Pets are our best friends and often become family. Their love is generally unconditional. They love us so much we can’t help but love them back. They are almost more human than some people we meet. Continue reading “Caring for Your Dying Pet”
The Life of Sri Ramakrishna
Gadadhar Chatterjee was born in a remote village named Kāmārpukur in West Bengal. It was an area of rice-fields, banyans, palms, a few lakes, and a nearby mango orchard. A road passed through the village to the great temple of Jagannāth at Puri traveled by workers, farmers, holy men, and pilgrims.
As a child Gadadhar Chatterjee loved listening to stories from Hindu mythology and the epics. Afterwards he could recite them from memory. This brought great joy to the villagers. He also enjoyed painting and molding images of the gods and goddesses. Mathematics was his greatest dislike.
At the age of six or seven Gadādhar had his first experience of spiritual ecstasy while walking between the rice fields. He fell unconscious during the vision and some villagers that found him carried him home.
Gadadhar’s parents were poor Brahmins, the highest rank in the Hindu caste system. He received a simple village education and was a mischievous child, eventually shunning his education. Gadadhar’s father died when he was only seven years old.
Growing up Gadadhar became interested in the wandering monks and pilgrims who stopped at his village on the way to the temple at Puri. At sixteen Gadadhar traveled to Calcutta to assist his eldest brother, Ramkumar, in his duties as a priest. His brother hoped to encourage Gadadhar to complete his education.
The Temple at Dakshineshwar
Within a few years, Ramkumar served at the new temple in the nearby village of Dakshineshwar, a few miles outside of Calcutta, now called Kolkata. Ramkumar became a priest at the temple of Kali, known as the Divine Mother. The temple is still located along the banks of the east bank of the Ganges River or to be technical the distributary known as the Hooghly River.
The temple grounds were purchased by a rich widow named Rani Rasmani. She created a temple garden and constructed the temple of Radhakanta, the Twelve Siva Temples, and the main temple dedicated to Kali, the Divine Mother. The dedication ceremony took place on May 31, 1855.
When Ramkumar died in 1856, Gadadhar assumed the role of the priest to the Divine Mother Kali. He spent long periods of time in meditation, sometimes neglecting his formal duties while lost in ecstatic singing before the temple image of Kali.
Gadadhar also spent whole nights in meditation in the deep jungle north of the temples. The area was thick with underbrush and at one time used as a burial ground. The locals shunned the area, even during daylight, for fear of ghosts. He would stay all night returning to his room in the morning with his eyes swollen from weeping.
It soon became impossible for him to perform his temple duties. The temple manager relieved him of his duties and gave him the use of every facility for his spiritual quest. The temple manager was the son-in-law of Rani Rasmani, who had developed great respect and admiration for Gadadhar.
It was from that setting, the garden at the temple, and his solitary spot in the jungle, that Gadadhar Chatterjee transformed into the loved and revered God-loving master known as Sri Ramakrishna.
In 1859 Gadadhar’s mother arranged a marriage for him, hoping to bring him back to an earthlier existence. It did not work. When the bride became of age to join her husband at the temple he remained celibate, eventually worshiping her as a symbol of the deity Kali. Ramakrishna viewed all women as a manifestation of the Divine Mother.
In 1861 a woman Master of Tantra declared Ramakrishna an avatar. The local religious authorities investigated and accepted her claim. M quotes the nameless woman as having said to Ramakrishna “My son, everyone in this world is mad. Some are mad for money, some for creature comforts, some for name and fame; and you are mad for God.” Although M does not appear to name the woman, from the book “The Sayings of Ramakrishna,” I believe her name was Bhairavi Brahmana as the story from both books converge in 1861.
Over the next few years, he worshiped Rama and Krishna as the formless Brahman of the Vedanta branch of Hinduism. He went on to also find God through Islam, and later by Jesus Christ. His gospel was the gospel of unity and diversity. Ramakrishna is recognized worldwide for his message that all religions are paths to the truth. He taught that The Ultimate Reality is one; but it is personal as well as impersonal, and is indicated by different names in different religions This view is known as Pluralism.
