The Three Main Divisions
Sri Ramakrishna’s spiritual sadhana extended from 1856 to 1867. The 12 year period can be classified into three : During the first period of 1856-1859, he was seized anew with the madness of God realization.
From 1860 to 1863, under the instruction of the Bhairavi Brahmani, he went through, according to the scriptural injunction, all the disciplines prescribed in the 64 main Tantras.
Finally, from 1864 to 1867 he was initiated in the Mantra of Rama by Jatadhari, a monk, and got the image of Ramlala. During this period itself he was engaged in sadhana in a woman’s apparel for six months in an effort to realise the spiritual attitude of a female friend of God. He also received at this time, the Vedic Mahavakya from Totapuri and ascended Nirvikalpa plane of consciousness; and at last he was taught the religion of Islam by Govinda.
Arrival of Bhairavi Brahmani
One morning, in 1861, Sri Ramakrishna was picking flowers in the garden of Dakshineswar when he saw a country-boat coming towards the small bathing ghat of the temple. A middle-aged, beautiful Bhairavi Sannyasini with long, dishevelled hair stepped out of the boat. Though nearly forty years of age, she looked much younger. Sri Ramakrishna called Hriday and asked him to fetch the Sanyasini.
As soon as the Bhairavi met Sri Ramakrishna, she burst into tears of joy and surprise and said in a tender voice, “My son, you are here! I have been searching for you so long, and now I have found you."
"How could you know about me, mother?” asked Sri Ramakrishna. She replied, “Through the grace of the Divine Mother I had come to know that I was to meet three of you. Two (Chandra and Girija) I have already met in East Bengal, and today I have found you.” She spoke with emotion, as though she had found her long-lost treasure at last.The First Conversation with Bhairavi:
Sri Ramakrishna too was visibly moved. After a while she told all about herself. She was well versed in Vaishnava and Tantrika literature. Her intense spiritual practices had bestowed on her wonderful realizations, which prompted her to find out a suitable aspirant to whom she could deliver all her attainments for his spiritual illumination. Sri Ramakrishna, like a boy, sat close by her and opened his heart to this Bhairavi, Yogeshwari by name, and related to her every incident of his Sadhana. He further said that people looked upon him as insane, because his actions differed so widely from those of the common men. Full of motherly tenderness, she consoled him again and again: “Who calls you mad, my son? This is not insanity. Your state is what is called Mahabhava (extraordinary state of religious ecstasy) in the Shastras. Sri Radha experienced this state and so did Sri Gauranga. All these are recorded in scriptures. I shall show you from literature that whoever has sincerely yearned for God has experienced this state, and every one doing so must pass through it.” These words reassured Sri Ramakrishna.Motherly Affection of Bhairavi:
Bhairavi Brahmani loved Sri Ramakrishna as her son. After some time she fixed her abode at Ariadaha, a couple of miles north of the Dakshineswar temple. From there she used to come almost daily and instruct her God-intoxicated spiritual child. Every day she saw him go into a trance as they talked on spiritual matters, and she observed a strange similarity between the life of Sri Chaitanya and that of Sri Ramakrishna.
Another incident happening at this time confirmed her belief that the Lord was incarnated again in the person of Sri Ramakrishna.
