Chatterji in Jhamapukur. He performed puja there, as well as at the house of the Mittra family in Jhamapukur.
Rani Rasmani dedicated the Kali Temple at Dakshineswar, which is about five miles from Calcutta, on the 18th of Jaishtha, 1262 B.Y., on the Snana Yatra day, Thursday, 31 May 1855. Sri Ramakrishna’s elder brother, Pundit Ramkumar, was appointed the first priest of the Kali Temple. Thakur used to go there often from Calcutta. Intime he also was engaged for the puja work. He was at that time twenty-one or twenty-two years old. His second brother, Rameswar, also sometimes performed puja in the Kali Temple. He had two sons, Ramlal and Shivaram, and a daughter, Lakshmi Devi.
After Sri Ramakrishna had performed the worship for some time, a change came over him. He would remain sitting before the image of the Mother, completely absorbed.
Soon after this, his family arranged his marriage. They thought that marriage might change his state of mind. He was married in 1859 to Saradamani Devi, the daughter of Ramchandra Mukherji of Jayrambati, a village about four miles from Kamarpukur. Thakur was twenty-two or twenty-three years old; Saradamani was six.
After his marriage, Sri Ramakrishna returned to the Dakshineswar Kali Temple. Within a few days, his state of mind suddenly changed. When worshiping Mother Kali, he began to have wonderful divine visions. He would perform arati but not bring the arati to a close. He would sit down to perform puja but the puja would not end. At times he offered flowers on his own head. Sometimes he could not carry on the puja, but would wander around like a madman.
Rani Rasmani’s son‑in-law, Mathur, began to revere him as a great man and to serve him. He arranged for another priest to perform Mother Kali’s worship and for Hriday Mukherji, Thakur’s sister’s son, to be his attendant.
After this, Thakur neither attended to the duties of a priest, nor did he enter into the life of a householder. His marriage was in name only. Day and night “Mother, Mother” was on his lips. First he would be like a wooden figure, then he would move around like a mad person. Sometimes he would appear like a child; sometimes he would hide himself at the sight of worldly people attached to ‘lust and greed.’ He liked nothing but divine talk and continually murmured, “Mother! Mother!”
In the Kali Temple compound there was (and still is) a free kitchen. Holy men and sannyasins would frequently visit it. Totapuri stayed there for eleven months and expounded the philosophy of Vedanta to Thakur. Within only a few days, Totapuri observed that Thakur went into nirvikalpa samadhi. About the year 1866 the Bhairavi Brahmani (who had come in 1859) led Thakur through several Tantric practices. Looking upon him as Sri Chaitanya, she read him Sri Charitamrita and other Vaishnava holy books. When she saw him listening to Vedanta from Totapuri, the Brahmani warned him, “Baba, don’t listen to Vedanta. It will dilute your ecstasy and love for God.”
Vaishnavcharan, a pundit of the Vaishnava sect, often visited Sri Ramakrishna. It was he who took Thakur to an assembly of Chaitanya’s devotees in Calootola. He was president of the group. In this assembly, Sri Ramakrishna experienced the state of God‑consciousness and stepped up to occupy the seat of Sri Chaitanya.
Vaishnavcharan had said to Mathur, “This madness is not ordinary; it is the madness of love. He is mad for God.” Vaishnavcharan and the Brahmani had seen Thakur’s state of divine ecstasy. Like Chaitanya Deva he sometimes passed into samadhi, the state of superconscious awareness, appearing like a piece of wood, unmindful of the world around him. Then he passed through semi-consciousness and returned again to normal consciousness.
Thakur always talked to the Divine Mother and took instructions from Her. He would also weep, calling out, “Mother, Mother.” He would say, “O Mother, I shall hear You and You alone. I don’t know the sacred books, nor do I know scholars. If You explain to me, only then will I believe.” Thakur knew, and he would say, that He who is the Supreme Being, indivisible Sat-chit-ananda, is the Mother.
The Divine Mother told him, “You and I are one. Live in love and devotion to God for the good of mankind. Many devotees will come to you. Then you won’t have to see only worldly-minded people. There are many devotees who are pure and free from worldly desires. They will come.”