Gradually Ramakrishna attracted more public attention as devotees, and visitors flocked to his room in the temple garden overlooking the Ganges River. He attracted a diverse mixture of people including scholars of Sanskrit, educated intellectuals, shop owners, landowners, educators, and common people. Among those who gathered, was also Ramakrishna’s most beloved disciple, Swami Vivekananda.
About the Book
Sri Ramakrishna was a simple villager and produced no writings. The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna was written in Bengali by Mahendra Gupta, who was a high school headmaster from Calcutta. Mahendra Gupta wrote under the name M. Whenever you are reading of Ramakrishna and see M either speaking or being asked a question, know that is referring to Mahendra Gupta. [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mahendranath_Gupta].
It is interesting to note that Mahendra Gupta was also a teacher to the well-known Paramahansa Yogananda, who spoke and wrote quite fondly of M.
The Gospel of Ramakrishnan is an eyewitness account of the Master’s conversations with visitors, devotees, and disciples during the years 1882 -1886. The book is hailed as one of the greatest spiritual classics of the twentieth century, as it was translated into English almost six decades later.
The unabridged book starts chapter one with Mahendra Gupta’s first meeting with Ramakrishna in February of 1882.
By this time, the 1800s had already brought the Battle of Waterloo, the first photographs, the California Gold Rush, and the invention of the Typewriter.
Within two years, the Taiping rebellion in China would end with 20 million people dead. The American Civil War was only in its third year. Queen Victoria was on the throne and steamboats had been crossing the Atlantic for nearly 45 years. The Transcontinental Railroad in the United States was still five years from completion.
The Austro-Prussian War was four years away. Cash registers, and incandescent light bulbs were not yet in use. There were no telephones. There were no radios. The first commercial movie film wouldn’t debut for another 30 years. The first home refrigerators would not appear for 47 years.
In this world backdrop, M takes us to what seems like an almost magical time and place in the beautiful gardens at the temples along the Ganges River. It was a different and distant world, in a far more peaceful time. It was as a flower that can never be replicated. The nearby jungle has since been cleared and replaced by a modern city. Nowadays Highway 2 runs practically next door to the temple.
It was on a Sunday in the spring of 1880, that M first arrived at the Dakshineshwar temple. He and his companion Sidhu arrived at dusk while visiting the gardens at Baranagore. They found Ramakrishna sitting on a wooden couch facing east. He smiled as he talked about God to a room full of people totally absorbed in his words.
M was speechless and did not want to leave. Sill, he thought, “Let me see this place first.” Leaving the room, they could hear the music from the temple service, the gongs, bells, and cymbals. He could also hear the music at the south end of the garden. A spring wind blew carrying the fragrance of the flowers and the moon had just appeared.
After visiting the temples, they returned to Sri Ramakrishna’s room finding him alone. The master requested they sit. He asked them “Where do you live? What is your occupation? Why did you come to visit Baranagore?” After some conversation, M saluted the Master to leave.
“Come again,” Sri Ramakrishna said.
It was from this meeting that the book known as The Gospel of Ramakrishna started. Much of what we know of him and his teachings, including his biography, is contained in this book.
(It is interesting to note that early in the book M crosses paths with a devotee named Narendranath Datta. Narendranath went on to become Swami Vivekananda.)
A Fast Glimpse at Ramakrishna’s Message
Lex Hixon wrote, “Ramakrishna is not a quaint person from an ancient culture, representing a particular religious background, but an Einstein of the planetary civilization of the near future, a greenhouse for the future evolution of humanity.”
Some of Ramakrishna’s teachings include that the goal of human life is the realization of the Ultimate Reality, God, which is the only thing that can give man true fulfillment and everlasting peace.