Sri Ramakrishna had been suffering for a long time from a burning sensation all over his body. Though experts and laymen all ascribed this malady to some internal disorder, the Brahmani found quite a different cause for it. She diagnosed it as the effect of his strong yearning for God. On scriptural authority, she prescribed a curious remedy, which was to wear a garland of fragrant flowers and paint his body with sandal paste. Under this treatment Sri Ramakrishna completely recovered in three days.Sri Ramakrishna – an Incarnation of God:
The Brahmani was now prepared to meet any scholar to prove her contention that Sri Ramakrishna was an Incarnation of God. Mathur, partly to satisfy his own curiosity and settle his own doubts, called a meeting of the distinguished scholars of the time. Vaishnava Charan, who was one of the leaders of the Vaishnava society and known for his Knowledge of various philosophies and devotional scriptures, and Gauri Kanta Tarkabhushana of Indesh in the District of Bankura, who was a far-famed scholar and a great Sadhaka (spiritual aspirant) of the Tantrika school, also came to Dakshineswar on invitation. The result of the meeting was that Vaishnava Charan subscribed heartily to all the conclusions of the Brahmani. And Gauri also felt in his heart of hearts that Sri Ramakrishna was no ordinary saint. He gravely replied, ”I am firmly convinced that you are that mine of infinite Spiritual Power, only a small fraction of which appears in the world from time to time in the form of Incarnations.” Thus the two great scholars and sadhakas who came to test Sri Ramakrishna ended by surrendering themselves at his feet.
Bhairavi Teaching Tantric Sadhana
Bhairavi Brahmani, from the very beginning, bore a motherly affection towards Sri Ramakrishna, and she never forgot the divine mandate she had received to deliver her message to him, and she did her best to act as a spiritual guide to Sri Ramakrishna. He, on his part, undertook the course of Tantrika Sadhana under her guidance with the zeal characteristic of him.
The Brahmani put him through all the exercises mentioned in the sixty-four principal Tantra books. Most of these were extremely difficult Sadhanas. Some of them so dangerous that they often cause the devotee to lose his footing and sink into moral turpitude. But the infinite grace of the Mother carried him through them unscathed.
The many fiery ordeals through which he passed during this period enabled him to become firmly established on the highest level of spirituality. The Brahmani declared that her divine disciple had attained perfection in this system of Yoga and had passed through its extreme tests successfully, which very few Sadhakas indeed could do. The most remarkable feature about Sri Ramakrishna’s Tantrika Sadhana was that he attained perfection in every course in an incredibly short time. Not only was Sri Ramakrishna’s perfection in this sadhana unique and unprecedented, but to him also was due the restoration of the purity of the ancient Tantrika practices at the present age.Scholars Meeting Sri Ramakrishna:
The Kali temple of Dakshineswar was a favourite resort of devotees and sadhus because of its seclusion and holy association, as well as of Rani Rasmani’s liberality. They would stop there for a few days on their way to Gangasagar or to Puri. The meeting of these different classes of monks and devotees with Sri Ramakrishna was of great significance. The ideas of practical spirituality that originated with the Prophet of Dakshineswar were disseminated through these sadhus to their own disciples and followers. Even those fortunate persons whom he accepted as teachers were greatly benefited by their close association with the Master. Among the many devotees and scholars who came in contact with him at different periods, some took initiation from him and others were influenced by him in various ways, as we have seen in the cases of Vaishnava Charan and Gauri Kanta. About this time other great distinguished savants also, such as Pandit Narayana Shastri of Rajputana, Pandit Padmalochan Tarkalankara, the court Pandit of the Maharaja of Burdwan, and the like, were greatly attracted towards Sri Ramakrishna, and received spiritual inspiration from the Master.
Illustrations by Smt. Hema Satagopan
- Sri Ramakrishna The Great Master by Swami Saradananda, Translated by Swami Jagadananda, Sri Ramakrishna Math, Mylapore, Chennai - 600 004
- The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna, Translated by Swami Nikhilananda (Madras: Sri Ramakrishna Math, 1974)
- The Path Divine, Sathya Sai Balvikas Magazine, Dharmakshetra, Mahakali Caves Road, Andheri (East), Mumbai - 400 093
- A Short Life of Sri Ramakrishna, published by Swami Tattwavidananda, Adhyaksha, Advaita Ashrama, Uttarkhand, Himalayas from its Publication Department, Kolkata
- The Story of Ramakrishna, Published by Swami Bodhasarananda, Advaitha Ashrama, Uttarkhand, from its Publications Department, Kolkata