In the temple at the time of arati, when bells and cymbals rang, Sri Ramakrishna would go to the roof of the kuthi and cry out in a loud voice, “O you devotees, who are you? Where are you? Come soon!”
Thakur looked upon his mother, Chandramani Devi, as another form of the Mother of the Universe and served her with this same spirit. When his elder brother, Ramkumar, passed away, the bereaved mother was stricken with grief. Within three or four years, Thakur asked her to come and stay with him at the Kali Temple. He would go to see her every day, take the dust of her feet, and ask about her welfare.
Thakur went on pilgrimage twice. The first time he took his mother with him. Ram Chatterji and some of Mathur’s sons accompanied them on the first railway line laid to Kashi. This was in 1863, within the period of five or six years of the change in his spiritual state. At that time he was either in samadhi day and night, or he remained overwhelmed and intoxicated in ecstasy. During the pilgrimage, after visiting Vaidyanath, he visited Kashi and Prayag.
His second pilgrimage took place five years later, in January 1868, with Mathur Babu and his wife, Jagadamba Dasi. This time Thakur’s sister’s son, Hriday, was with him. During the journey he visited Kashi, Prayag, and Vrindavan. In Kashi he went into samadhi at the Manikarnika ghat and had a divine vision of Lord Vishvanath whispering the name of Tarak Brahman into the ears of the dying. He also met and spoke to Trailanga Swami, who had taken a vow of silence. In Mathura at the Dhruva ghat, he saw Sri Krishna on the lap of Vasudeva; in holy Vrindavan he saw Sri Krishna with his cows returning in the evening from across the Jamuna. Such sport he saw with his spiritual eye. In Nidhuvan he was overjoyed to meet and talk with Mother Ganga, who was immersed in love for Radha.
One day in 1875 Sri Ramakrishna went with his nephew, Hriday, to see Keshab Sen at Belgharia. Keshab was meditating in his garden house with his disciples. By this time Vishwanath Upadhyaya, the Captain from Nepal, had begun to visit him. Gopal of Sinti (the Elder Gopal), Mahendra Kaviraj, Kishori of Krishnanagar, and Mahimacharan had also met Thakur by this time.
The devotees of Sri Ramakrishna’s inner circle began coming to him in 1879-80. When they met him, he had almost passed the state of “divine madness.” He was like a child then, calm and always cheerful. But he was almost always in the state of samadhi, sometimes in jada samadhi (appearing inert, like a piece of wood, unmindful of the world around), at other times in bhava samadhi (immersed in God). Even when not in samadhi, he remained in a state of ecstasy. He seemed like a five-year-old child, always saying, “Mother! Mother!”
Ram and Manmohan met Thakur toward the end of 1879. Kedar and Surendra came next, as well as Chuni, Latu, Nityagopal, and Tarak. During the end of 1881 and the beginning of 1882, Narendra, Rakhal, Bhavanath, Baburam, Balaram, Niranjan, M., and Yogen came. Kishori, Adhar, Nitai, the younger Gopal, Tarak of Belgharia, Sarat, and Sashi came in 1883 and 1884. In the middle of 1884 Sanyal, Gangadhar, Kali, Girish, Devendra, Sarada, Kalipada, Upendra, Dwija, and Hari came. Subodh, the Younger Narendra, Paltu, Purna, Narayan, Tejchandra, and Haripada came in the middle of 1885. Likewise came Hara Mohan, Yajneshwar, Hazra, Kshirode, Yogen of Krishnanagar, Manindra, Bhupati, Akshay, Navagopal, Govinda of Belgharia, Ashu, Girendra, Atul, Durgacharan, Suresh, Prankrishna, Nabai Chaitanya, Hari Prasanna, Mahendra (Mukherji), Priya Mukherji, Sadhu Priyanath (Manmath), Vinod, Tulasi, Harish Mustafi, Basakh, Kathak Thakur, Sashi of Bali (Brahmachari), Nityagopal (Goswami), Vipin of Konnagar, Bihari, Dhiren, and Rakhal (Haldar) came – one after another.
