On our left is Sri Ramamkrishna and the other, his disciple, Swami Vivekananda
A story from the Life of Sri Ramamkrishna:
“One of his young charges had a bible and used to read to Sri Ramakrishna stories from the bible. He became enamored of the wonderful stories of the life of Christ and of the beautiful picture of the Madonna with the Divine Child and fully immersed his mind in the Christian images for three days. On the fourth day as he was walking he saw an extraordinary looking person of serene aspect approaching him with his gaze intently fixed on him. Presently the figure drew near and from the inmost recesses of Sri Ramakrishna’s heart there came the realization: “There is the Christ who poured out his heart’s blood for the redemption of mankind and suffered agonies for its sake. It is none else but the Master-Yogin Jesus, the embodiment of Love!” In his divine vision the Son of Man embraced Sri Ramakrishna and became merged in him. The Master lost outward consciousness in Samadhi, realizing his union with Brahman with attributes. Thus was he convinced, that Jesus Christ was an Incarnation of the Lord.” (http://www.cosmicharmony.com/Av/RamaKris/RamaKris.htm)
When I lived in Toronto with my brother, we had a friend who worked at the art gallery in Toronto and who came to visit often. One day he brought a book and left it with us to read. The title of the book was ‘The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna”. The title drew my attention because of the word “Gospel” and so I began to read. I was fascinated by the life of this man who is an acclaimed saint in India. The stories of his life, his visions and his teachings are very inspiring and of course his story of his “meeting” with the Christ.
Another well-known saint of India and now well known in the West especially among those who toil in Inter-religious activities, is Swami Vivekenanda and his meeting with Sri Ramakrishna
4 July 1902),was born Narendranath Dutta (Hindi: नरेन्द्रनाथ दत्त ), was the chief disciple of the 19th century saint Ramakrishna Paramahansa and the founder of the Ramakrishna Math and the Ramakrishna Mission. He is considered a key figure in the introduction of Indian philosophies of Vedanta and Yoga to the “Western” World, mainly in America and Europe and is also credited with raising interfaith awareness, bringing Hinduism to the status of a major world religion during the end of the 19th century C.E. Vivekananda is considered to be a major force in the revivalof Hinduism in modern India. He is perhaps best known for his inspiring speech which began: “Sisters and Brothers of America,” through which he introduced Hinduism at the Parliament of the World’s Religions in Chicago in 1893. (Wilkepedia)
At the threshold of youth Narendra had to pass through a period of spiritual crisis when he was assailed by doubts about the existence of God. It was at that time he first heard about Sri Ramakrishna from one of his English professors at college.
One day in November 1881, Narendra went to meet Sri Ramakrishna who was staying at the Kali Temple in Dakshineshwar. He straightaway asked the Master a question which he had put to several others but had received no satisfactory answer: “Sir, have you seen God?” Without a moment’s hesitation, Sri Ramakrishna replied: “Yes, I have. I see Him as clearly as I see you, only in a much intenser sense.”
Apart from removing doubts from the mind of Narendra, Sri Ramakrishna won him over through his pure, unselfish love. Thus began a guru-disciple relationship which is quite unique in the history of spiritual masters. Narendra now became a frequent visitor to Dakshineshwar and, under the guidance of the Master, made rapid strides on the spiritual path. At Dakshineshwar, Narendra also met several young men who were devoted to Sri Ramakrishna, and they all became close friends.
I mention Vivekananda and also Sri Ramakrishna because now I had travelled to a place called Kanyakumari which is in the Southern tip of India and very close to the temple and rock of Swami Vivekananda and I will mention later.
I was lucky to get a room in a hotel and it had a view on the sea facing the Rock of Vivekananda.
This spot is the junction of three waters, the Bay of Bengal, the Indian Ocean and the Arabian Sea.
It was the 7th of February 1982 and my Birthday and so I felt it was a gift to myself.
I went for a walk and came to a little street and a place with a huge sign which read “Maharishi Veda Sastra Dhyan Veda Peet”
The front gate was open and so I went in and a man who was sitting at the front office asked me what he could do for me and I simply asked if I could visit, “I studied the Teacher Training Course with Maharishi and he told us about the schools he wanted to build for the training of young pundits. is this one?” and the man smiled and said “Yes it is and I am Swami Suka Brahaman, the head -Master here”. He then invited me in and explained that today, few new students were arriving and I could stay in his office and see, and so I did and it was fascinating as a couple arrived with their son and had him enrolled.
