SRI RAMAKRISHNA PARAMAHAMSA AND CHRISTIANITY
The buzz of prayer has existed ever since mankind began to look outward of himself. It is like the hum of the Earth itself, a sound which scientists say can be recorded. The urge to lift one’s thoughts, to release the energy of the mind, to pray, is universal. No culture has not prayed. People pray for different reasons, chief of which is a sense of inadequacy or fear. Indeed many of our chronic emotional problems arise from a sense of lack, or different kinds of incompleteness, for want of a better second explanation.
All spiritual thinkers say that the intensity of will that goes into the search for stability can, with a very slight reorientation, be channelised to function successfully through a method to overcome this negative, inferior feeling; and that is to tell ourselves that we already have the capacity to be strong, complete and untainted. This is not a fantasy. Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa used to say that he was sure that our basic nature was pure. And that by continuously repeating “I am a sinner” one becomes just that. Instead, he advised, say something elevating to yourself, such as, “I have chanted the holy name--- how can there be any sin in me?”
Which holy name shall we chant? Any or many? In our country, thanks to our spiritual heritage we have a wide choice.
Of all the saints, sages and inspired teachers of Vedanta, no one expressed the idea of religious universality and harmony more plainly than Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa who spent time understanding other religions in the true spirit of his own all - embracing one. The image and teachings of Jesus Christ attracted Sri Ramakrishna in particular and a strong spiritual connection between Christ and the monastic order of Sri Ramakrishna exists. About 12 years before he died Sri Ramakrishna interested himself actively in Christianity. He had one of his followers explain the New Testament in Bengali to him and one day, he studied a picture of the Madonna and Child for such a long time that it suddenly became a living effulgent image. It absorbed him into a mystical experience which he described later to an astounded group of listeners. In that vision, he said, he saw a church in which devotees were burning incense and lighting candles before Jesus. Sri Ramakrishna spent three days in this state.
On the fourth day after he emerged from his experience, he was in a grove at Dakshineshwar, when a serene looking person walked purposefully towards the Swami, eyes fixed on his. Sri Ramakrishna’s realization was instantaneous. “This is Jesus who poured out his heart’s blood for the redemption of mankind. This is none other than Christ, the embodiment of love.”
The biographical account of the Sage of Dakshineswar says that in that marvelous face to face which all spiritualist aspirants long for, the Son of Man embraced Sri Ramakrishna. They merged and the Swamiji who called Jesus “Isha” went into a state of transcendental consciousness (samadhi).
A few days after Sri Ramakrishna’s death (1886) nine of his young disciples were preparing to take their vows of renunciation when their leader --- the future Swami Vivekananda--- told his brothers the story of Jesus Christ. He asked them to be like Christ, to pledge themselves to help in the redemption of the world and to deny themselves like Jesus had done, for a greater good. The monks,accustomed to following only the Hindu calendar, later found out that that same evening had been 24th December, Christmas Eve--- a very auspicious occasion for their vows. Thus it is, that since early times, Christ has been greatly honoured and revered by the Ramakrishna Mission with Christmas observed joyfully in all the Mission centres and schools and many monks quoting Christ’s words to explain and illustrate spiritual truths, seeing an essential oneness between his messages and that of Hindu acharyas.
Profound truths break down walls and replace them with love and understanding between zones that appear to be very different and every universal thinker has said that the mind is the centre and powerhouse that produces the energy for change, both within and without. This truth has always been freely available in India, home and host to all religions where the maximum number of diverse sorts of prayers are said to the same sense of the Sacred.
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