The life of Sree Ramkrishna can be seen as a laboratory of religion. Ramakrishna practiced several religions, including Islam and Christianity, and recognized that in spite of the differences, all religions are valid and true and they lead to the same ultimate goal—God.
Sree Ramkrishna was an influential figure both in the Bengali and Hindu renaissance of the 19th century. Ramakrishna was born in 1836, in the village of Kamarpukur, in the Hooghly district of West Bengal, into a very poor but pious, orthodox brahmin family. He was known as Godai in his childhood. Ramakrishna was a popular figure in the village, with a natural gift for fine arts such as making clay statues. He rejected the traditional schooling saying that he was not interested in a "bread-winning education" of the priest. But he never lacked interest in learning new things. He became an expert musician, dancer, narrator and a performer in open air operas based on religious tales. He became well-versed in the Puranas, the Ramayana, the Mahabharata, and the Bhagavata Purana, hearing them from wandering monks and the Kathaks—a class of men in ancient India who preached and sang the Puranas.
From the memoirs of Sree Ramkrishna, we learn that from the age of 6/7 years, he used to experience spiritual spells. After his father passed away, his elder brother, Ramkumar, took the responsibility of the family and started working as a priest. Godadhar also moved to Calcutta with Ramkumar to assist in the priestly work.
In 1855 Ramkumar was appointed as the priest of Dakshineswar Kali Temple, built by Rani Rashmoni—a rich woman of Calcutta who belonged to the kaivarta community. When Ramkumar died in 1856, Ramakrishna took his place as the priest of the Kali temple. He was given a small room in the North West corner of the temple’a courtyard. He spent rest of his life in this room.
After Ramkumar’s death, Ramkrishna’s spiritual spells were more frequent. In the 12 years of his austerity he was initiated by two religious teachers. They are Bhairabi Brahmani and Totapuri. The Bhairavi initiated Ramakrishna into Tantra. Ramakrishna was initiated into sannyasa by Tota Puri. After this he was named Sree Ramkrishna Paramhongsha.
He didn’t have the same opinion as those of the traditional saints and he also didn’t wear the traditional clothes of the saints. To attack the pride of the Brahmins for their caste, Ramkrishna accepted food from the lower castes and also cleaned their quarters with his own hands and long hair.
He was very popular as a teacher. Ramakrishna's teachings were imparted in rustic Bengali, using stories and parables. These teachings made a powerful impact. Ramakrishna emphasised God-realisation as the supreme goal of all living beings. Ramakrishna taught that kamini-kanchana is an obstacle to God-realization. Kamini-kanchan literally translates to "women and gold. Ramakrishna looked upon the world as Maya and he explained that avidya maya represents dark forces of creation (e.g. sensual desire, evil passions, greed, lust and cruelty), which keep people on lower planes of consciousness. Vidya maya, on the other hand, represents higher forces of creation (e.g. spiritual virtues, enlightening qualities, kindness, purity, love, and devotion), which elevate human beings to the higher planes of consciousness.
His teaching, "Jive daya noy, Shiv gyane jiv seba" (not kindness to living beings, but serving the living being as Shiva Himself) is considered as the inspiration for the philanthropic work carried out by his chief disciple Vivekananda. Sree Ramkrishna gathered a group of followers who, after his death in 1886 ,took up austerity and went on working for him. Swami Vivekananda was their leader.
In 1893, Swami Vivekananda presented his religious philosophies in the western world at the Chicago Conference. His message of global brotherhood was highly applauded everywhere and he received the support from all the societies. To spread the universal messages of Hinduism he established a Vedic Society in America and Ramkrishna Mission in India.
Sree Ramkrishna said one can reach salvation by being absorbed with the thoughts of God in one’s meditation. He also said it imeditation is not just sitting with our eyes closed - until we can free ourselves from greed and desires, we are not truly meditating. This stage can only be achieved by trying relentlessly. He also said that one cannot practice religion on an empty stomach. Swami Vivekananda wished that he would breathe his last breath meditating in the Himalayas. Hearing this Ramkrishna rebuked him saying that, “You only want your salvation!This is selfishness.” Serving the needy helps meditation, too. Self-freedom and service to the world - these are the two ideals behind the Ranmkrishna Mission established by Swami Vivekanada.
Quantum is one of those few institutions of our society that are working for meditation and services to others. Besides this, the publication of the konika with messages from all the religions is an excellent step to establish inter- religious harmony. We can understand from this that though there are linguistic differences in the messages but the essential teachings are the same. We all want to experience bliss by getting rid of our suffering. This further strengthens our mutual trust and respect. I pray to Sree Bhagaban so that Quantum can go further ahead with its goals.