Then the boys’ father whispered something the boy and he went over and touched the feet of Swami Suka. Then before the parents left, the boy also did a pranam, touched the feet of his father and mother and they embraced him and left. I presumed it was a boarding school and I imagined how hard it could have been for this mother to leave her son for his future training.
Several families arrived as I watched quietly from my corner, the same rituals, the same farewells. After a while the swami said “Would you like to have lunch with us? It will give you a chance to hear the boys sing the prayers in Sanskrit.?” I agreed and then he asked me “Did you take bath this morning?” and I said yes and he invited me to follow.
He led me to a sink where I could wash my hands and then I was led into the dining area which was a large hall with mats for sitting on either side and also some in the middle. A bell rang and soon the place was filled. There were many young lads in training and they sat on the mats in the middle and soon began chanting. It was very rhythmic and soothing.
If you would like to hear what they sound like as adults, you can go to this link and listen:
I left the Vedic school that day with the sound of the mantras resounding in my ears and it was rather quite pleasant. I thought to myself that this was an original Birthday and I was happy even though there were no friends around to celebrate, no one to wish me a Happy Birthday, I was smiling!
Eventually I arrived at the docks where I was able to buy a ticket to take the trip across to Vivekananda rock which I was told, I must visit. I remember that shortly after the boat pulled out, we were in some very rough seas and the boat rocked from side to side. Usually I get very sea-sick but not this time, as I was still having the sound of the mantras in my head and I was doing the chant that I learnt at Papa Ram Das’ ashram.
It was a very beautiful experience and it is still written in my diary: “The world is but His divine play. Ever His servant be.” There were two aspects of the Temple on the rock that I remember. One was the meditation hall and outside was a sign inviting silence and once inside, there was this soft blue light and the mantra OM on a screen. The silence was very supportive and I fell into a deep meditation. I remember coming out and walking around and seeing in another room, a large life-size photo of Sri Ramakrishna.
I sat in front of it for a while and it was so alive, I don’t know why but I cried.
That evening I was told by a man at the hotel that it was a very auspicious time and I should go down near the sea-shore to watch…it was a full moon rising. There was already a crowd gathering. The Sun was setting and as it sunk below the horizon on one side, a huge golden disc…..the Moon was rising on the other side. It is a beautiful scene to behold indeed and the people rang bells and conchs and the women made joyful screeching sounds. I stayed for a while till the sun had disappeared and the moon was fairly high and then I walked back to the hotel feeling very satisfied but wishing that some of my friends had been here to share it with me. But here you are and don’t miss the video at the end.!
On the next day I took a bus to Rameshwaram, arriving at a place called Mandapam where I was able to purchase a train ticket to Rameshwaram. It is one of the most incredible train lines in the world. The tracks are on a path built with cement and rocks and goes over the sea like a bridge which takes us the Rameshwaram
The temple here is a main pilgrim attraction and considered to be one of the holiest spots in India. I found a small room in a boarding house, as most hotels were all booked. It was really a cot in a tiny space. There was no mosquito net and I suffered terribly from their bites. I went to visit the temple and at the entrance was this guy with an elephant and he asked me for five rupees to have the elephant bless me before entering the temple. He indicated that i should kneel. I looked at him and said, “Tell the elephant to kneel and I will bless him for free!” the man was furious and did not find that funny. I refused to pay and walked away without the elephant’s blessing.
To enter the temple, men had to take off their shirts and as we went through the entrance, someone on a stone block on the side threw a bucket of water over us. It was a cold shower and took a lot of being inside the temple before it could dry! I came out and on one side there was a beautiful beach. Th sea which I love so much! I could not resist. I left my clothes in a quiet spot and I went in with my shorts. I was able to have a good half and hour in this refreshing salt water when the cops came blowing whistles and beckoned to me to come out. I was told it was illegal to swim there because it was too dangerous. I expressed my regret, not knowing about it and he left me alone.
No sooner was I dressed that a young lad came to me and said “Sir you must have puja!” and he led me to a priest who was performing rituals on the beach. The young lad asked me to pay the priest before he began and I asked “How much?” and he said “One hundred and fifty rupees sir!”. I looked at him and said “Why pay one hundred and fifty rupees for prayers when I can do my own puja for free!” The kid looked at me and I said “Listen to me!” and I began chanting the Sanskrit puja I learnt from Maharish. The poor young guy looked me in bewilderment and I walked away in smiling arrogance.