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Ramakrishna
(1836 - 1886) India

Ramakrishna

Religios reformer, poet

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Ramakrishna Parmahamsa is perhaps the best known guru of nineteenth century India. He was born in a poor Brahman family in a small town near Calcutta, West Bengal. As a young man, he was artistic and a popular storyteller and actor.

Young Ramakrishna was prone to experiences of spiritual reverie and temporary loss of consciousness. His early spiritual experiences included going into a state of rapture while watching the flight of a cranes, and loosing consciousness of the outer world while playing the role of the god Shiva in a school play.

Ramakrishna had little interest in school or practical things of the world. In 1866, he became a priest at a recently dedicated temple to the Goddess Kali located near Calcutta on the Ganges River.

At one point he became frustrated, feeling he could not live any longer without seeing Kali. He demanded that the goddess appear to him. He threatened to take his own life with a ritual dagger (normally held in the hand of the Kali statue).

Ramakrishna's behavior became more erratic as time passed and began to worry his family and employer. He would take on ritual and mythical roles identifying with figures from the Puranas. His parents found him a wife hoping his mental instability was a result of his celibacy.

About this time, an elderly holy woman named Bhairavi Brahmani appeared and determined that Ramakrishna's madness was "spiritual madness" rather than ordinary madness. From this point on, people began to treat Ramakrishna with more respect though his unusual behavior in worship and meditation continued.

Disciples began to appear at this point in Ramakrishna's life. He embarked on a long period of teaching where he gathered a group of disciples around him. This period of his life is well documented by two sets of books written by his disciples.

Ramakrishna died of cancer of the throat in 1886.

The Mystical and the Exotic Life and Teachings written by Jeffrey J. Kripal and published by the University of Chicago Press, has created a storm, dwelling at length on religious philosopher Ramakrishna Paramahans' "homosexual impulses and practices".

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