He believed that God, or the Ultimate Reality, can be realized through various paths and that all religions are true so long as they lead to the same ultimate Goal.
He thought that God dwells in all people but the manifestation of God varies from person to person. In saintly people, there is a greater manifestation of God than in others.
He strongly believed that Women are special manifestations of the Divine Mother of the Universe, and so are to be treated with respect.
Helping the needy should be done not out of compassion but rather as humble service to God
God realization is possible for all. The householders need not renounce the world, but they should pray sincerely. God listens to sincere prayer. Intense longing is the secret of success in spiritual life. Through spiritual practices, man can overcome his evil tendencies, and divine grace can redeem even the worst sinner.
The Gospel of Ramakrishna Translated
The first English translation was published in 1942 by Swami Kikhilananda. Swami Kikhilananda also produced an abridged version, so keep this in mind if you ever research or purchase.
Both books are long and difficult for those not familiar with either Ramakrishna or any aspects of Hinduism. The best thing for a beginner to do is to get a condensed and annotated version.
I researched and found the Skylight Illumination version as a starting point. I found it easy to read and like all Skylight Illumination books, all foreign words and concepts are annotated in an easy to follow manner. The title is Selections from the Gospel of Ramakrishna. It also includes an index.
For a free PDF version of the Gospel of Ramakrishna, go to this website – http://www.belurmath.org/gospel/
Notes for biography and temples – http://www.belurmath.org/gospel/introduction.htm
Biography only http://www.belurmath.org/gospel/introduction.htm
Read or search The Gospel of Ramakrishna for free http://www.belurmath.org/gospel/
Full text version of the Gospel of Ramakrishna
Biography only from The Gospel of Ramakrishna
Read or search The Gospel of Ramakrishna free online http://www.belurmath.org/gospel/
Full the text version of The Gospel of Ramakrishna
The Gospel of Ramakrishna PDF
Thoughts on the Separation or Fall
[A brief article exploring the psychology and impact of knowing good from evil, right from wrong, and its negative effect on individuals, groups, and society. ACIM]
Eden was an epic event. Whether you believe it to be allegorical, psychological, anthropological, developmental, or a doctrine of absolute literal truth, I believe at least some of the following will still apply.
One point we can glean from this story of the fall, or separation as some like to call it, is that when we grasped to be like God [or our Higher Power] by knowing the difference between good and evil, we not only separated ourselves from God, but we also separated from each other and even our selves.
Before that event, our relationship with Him was so close that the entire concept of being like Him was foolishness. We were already so near Him in our natural state that there was no real conceivable need to be like him, except for perhaps the desire of the Ego. He communicated with us. We understood Him. Only peace and harmony existed. Division among men had not yet been conceived. No issues to divide us had yet come into existence.
Once we fell and we separated from God, we likewise found ourselves with a new separate identity considerably different from the previous one. The consequences of knowing good from evil were more than what was anticipated. We now had a good and bad self. Judgment, shame, good and bad, right and wrong, fear, danger, reward, and punishment all came into being.
Man gained the capacity to oppose God, other men, and even himself. The core of our being was fragmented. We could dislike parts of ourselves or dislike ourselves entirely. We compared ourselves to others and found ourselves superior or inferior. Hence we not only split from God but likewise from others and ourselves.
From that point forward, we based everything we see, do, and believe on that new flawed or fractured identity. The ego rose to supremacy, alone against all others and even somewhat frightened as our psychologists will tell us. It created a group called us for safety, protection, and support. It created the group called them as in those who are different or not among us, who are enemies, or at least potential enemies.
Nearly everything mankind has created from that point forward was built on that separation, that fractured personality, or the new renegade ego. All society, ancient and modern, reflects this with me, us, and them mentality. Society at large is the macrocosm of the microcosm.
Mankind has been trying to fix himself and his problems ever since and with just one look and we can see how well he is doing. The us and them mentalities are so ingrained that if it were possible for one side of the equation to drop that mentality, surely the other side would conquer and destroy them. And that they must do, as it is the nature of the separation, the fractured being, and the extended fractured society.
