Introduction

But his boyhood friends did not interest him any more. A divine fever was consuming him. He spent a great part of the day and night in one of the cremation grounds, in meditation. The place reminded him of the impermanence of the human body, of human hopes and achievements. It also reminded him of Kāli, the Goddess of destruction.

To Sri Ramakrishna’s remark that Vaishnavcharan had declared him to be an Avatār, Gauri replied: “Is that all he has to say about you? Then he has said very little. I am fully ocnvinced that you are that fountain of spiritual power, only a small fraction of which descends on Earth, from time to time, in the form of an Incarnation.

“Ah!” said Sri Ramakrishna with a smile. “You seem to have quite outbid Vaishnavcharan in this matter. What have you found in me that makes you entertain such an idea?”

Gauri said: “I feel it in my heart and I have the scriptures on my side. I am ready to prove it to anybody who challenges me.”

“Well,” Sri Ramakrishna said, “it is you who say so; but, believe me, I know nothing about it.”

Thus the insane priest was, by verdict of the great scholars of the day, proclaimed a Divine Incarnation. His visions were not the result of an overheated brain; they had precedents in spiritual history. And how did the proclamation affect Sri Ramakrishna himself? He remained the simple child of the Mother that he had been since the first day of his life. Years later, when two of his householder disciplines openly spoke of him as a Divine Incarnation and the matter was reported to him, he said with a touch of sarcasm:

“Do they think they will enhance my glory that way? One of them is an actor on the stage and the other a physician. What do they know about Incarnations? Why, years ago pundits like Gauri and Vaishnavcharan declared me to be an Avatār. They were great scholars and knew what they were saying. But that did not cause a ripple in my mind.”

Sri Ramakrishna was a learner all his life. He often used to quote a proverb to his disciples: “Friend, the longer I live the more I learn.” When the excitement created by the Brāhmani’s declaration was over, he set himself to the task of practicing spiritual disciplines according to the traditional methods laid down in the Tantra and Vaishnavcharan scriptures.

The average man wishes to enjoy the material objects of the world. Tantra bids him enjoy these, but at the same time discover in them the presence of God. Mystical rites are prescribed by which, slowly, the sense-objects become spiritualized and sense attraction is transformed into love of God. So the very “bonds” of man are turned into “releasers.” The very poison that kills is transmuted into the elixir of life. Outward renunciation is not necesary. Thus, the aim of Tantra is to sublimate bhoga, or enjoyment, into yoga, or union with Consciousness. For, according to this philosophy, the world with all its manifestations is nothing but the sport of Śiva and Śakti, the Absolute and Its inscrutable Power.

One of the results of his practice of Tantra was the deepening of his respect for womanhood. To him every woman was the embodiment of the Divine Śakti, and he could not, even in a dream, regard a woman in any other way. His relationship with his own wife was entirely on the spiritual plane. He taught that the most effective way for a man to overcome carnal desire was to regard woman as the manifestation of the Divine Mother.

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