The life and teachings of Ramakrishna Paramhamsa and Swami Vivekananda-two spiritual giants- constitute a fascinating and inspiring chapter in the history of modern Indian thought. Ramkrishna (1836-1886) whose original name was Gadadhar Chattopadhyay, was born in the village of Kamarpukur in the Hooghly District of West Bengal. At an early age, he began showing unusual signs of religious ecstasy. At the age of 19, he came to Calcutta to live with his brother who had been appointed the priest of a newly erected temple at Dakshineshwar on the banks of the Ganges. Ramakrishna Paramhamsa started his career of spiritual disciplines and attainments as a devotee of the great Goddess Kali.
During his stay at Dakshineshwar, Ramakrishna Paramhamsa experienced profound spiritual developments. He had visions, trances and ecstasies. Most of his time was spent in spiritual rhapsodies. He had a craving to see God face to face and he was successful in his mission. He adopted the spiritual practices of Islam and Christianity and he had fruitful spiritual experiences. The cumulative effect of these experiences was that he came to the conclusion that all spiritual paths within and without Hinduism, if correctly followed, lead to the same goal. His fame began to spread far and wide and all kinds of people came to see him. The rich and the poor, the educated and the illiterate, the villager and the Calcutta city-dweller, all were drawn to his place. The secret of his attraction was that he was a spiritually realised saint.
Among those who came to see him were the great literary and cultural figures of contemporary Bengal-men like Michael Madhu Sudan Dutt, Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar, Debendranath Tagore and Keshab Chandra Sen. All those who came to see him were given the same message. They were asked not to waste their time in partisan squabbles over the superiority of this or that creed, or this or that religion. They were advised to seek God with a pure and dedicated heart. Ramakrishna Paramhamsa showed by his practical example that Hinduism was not an archaic and dying religion. Acting as a mighty spiritual beacon, he generated a powerful current of fresh life into Hindu society. He was not concerned with caste or creed, with empty ceremonies or shallow rituals. He was the apostle of divine realization. He created a spiritual revolution. He taught “not mercy, but service for man must be regarded as God”.
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