Preface to the First Edition
The aim of the book is to give to the public in English a short but comprehensive chronological account of the life of Sri Ramakrishna. Great as are the difficulties of faithfully delineating the life history of any famous personage, they are almost insurmountable when the subject of the biography happens to be such a striking figure as Sri Ramakrishna. For it is a noteworthy fact that no man has been the subject of so many conflicting estimates as the Prophet of Dakshineswar. His personality was a combination of so many apparently contradictory elements that it is baffling to the superficial observer; that is the reason that he has been so variously described as a maniac, a good soul, a devotee, a saint, a man of the highest realization, and an Incarnation of the Most High. It is impossible to give any presentation of his life that will be universally satisfying; yet no one by words and actions satisfied so many as he. We are so accustomed to gauging everything by our pet standards that anything that does not measure up to them is summarily disposed of as fantastic or impossible. A biographer of Sri Ramakrishna, therefore, must content himself with adhering to the truth, and with the presentation of the actual facts, leaving it to the reader to form his own opinion of the Master.
This book closely follows the chronology and treatment of the great Bengali work in five volumes, Sri Sri Ramakrishna Lilaprasanga ('Discourses on the life of Sri Ramakrishna'), by Swami Saradananda, a direct disciple of the Master, who is the Secretary of the Ramakrishna Math & Mission. We have purposely omitted some of the masterly expositions of abstruse points relating to the Master's life, as being too philosophical for the ordinary reader. Additional facts have been collected from the ordinary reader. Additional facts have been collected from the following Bengali sources: Life of Sri Ramakrishna by the late Ramchandra Datta, and the beautiful Life in verse by the late.
Akshay Kumar Sen, both disciples of the Master; Life of Sri Ramakrishna, compiled from authentic records by the late Priyanath Sinha, alias Gurudas Varman, a disciple of Swami Vivekananda, with the assistance of the senior Swamis of the Ramakrishna Mission; and the epoch-making work of Babu Mahandra Nath Gupta, better known as M. - The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna, in four volumes, from which some valuable conversations have been taken in their entirety. The materials for the life-sketches of four of the living monastic disciples of the life-sketches of four of the living monastic disciples of the Master have been obtained at first hand. One or two other sources are mentioned in their respective places. To all these authors we express our deep indebtedness. Thus the present work combines the essential facts of all the authoritative books on the subject with important additions. Where our authorities have differed we have accepted the version most worthy of credence.
A word of explanation is necessary with regard to the free introduction of the 'supernatural' element in the book. Our main reason is that we could not help it, for the supernatural is the domain of religion. what the microscope or the telescope does for the scientist, a pure and highly concentrated mind does for the Yogi. Both reveal the wonders of invisible worlds non-existent to the uninitiated-the man in the street. Every one of the so-called supernatural visions recorded in the book is a fact, and as such demands recognition. Science, especially psychology, is as yet in its infancy, and it will be hampered in its progress if facts are withheld, simple because in its gropings it is not able to account for them. Instead of shutting his eyes to them, the seeker after truth will do well to work upon these data for new hypotheses of spiritual phenomena. We expect our readers to keep an open mind, and if any portions of the book are not to their liking, to pass them by, and confine their attention to parts which appeal to them, of which there should be no dearth in this Life.
We make no apology for inserting some rather lengthy conversations (abridged in places), for they will serve to give the reader a glimpse of the Master's wealth of thought and expression, although much of the charm of the original has of necessity been lost in the translation. For a wider knowledge of them we refer the reader to any of the collections of his teachings.
The accounts of the association of the different devotees with the Master will, we hope, be found interesting. But the amount of space given to any individual should not be taken as an index to his relative importance, for we were limited by our material, and were unable to maintain the right proportions.
Mahatma Gandhi has kindly written a Foreword in appreciation of the Master, which we dare say, will be read with interest. We have every reason to hope that the book in its present form will fill a long-felt want, and help to establish a feeling of amity among the jarring creeds and clashing interests of the modern world.
The story of Ramakrishna Paramahamsa's life is a story of religion in practice. His life enables us to see God face to face. No one can read the story of his life without being convinced that God alone is real and that all else is an illusion. Ramakrishna was a living embodiment of godliness. His saying are not those of a mere learned man but they are pages from the Book of life. They are revelations of his own experiences. They, therefore, leave on the reader an impression which he cannot resist. In this age of skepticism Ramakrishna presents an example of a bright and living faith which gives solace to thousands of men and women who would otherwise have remained without spiritual light. Ramakrishna's life was an object-lesson in Ahimsa. His love knows no limits, geographical or otherwise. May his divine love be an inspiration to all who read the following pages.
From the Jacket:
"A truly religious man should think that other religions are also paths leading to truth. We should always maintain an attitude of respect towards other religions.
Remain always strong and steadfast in your own faith, but eschew all bigotry and intolerance." - Sri Ramakrishna
Excerpts from Reviews:
"An interesting and well-written record of a very unusual and arresting individual. Few men can have combined in their own person so many apparently contradictory elements as Sri Ramakrishna - the Prophet of Dakshineswar." - Manchester Guardian
"An excellent production ....sure to be welcomed....The style is chaste." -Statesman
"Of absorbing interest....an entrancing volume." -Bombay Chronicle
"To read such a life is a pleasure and a profit....The compilers...have done full justice to the life." -Modern Review
"This admirable edition...gives a vivid and inspiring exposition of a great life." -Indian Review
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