Sri Ramakrishna (1836 – 1886)
The worldwide Ramakrishna Movement owes its origin to Sri Ramakrishna, known as the saint of
A Humble Beginning
Sri Ramakrishna was born in a poor family in a deep rural area of Bengal. The village
of Kamarpukur was then untouched by western culture, though only 60 km from Kolkata, the then
capital of British India. He was a true spiritual explorer and accomplished traveller along diverse
religious paths, wise counsellor, compelling teacher and guide to liberation. He probed deeply into
the varied Hindu religious traditions and drank deeply of every kind of wisdom that India offered.
Inspired by his own spiritual instinct and arduous practice, he also earnestly explored and travelled
the paths of Christian and Islamic wisdom. Without doubt among the most prominent and
influential figures in modern Indian and world religious history, he is revered by many as God
descended on earth.
The Dakshineswar Kali Temple
Sri Ramakrishna spent 30 years at the Dakshineswar Kali Temple Complex in Kolkata. Here he
moulded the future leaders of the Ramakrishna Movement and counselled sincere devotees of all
walks of life who were attracted by his spiritual excellence.
God As Supreme Consciousness Pervades The Universe
Through his own personal experiences, rather than through dissertations, Sri Ramakrishna was
able to verify that God is a Reality. He gave authenticity to the ancient Vedic dictum: “In the heart
of all things, of whatever there is in the universe, dwells the Lord.” (Isa Upanishad). He also
pointed out that the ultimate aim of human existence is this quest for realisation of this Truth.
Sri Sarada Devi (1853 - 1920)
Of the three inspirational personalities around whom the Ramakrishna Movement evolved, Sri
Sarada Devi outlived both Sri Ramakrishna and Swami Vivekananda, passing away in 1920. The
brotherhood of monks, Ramakrishna Math and their association with laity in an
organisation, Ramakrishna Mission, were formed in 1885 and 1897 respectively. These
movements were guided in their infancy by Sri Sarada Devi. She was the unseen guiding force
behind the Ramakrishna Movement, ministering to the special needs of thousands of sincere
seekers of God and providing guidance and support to the monks who became the
founding fathers of the Movement.
This is remarkable, considering the numerous impediments she had to overcome. It must be
recalled that she lived in the Victorian and Edwardian era when world over women rarely played
any significant role in society. She grew up in a poor rural orthodox Hindu family with no formal
educational opportunity and had numberless social responsibilities (to her siblings and
their families). Managing the household of Ramakrishna with his devotees and disciples became
her responsibility. Despite her crowded daily programme, day after day, year after year, she was
able to exemplify in her life the ideal of ‘motherhood’, (not in a biological sense but in a spiritual
context) where all people are recipients of unselfish and equal love, care and
compassion, irrespective of their standing in society. This idea of ‘motherhood’ which all women
need to aspire to in Hindu tradition, was fully developed and manifested in Sri Sarada Devi.
Swami Vivekananda (1863 - 1902)
A Burning Heart
Swami Vivekananda’s anguish arose from the plight of his fellow countrymen who had been
emasculated by over 700 years of foreign rule, first Muslim and then English. Coupled with this
were the rapid advances in the physical sciences which seemed to propose that God was only a
fanciful idea and not a reality. Swami Vivekananda sought to reconcile an earnest spiritual quest
for salvation which was always at the heart of Hindu civilisation over millennia with the degradation
of the marginalised communities and the arrogance, heartlessness and apathy of the privileged in
society. The organisation that bears his guru’s name, the Ramakrishna Math and Ramakrishna
Mission was the result – a unique and successful model for personal salvation and the welfare of
the world simultaneously. The Swami accepted the necessity of social, political and
economic reforms, but his insight was that these would never resolve the quest in the human
heart for total fulfillment and total freedom. As such he found the answers that he looked for in the
ancient Hindu wisdom discovered anew by his guru, Sri Ramakrishna.