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Sri Ramakrishna
Love that Knows No Limits
By M. Sivaramakrishna
Indus Source Books
Rs.275
 
No one aspect or product is the same as the other, yet there was something common about books on Sri Ramakrishna’s life so far. All had a very evident thrust on the protagonist to the extent that the details, especially those bordering on the sphere of the psychology of events, were given a quick brush-over.
 
The book by Professor Sivaramakrishna stands apart for its focus beyond the events. In fact, he uses the events just as a prop to go deeper into the psychology and philosophy of happenings that made a near-illiterate villager from rural Bengal the Sri Ramakrishna we know.
 
The book has insights not just about why things happened the way they did in Sri Ramakrishna’s life but also about of the overreaching philosophy behind events that probably may find a translation in the life of each one of us. For example, he says the innate curiosity in every child could be enhanced by prompt childcare as is seen in the way Chandramani Devi handles Gadadhar.
 
Later, in Gadadhar’s tutelage under Totapuri, Professor Sivaramakrishna finds an exposition of the simple ideal of education — it is a learning process for both the teacher and the student as is propagated in a famous Upanishadic mantra.
 
In that and many such senses, the biography is a textbook on psychology, philosophy in daily life as well as the life story of an intricate human being. Several views of the popular scenes in the life of Sri Ramakrishna have also been stated, quoting from similar books of the genre. There is also a peripheral attempt at analysing the emotions or circumstances that led to the events, drawing upon books on the mind of mystics.
 
What is striking in this book is the manner in which the logical and inexplicable is juxtaposed. At one point, the author delves into his erudition to bring out points that throw a scientific light into episodes in Sri Ramakrishna’s life. Another instance has him stating with evident humility that there are twists and turns in both apparent and subtle nature that are beyond the comprehension of the material or even the spiritual mind.
 
The beauty of the very famous scene that awoke in Gadadhar his inherent divinity lifts the soul of the reader. It hints at the “natural” ability of Sri Ramakrishna’s mind to grasp the event in all its dimensions —even the visible. He could visualize Sri Rama’s life in the forest when a reading was on from the Ramayana. He could see Krishna and Arjuna on the war chariot as is said in the Bhagavad Gita. Or watch the glorious Gauranga dance away in mirth as though in a movie frame.
 
The impact of the vision he saw when he was just six or seven years old — the birds against the dark sky on an evening — is, in general, an indicator to the acumen of the mind to find enough beauty in the creation to remind the beholder of the Creator. But the paradox is the prerequisite to that acumen is the absence of the very factor that allows the phenomenon — mind.
 
The author calls such a state “purity”, something Sri Ramakrishna was born with and with which he lay threadbare all philosophies and ‘isms’. He touched the cornerstone of several beliefs with that purity, experiencing all the while that every facet of creation has the same core. This core is simple due to the fact that it is unique, but is complex because to know it one has to see through its manifestations. Just one tool can help to cut through this complexity, according to Sri Ramakrishna, and that is purity of the mind.
 
Touching upon this aspect and power of purity are the two chapters on nature and visions of Sri Ramakrishna, which more or less contain the gist of whatever the author wanted to write of the saint in the book.
 
Wanting to know Sri Ramakrishna or the intricacies of his life is, as he himself says of the Divine, akin to a doll of salt longing to measure the depth of the ocean. But books on his life are an enjoyment for the soul, and Professor Sivaramakrishna’s book with its wealth of information and mellifluous presentation, provides it in abundance. Read it seriously to drink in the enjoyment. Keep it as a reference, to relive the enjoyment.
 
Aparna Nair

 

(Published in the Prabudha Bharata in January 2013)