Many are the names of God, and infinite the forms that lead us to know Him. In whatsoever name or form you desire to call Him, in that very form and name you will see Him – so taught Sri Ramakrishna Paramhamsa, the ascetic who often lost himself in divine ecstasy.
orn in Kamarpukur in West Bengal to a poor Brahmin family as Gadadhar Chattopadhyay, Ramakrishna Paramahamsa was a 19th century mystic who taught that God-realisation is the supreme goal. He later became the priest at the Kali temple in Dakshineshwar.
By the time his wife, Sarada Devi joined him, Ramakrishna had become a sanyasi and she became his devout follower. While the lady ascetic, Bhariavi Brahmani introduced him to tantra, the monk, Totapuri introduced him to Advaita Vedanta’s non-dualism – Brahman alone is real, and the world is illusory; I have no separate existence; I am that Brahman alone.
Teaching through parables, Ramakrishna Paramahamsa reached out to many. He also practised Islam and Christianity for a brief period. With Swami Vivekananda as his disciple, he was instrumental in propagating the truth that all religions are valid despite their differences.
Once, a dispute arose among the learned men in the court of the Maharaj of Burdwan. The question was who was the greater deity, Shiva or Vishnu? Some gave preference to Shiva, others to Vishnu.
When the dispute grew hot, a wise pandit addressed the King: “I have neither met Shiva nor seen Vishnu; how can I say who is greater?”
At this, the dispute stopped, for none of the disputants had really seen the deities.
Similarly, none should compare one deity with another. When a man has really seen a deity, he comes to know that all deities are manifestations of the one Brahman.
Lord Kartikeya, the leader of the heavenly army, once happened to scratch a cat with his nail. When he went home, he saw a scratch on his Mother’s cheek.
“Mother, how did you get that ugly scratch on your cheek?’ he asked.
Goddess Durga, who is a manifestation of Parvati, replied: “Child, this is your own handiwork, the mark scratched by your own nail.”
“Mother, how is that possible! I don’t remember scratching you!” said Kartikeya.
She replied, “Have you forgotten having scratched a cat this morning?”
“Yes, I did scratch a cat,” said Kartikeya. “But, how did your cheek get marked?”
The Mother replied, “Dear child, nothing exists in this world but myself. I am all creation. Whomsoever you hurt, you hurt me.”
“Meditate on God either in an unknown corner, or in the solitude of forests, or within your own mind.”