The other side could not help but to continue judging of right and wrong, superior and inferior, and reward and punishment. It must do so by its fractured nature. It is one of the bigger consequences of the fall. Man needs to attack others and defend himself. Attacking others is part of his defense. He is an ever comparing, ever criticizing, ever projecting, and ever judging creature. Just list all the judgments and criticism you hear for one single day. Write it down as the day progresses. It comes at you from all directions, work, relatives, friends, the television, the papers, and more. Also, add your own critical and judgmental thoughts to the list. You will be surprised if you can stay focused enough to do the exercise,
Man has a need to prove himself or his group right. Prone to violence, man will strike others to prove himself correct. He justifies his anger and then justifies his attack on others verbally or physically. The cycle escalates. Entire societies get involved and the division increases exponentially resulting in fights, elections, murder, protests, and riots. The ultimate effect of separating, of creating us and them, is war.
Although the rate of death from war is declining since 1945, we have no guarantee that the trend will continue. The Peace Pledge Union Project claims that three times more people have been killed in wars in the last ninety years than in the previous five hundred. My search on how many days there have been no wars in the past century ranges from 26 days to 45 days. One could argue that having a fifty-year decline during a historical surge is not the best argument for progress. Perhaps that is why it is said, “Blessed are the peacemakers.”
Before the fall there was no need for peacemakers. Since the fall, however, creating peace is a very difficult thing to do. Ironically, it’s a good way to make enemies or even get killed.
Inspired by ACIM Chapter 5, II, 1-11
Ramana Maharshi and Lakshmi
Lakshmi was one of Ramana Maharshi’s most devoted and enlightened devotees. What makes this story so special and interesting is that Lakshmi was no regular devotee. She was a cow.
This story comes from the work of David Godman, who wrote about the life and teachings of Ramana Maharshi. It starts in the middle 1920s when a man called Arunachalam Pillai had a dream instructing him to take a certain calf to Bhagavan. (Bhagavan is the title name of a holy teacher or glorious person.) Arunachalam Pillai did as the dream instructed. It was a long and difficult trip, Bhagavan, however, had a rule, not to accept any animal unless somebody in the ashram volunteered to look after it.
With no volunteers and not wanting the responsibility for himself, Ramana Maharshi tried to convince Arunachalam Pillai to take the mother and the calf back with him. Arunachalam, however, insisted that he had to leave it. Bhagavan argued that he brought the calf and presented it as the dream demanded, so now with his obligation fulfilled, he could take her and her mother back.
That is when Ramanatha Brahmachari, one of Bhagavan’s devotees, who had no experience with animals, felt urged to jump up saying “I’ll look after it, Bhagavan. I’ll look after it!”
Still skeptical, Bhagavan accepted the calf and her mother to live at the ashram. They named the calf Lakshmi because it arrived on a Friday, Lakshmi’s Day, by Hindu tradition. Lakshmi is the Hindu god of wealth.
The cows made a mess of the vegetable garden, but Maharshi sided with the animals insisting it was the fault of Ramanatha Brahmachari for failing to watch them. The two animals devastated the ashram grounds. It was clear Brahmachari could not watch over them so the Ashram gave up the mother and her calf to a man in town named Pasupatti.
Sometime later, Pasupatti came out to Ramanashram to have a bath in the tank that adjoins Ramanashram, bringing the mother and the calf with him. After he had his bath, he brought Lakshmi and her mother to see Bhagavan.
From that day forward, Lakshmi would leave her caretaker in town every morning, come to Ramanashram and sit in the old hall next to Bhagavan, for the entire day. In the evening, she would go back to her stable in town.
Bhagavan would feed her special foods. She liked some of the same food that the human members of the ashram ate. She even had a favorite food.