Ishwar Vidyasagar, Shashadhar Pundit, Dr. Rajendra, Dr. Sarkar, Bankim (Chatterji), Mr. Cook from the United States, devotee Williams, Mr. Missir, Michael Madhusudan, Krishnadas (Pal), Pundit Dina Bandhu, Pundit Shyamapada, Dr. Ramnarayan, Dr. Durgacharan, Radhika Goswami, Shishir (Ghosh), Navin (a clerk), and Nilkantha had all met Thakur by 1885. He had visited Trailanga Swami in holy Kashi and Mother Ganga in Vrindavan. Taking him as (the incarnation of) Radha (divine love), Mother Ganga had not wanted Thakur to leave Vrindavan.
Before the devotees of the inner circle came, Krishnakishore, Madhura, Sambhu Mallick, Narayan Shastri, Gauri Pundit of Indesh, Chandra, and Achalananda were frequent visitors to Thakur. The court pundit of the King of Burdwan, Padmalochan, and Dayananda (the founder) of the Arya Samaj also met Thakur. Many devotees of Thakur’s native village, Kamarpukur, and of Sihore and Shyambazar had been drawn to him.
Many members of the Brahmo Samaj met Thakur. Keshab, Vijay, Kali (Bose), Pratap, Shivanath, Amrit, Trailokya, Krishna Bihari, Manilal, Umesh, Hirananda, Bhavani, Nanda Lal, and many other Brahmo devotees often visited him. Thakur also visited them. During Mathur’s lifetime, he and Thakur went to Devendranath Tagore’s house and paid a visit to the Adi Brahmo Samaj during service hours. Later he went to see Keshab’s Brahmo temple and the Sadharan Samaj during the time of worship. He would frequently visit Keshab’s house. How much he would rejoice in the company of Brahmo devotees! Keshab visited him frequently, sometimes with devotees, some-times alone.
At Kalna he met Bhagavan Das Babaji. Seeing Thakur’s state of samadhi, Babaji said, “You are indeed a great spiritual soul. Only you are fit to take the seat of Chaitanya Deva.”
Thakur practiced the disciplines of the Vaishnavas, the Shaktas, the Shaivas; he also recited the name of Allah and meditated upon Christ. He realized that they all led to the same goal. In his room there were pictures of gods and goddesses and an image of the Buddha. There was also a picture showing Jesus Christ saving Peter from drowning. These pictures can still be seen if you go to that room. English and American devotees can now be seen meditating upon Thakur in the room.
One day he implored the Divine Mother, “O Mother, I would like to see how your Christian devotees pray to You. Please take me to a place where they worship You.” In a few days, he went to Calcutta and watched a Christian service, standing at the entrance to the church. When he returned, Thakur said to the devotees, “I didn’t enter the church to sit for fear of the steward [of the Kali Temple]. I said to myself, ‘Maybe he wouldn’t allow me to enter the temple.’”
Thakur had many women devotees. He called Gopal’s Mother “Mother” and referred to her as “Gopal’s Mother.” He looked upon and worshiped all women as incarnations of Bhagavati (the Divine Mother). He said, “As long as a man cannot see a woman as Mother Herself, he cannot have pure love for God.” He warned men to guard themselves against women till that stage is reached. He went so far as to forbid young men to keep the company of even the most devout woman. He once said to the Divine Mother, “Mother, I will run a knife across my throat if any lustful thought arises in my mind.”
Thakur’s devotees are countless. Some are known, others unknown. It is impossible to name all of them. The names of many of them will be found in Sri Sri Ramakrishna Kathamrita. Those who visited him during their boyhood are: Ramakrishna, Paltu, Tulasi, Shanti, Sashi, Vipin, Hiralal, Nagendra Mitra, Upendra, Surendra, and Suren. A number of little girls also saw Thakur. Now they, too, are his devotees.
Many became his devotees after he ended his divine play and others are still coming. In Madras, Sri Lanka, Uttar Pradesh, Rajputana, Kumaon, Nepal, Bombay, Punjab, Japan, and also in America and England – at all these places the family of devotees continues to grow.
1310 B.Y., A.D. 1903
. Ceremonial procession when Lord Jagannath goes out for a bath.
. Information is taken from the deed of sale of Rani Rasamani’s Kali Temple: Deed of conveyance, date of purchase of the temple grounds: 6 September 1847; date of registration: 27 August 1861; price: 2 lakhs, 26,000 rupees.
. Later Swami Advaitananda.