A mid-nineteenth century spiritual Master who lived mostly in Kolkata. A devotee of Goddess Kali, he frequently went into ecstatic states of samadhi. One of his best-known disciples is Swami Vivekananda, who established and propagated the Ramakrishna Order, which has a world wide following today.
▵ The Story of Ramakrishna Paramahamsa’s Enlightenment
Ramakrishna Paramahamsa lived as a very intense devotee for most of his life. He was a devotee of Kali. For him, Kali was not a deity, Kali was a living reality. She danced in front of him, she ate from his own hands, she came when he called, and she left him dripping with ecstasy. This was real, it was actually happening. This was not a hallucination, he was actually feeding her. Ramakrishna’s consciousness was so crystallized that whatever form he wished became a reality for him. It is such a beautiful state for a human being to be in. But though Ramakrishna’s body, mind and emotion were dripping with ecstasy, his being was longing to go beyond this ecstasy. Somewhere there was an awareness that the ecstasy itself was a bondage.
One day, Ramakrishna was sitting on the banks of the Hoogli River when Totapuri – a very great and rare yogi, very few like that have ever happened – came that way. Totapuri saw that Ramakrishna was a man of such intensity with the possibility to go all the way and attain enlightenment. But the problem was, he was just stuck to his devotion.Ramakrishna was devoted to Kali and Kali was his only interest. When he was high on her, he would be bursting with ecstasy and dancing and singing.Totapuri came to Ramakrishna and tried to convince him, “Why are you still so attached to your devotion? You have the potential to take the ultimate step.” But Ramakrishna said, “I want only Kali, that’s all.” He was like a child who wanted his mother. It is not possible to reason with that. It is a different state altogether. Ramakrishna was devoted to Kali and Kali was his only interest. When he was high on her, he would be bursting with ecstasy and dancing and singing. When he got a little low, when he lost contact, he would cry like a baby. This was the way he was. So whatever enlightenment Totapuri talked about, he was not interested in all that. In many ways Totapuri tried to instruct him, but Ramakrishna was unwilling. At the same time, he was willing to sit before Totapuri because Totapuri’s presence was such.
Totapuri saw that Ramakrishna was just going on like this. Then he said, “This is very simple. Right now you are empowering your emotion, you are empowering your body, you are empowering the chemistry within you. You are not empowering your awareness. You have the necessary energy but you just have to empower your awareness.” Ramakrishna agreed and said, “Okay, I will empower my awareness and sit.” But the moment he has a vision of Kali, he would again go into uncontrollable states of love and ecstasy. No matter how many times he sat down, the moment he saw Kali, he would just fly off. So Totapuri said, “The next time Kali appears, you have to take a sword and cut her into pieces.” Ramakrishna asked, “Where do I get the sword from?” Totapuri replied, “From the same place you get Kali from. If you are able to create a whole Kali, why can’t you create a sword? You can do it. If you are able to create a goddess, why can’t you create a sword to cut her? Get ready.” Ramakrishna sat. But the moment Kali came, he burst into ecstasy and forgot all about the sword and the awareness.
Then Totapuri told him, “You sit this time. The moment Kali comes…” and he picked up a piece of glass and said, “With this piece of glass, I am going to cut you where you are stuck. When I cut that place, you create the sword and cut Kali down.” Again Ramakrishna sat and just when Ramakrishna was on the edge of ecstasy, when Kali appeared in his vision, Totapuri took the piece of glass and cut Ramakrishna really deep across his forehead. At that moment, Ramakrishna created the sword and cut Kali down, becoming free from the Mother and the ecstasy of feeding off her. That is when he truly became a Paramahamsa, he became fully enlightened. Till then he was a lover, he was a devotee, he was a child to the Mother Goddess that he created.
▵ Sadhguru on Gurus – Ramakrishna and the Proof of God
When he was just 19 years of age, Vivekananda was a very logical, intellectual boy, and was full of fire. He wanted proper answers for everything. He came to Ramakrishna and asked, “You are talking God, God all the time. Where is the proof? Show me the proof!” Ramakrishna was so simple. He was not an educated man. He was a mystic, not a scholar. So he said, “I am the proof.”
Vivekananda did not know what to say because this was just utterly crazy. He was expecting some great intellectual explanation – “The proof of God is the seed sprouting and the planet spinning.” But Ramakrishna said, “I am the proof God exists.” “The way I am is the proof” – is what Ramakrishna was saying. Vivekananda did not know what to say and he left.
Three days later, he came back and asked, “Okay, can you show me God?” Ramakrishna asked, “Do you have the courage to see?” The brave boy said, “Yes” because this was tormenting him. So Ramakrishna just placed his foot on Vivekananda’s chest and Vivekananda went into a certain period of samadhi where he was beyond the limitations of the mind. He did not come out of it for almost 12 hours and when he did, he was never the same boy again.
▵ The Story of Ramakrishna Paramahamsa’s Enlightenment (Isha)
▵ Sadhguru on Gurus – Ramakrishna and the Proof of God (Isha)