Generally, when Lakshmi approached, she didn’t observe human protocols. There are several stories of her being in a very urgent mood to see Bhagavan. She would charge in trampling people who were standing in her way. Sometimes she would defecate in the hall. Still, Bhagavan never allowed anyone to criticize her or chase her away.
The reason, Bhagavan said, was the animals that used to live at Ramanashram were the original tenants. They were the rightful owners of the property. “We’re squatting on their land. We have no right to inconvenience them in any way.”
He made it clear to all, that when Lakshmi entered, it was their job to get out of her way. She wasn’t able to negotiate tight spaces well. She would just walk straight to Bhagavan, trampling anyone in her way. He gave her complete free rein to come and go whenever she liked.
Lakshmi became a priority devotee. “When she comes in, give her some space. Let her come. Let her sit next to me.” Bhagavan instructed.
As she grew Lakshmi had nine calves of her own. Somehow she delivered three of her calves on Bhagavan’s Jayanti. That’s the annual celebration of his birthday. Coincidence or not, the author David Godman, does not know. Three calves in a row, for three years, however, is extraordinary.
Ramana Maharshi didn’t regard Lakshmi simply as a favored pet. She caught him with her devotion the same way that a few other devotees caught Bhagavan with their devotion.
Bhagavan seemed to understand and could mentally communicate with Lakshmi. David Godman mentioned this to establish that Lakshmi could communicate complex notions and ideas to Bhagavan and Bhagavan could reply without spoken words.
One such incident was when the devotees were not feeding Lakshmi her favorite human food. Bhagavan responded by going on a hunger strike. When asked why, he said he would not eat until devotees in the kitchen fed Lakshmi her favorite food. From then on she received her ration.
Lakshmi fell in love with Bhagavan as many devotees did. Every evening, it became more and more difficult to make her take the walk back to town. During this time, Pasupatti had some domestic difficulties. Once Pasupatti could no longer take care of the animals, they returned to the ashram as full-time residents.
Throughout the ashram, the members believed Lakshmi was the reincarnation of a woman who used to look after Bhagavan on the hill. Her name was Keerai Patti. The name Keerai Patti translates into English “Greens Grandmother,” greens as in eatable green plants.
“Greens Granny” was living on Arunachala even before Bhagavan came. Bhagavan said he first met her in the 1890s.
Keerai Patti was one of the first people who took it upon herself to collect food for him, cook for him, and serve him. In the early years of Virupaksha Cave, Bhagavan lived in the cave itself and Keerai Patti lived a few hundred feet down the hill.
When Keerai Patti died, she was buried under a tree along the road. Since that time, the local highway department decided that all of those gravestones were encroachments and bulldozed them away. Now, no one knows exactly where she was buried.
Keerai Patti died in the early 1920s and Lakshmi was born three years later. Coincidentally, the town of Lakshmi’s birth was Gudiyatham, the same town as Keerai Patti’s birth.
Ramana Maharshi would never answer a direct question on whether Lakshmi was Keerai Patti reborn. The devotees who wrote about this said Bhagavan never said it wasn’t Keerai Patti. When books were written claiming Lakshmi was Keerai Patti, Ramana Maharshi always approved them for publication.
Lakshmi died in 1948. Ramana Maharshi died on April 14, 1950.
If you liked this story or if you are interested in more detail, I suggest you see David Godman Youtube Video, Talks on Sri Ramana Maharshi: Narrated by David Godman – Lakshmi the Cow. It is truly a great historical documentary on Ramana Maharshi.
David Godman – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_Godman
Ramanatha Brahmachari, who was one of Bhagavan’s
David Godman – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_Godman
Facing Problems and Fears
Thoughts on Facing Problems and Fears
What is the best way to face our problems and fears? We are told many ways not to face them. Do not dramatize them, as that makes them bigger. Fighting them also makes them worse. If you push them down, swallow them, or run from them that makes them bigger too. Continue reading “Facing Problems and Fears”