Sri Ramakrishna made his appearance and delivered his message at the time and the place at which he and his message were needed. This message could hardly have been delivered by anyone who had not been brought up in the Hindu religious tradition. Sri Ramakrishna was born in Bengal in 1836. He was born into a world that, in his lifetime, was for the first time, being united on a literally worldwide scale. Today we are still living in this transitional chapter of the world’s history, but it is already becoming clear that a chapter which had a Western beginning will have to have an Indian ending if it is not end in the self-destruction of the human race. At this supremely dangerous moment in human history, the only way of salvation for mankind is an Indian way. The Emperor Ashoka’s and the Mahatma Gandhi’s principle of non-violence and Sri Ramakrishna’s testimony to the harmony of religions: here we have the attitude and the spirit that can make it possible for the human race to grow together into a single family—and, in the Atomic Age, this is the only alternative to destroying ourselves.
In regard to Ramakrishna, his disciples saw in him just the embodiment of Indian spiritual wisdom accumulated over thousands of years. In him the Upanishads, the “Gita” and the Puranas were again embodied, and it was also not difficult for his worshippers to see in him a re-embodiment of Rama, Krishna and Chaitanya. He saw himself as the last link so far—and in no way the “seal”—in the chain of divine manifestations, the avatars or “descents” of God, among whom he also included Buddha and above all Christ.
Sri Ramakrishna is an ocean in whose heart the universe is nestled like an island. Award by the expanse of infinite depth around, we in the universe constantly try to perceive this personality in our own way. Our Perception is unique every time as is the knowledge we obtain thereby. Approaching Ramakrishna becomes our prayer to the supreme reality.
The classic work of research brings under a single volume around 600 persons inspired by the ideals of Sri Ramakrishna and his disciples. The author, who has been closely associated with the Vedanta Centre of Hollywood for about five decades, has given a wealth of information in this book which we hope will chalk out for itself a place among the scholarly works on the Ramakrishna Movement. For the scholars it is a mine of information presented precisely, and for the ordinary devotee, it is an inspiring account of western admiration for Sri Ramakrishna and his disciples.
In October 2010 we presented before the readers a massive research work Western Admirers of Ramakrishna and His Disciples. The book dealt with around 600 persons, mostly of western origin, who were admirers of Ramakrishna and his disciples. We now take the pleasure of offering to our readers the present book Companions and Followers of Ramakrishna. It is based on the Bengali book Sri Ramakrishna Parikrama by Kalijivan Devsharma. The book contains brief information about 1273 persons who were either companions or followers of Ramakrishna. Some of them do not categorically belong to these two groups and can be said to be mere acquaintances. Information about important characters of Ramakrishna's divine family can be found in many of our major works dealing with Ramakrishna and his disciples. The present book's importance lies in the fact that, along with the important ones it also keeps before us information about many a lesser known characters from Ramakrishna's life as well as about his "later followers". In the category of "later followers" come, mostly, monastic members of the Ramakrishna Order. As it is impossible to give information about all the deceased monks of the Order from the time the Order came into being, here we find the names of only a small number, selected rather randomly. To the list of these names dealt with by Kalijivan Devsharma, we have also added a few whose names we felt deserved inclusion. And this list is open to future additions, which we hope to do from time to time. The case is same with regard to the lay followers, whose number has been steadily increasing. It is thus impossible for any such single compilation to take within its scope all the lay and monastic followers past and present. Nevertheless we hope the book will facilitate serious readers who want to know especially about the lesser-known characters which find mention in Ramakrishna's literature as well as tradition.
The names of the persons are arranged alphabetically. The "surname" follows the first name, e.g. "Rabindranath Tagore". In case of names having a title, the title follows the name, e.g. "Vivekananda, Swami", or "Devamata, Sister". An index of the names dealt with has been provided at the end of the book for the convenience of the readers.
We are greatly indebted to Mrs. Maloti Sen Gupta who ably did the compilation, mainly from Kalijivan Devsharma's work. We extend our heartfelt thanks to her for her kind selfless labour. Our readers may know that 2011 marks the 175th birth anniversary year of Ramakrishna. The release of this book on this occasion gives us the satisfaction of having furthered the cause of enriching Ramakrishna literature. And we hope that our readers will find this work useful in knowing more about the ever-widening circle of Ramakrishna-family.
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