About the Book
The life of Sri Ramakrishna was an extraordinary searchlight under whose illumination one is able to really understand the whole scope of Hindu religion..... The books were theories, he was the realization. This man had in fifty-one years lived the five thousand years of national spiritual life and so raised himself to be an object-lesson for future generations. The Vedas can only be explained and the Shastras reconciled by his theory of Avastha or stages - that we must not only tolerate others, but positively embrace them, and that truth is the basis of all religions.
On November 30, 1894, Swami Vivekananda wrote to Alasinga Perumal: “What nonsense about the miracle of Ramakrishna] ... If they [i.e. those writing on Sri Ramakrishna] can write a real life of Shri Ramakrishna with the idea of showing what he came to do and teach, let them do it, otherwise let them not distort his life and sayings.” It is obvious from these remarks that soon after the death of Sri Ramakrishna, his life began to be projected in various ways. Swami Vivekananda regarded most of these writings as silly imbecilities. They went against the rational and scientific temper of the age to construct a miracle man out of Sri Ramakrishna and demonstrate, as Swamiji sarcastically remarks, that Ramakrishna had “nothing to do in the world but turning wine into ... [D.] Gupta’s medicine.” Swamiji may not have been successful in dismantlingthis grandiose project of constructing a miracle man out of Sri Ramakrishna, but he had the conviction that it was possible’ to interpret Sri Ramakrishna’s spiritual life in a more philosophical manner. An for this, he felt, it was important to develop a more dispassionate method of interpretation.
How should the extraordinary life of a man who “had in fifty- one years lived the five thousand years of national spiritual life” be written? What kind of language should be employed? Which of his ideas should be disseminated? How should he be presented before foreign readers? Swamiji thought hard on these questions. His letters show that he tried to prepare certain well-defined guidelines for interpreting Sri Ramakrishna’s life and teachings. However, these guidelines were not strictly followed in later times. The interpretation of Sri Ramakrishna’s life by different people in different places and at different times has given Ramakrishna literature a unique variety. It seems like there are different routes to reach the goal called Sri Ramakrishna. Various interpreters in India and outside India, in Bengal and outside Bengal, within the Ramakrishna Order and outside, have discovered ‘many’ forms of the ‘one’ Ramakrishna. Yet “a real life of Sri Ramakrishna” did not get written. Perhaps “a real life” of Sri Ramakrishna can never be written. It is very difficult to cast the extraordinary life of a man like him in the rigid frame of a mould. And this is why there continues to be an endless interpretation of his life and teachings.
The assessment of Sri Ramakrishna that began in The Indian Mirror on March 28, 1875 (later collected by Brajendranath Bandyopadhyay and Sajanikanta Das and published as Samasamayik Dristitey Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa) continues unabated. To some he is a ‘miracle’, to some he is ‘a wonderful mixture of God and man’, and to some ‘an extraordinary searchlight under whose illumination one is able to really understand the whole scope of Hindu religion’. These early efforts to see Sri Ramakrishna as a unique individual have been transformed in recent times into a project of seeing in him the ‘mindscape’ of a unique moment in history by postcolonial scholars. For them, Sri Ramakrishna is the door to the pre-colonial world. He takes them, as it were, to the ‘uncolonized innocence’ of the pre-colonial past and helps them discover the secret history of ‘our’ modernity. This is the site where we find conscientious efforts to construct a dominant culture opposed to hegemonic colonial culture.
In order to be a part of this tradition of Ramakrishna assessment, Ramakrishna Mission Vidyamandira, Belur Math in association with the Ramakrishna Mission Institute of Culture, Golpark organized an International Seminar between 19th and 21st January 2012 to commemorate his 175th Birth Anniversary. Tided ‘Sri Ramakrishna’s Ideas and Our Times: A Retrospect on His 175th Birth Anniversary’, the Seminar was funded by the UGC and other munificent patrons.
The present volume brings together most of the papers presented at this International Seminar by monks of the Ramakrishna Order, internationally acclaimed thinkers, and young scholars. Altogether eight papers were presented by young scholars and college teachers at the Seminar out of which six are included in this volume. Two of them are in Bengali. The volume also contains two valuable articles - an edited version of the text of the lecture delivered by Professor Sudipta Kaviraj at Ramakrishna Mission Vidyamandira on 23rd December 2011 and an original, unpublished essay by Professor Arindam Chakrabarti.
We have received invaluable help and advice from many people in organizing the Seminar and publishing this commemorative volume. We convey our thanks and gratitude to all of them. We owe a debt of gratitude to Swami Vimalatmananda, Swami Sarvapriyananda, Swami Krishnanathanada, Brahmachari Vishwapatichaitanya, Professor Prabir Hui, Sri S. K. Roy, Sri M. P. Jalan and Sri Tapas Saha for their unstinted support and cooperation. We take this opportunity to convey our sincere thanks to them.
Approaching Sri Ramakrishna from Our Times
The Life and Times of Sri Ramakrishna
Sri Ramakrishna’s Ideas and Our Times
Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa and Religious Life in Nineteenth Century Bengal
Sri Ramakrishna and His Times
Sri Ramakrishna and His Chief Disciple
Sri Ramakrishna: The Man and His Personality
A Study of Sri Ramakrishna’s Bhavamukha State of Consciousness through Science, Philosophy and Tradition
Sri Ramakrishna as Acine Gach: “The Tree Without a Name”
Sri Ramakrishna: the Friend, Philosopher and Guide
Sri Ramakrishna’s Ideas
Yato Mat Tato Path
Impact of Ramakrishna’s Ideas
Why Pray to God who can Hear the Ant’s Anklets? Prayer, Freedom and Karma
Sri Ramakrishna: from the Feminist Perspective
Sri Sri Ramakrishna Kathamrita as a Text
On the Ramakrishna Kathamrita
The Kathamrita: a Text for All Contexts
The Language of Connectivity
Concept and Power of Music According to Sri Ramakrishna
Sri Ramakrishna and Our Times
Sri Ramakrishna’s Ideas and Islam Today
Sri Ramakrishna and Our Times: a Perspective from the West
Perspectives on Sri Ramakrishna
Sri Ramakrishna’s Idea of God: Collective Perspective
Fish and Fisherman Imagery in Sri Ramakrishna’s Teachings: Discourses on Power and Beyond in the Light of the Vedas and Mahabharata
Sri Ramakrishna and the Concept of Truth Mahitosh Mandal
Sri Ramakrishna’s Love for Visual Devotional Art
Sri Ramakrishna O Vishishtadvaitavad (Bengali)
Sri Ramakrishna O Tnar Vaishnav Sadhana (Bengali)
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