THE Visions of Sri Ramakrishna is a collection of a number of super-sensuous experiences of the Great Master, more or less in the order of their occurrence in his life. We have at present several collections of the Master's Teachings gathered from the extensive literature on him. The present work on his Visions is a similar attempt to bring together in a single volume many of the sublime experiences that made him the great Teacher that he was Such a book is bound to be of immense help both to spiritual aspirants and to students of comparative mysticism.
The subject matter of the present work is mainly drawn from Swami Saradananda's Sri Ramakrishna, The Great Master and Mahendra Nath Gupta's The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna. Besides being eminent scholars, both these authors had the advantage of intimate association with Sri Ramakrishna and are accepted as the best authorities on the life and teachings of the great Master. The book now published may therefore be considered authentic.
The Visions of Sri Ramakrishna had appeared as a serial in our English monthly, The Vedanta Kesari, during 1967-69. Brahmachari Buddha Chaitanya, under whose name it was published, has now become a Sannyasin with the monastic name of Swami Yogeshananda, and it is under this new name of the compiler that the present book is published.
We trust that the Visions will bring new hope and enlightenment to many seekers who are passing through depression and darkness in their spiritual life.
As short a time ago as twenty-five years a serious and reverential approach to the subject of super sensory visions would have been received skeptically and with no little embarrassment by most people of the Western world. But today many of us are not quite so sure about what is real and what is not real; reality no longer seems so simple a thing that we can perceive the whole of it with our five senses and grasp it with our reason. Many of us are beginning to admit that beyond our ordinary perception and understanding there may be layers and layers of super- sensual reality.
Students of Sri Ramakrishna's life, his devotees, have no doubt that this is so. To them, this book will be a highly welcome treasure chest of jewels already cherished. But it should be welcome and rewarding to the open minded, truly modern newcomer as well; for never before in recorded time has there been a life so abounding in super- sensory vision as Sri Ramakrishna's. Indeed, the whole of his mind seems to have been always immersed in an ocean of transcendental reality. And, his face beaming, they tell us, with indescribable joy, he splashed water from that ocean continually, without the slightest hesitation or withholding. He told everything that words could tell.
Swami Yogeshananda has carefully, conscientiously, collected the records of Sri Ramakrishna's transcendental experiences that have heretofore lain scattered throughout the histories of his life, and has presented all that are available - from the most profound to the seemingly slight, The result is a glowing, indeed dazzling, display. The Swami tells us that he has made this compilation for our convenience of reference, and with his unobtrusive and helpful .commentary it well serves this purpose. Further he gives as many details as the most exacting student of the psychology of spiritual visions could ask for. But over and above these unquestioned values, this collection has an impact all its own.
Dwelling upon Sri Ramakrishna's visions distilled from the larger histories of his life, one is thunderstruck by their immense variety and richness. And by their number! We have here only a small fraction of the actual whole, for, as Swami Saradananda, a close monastic disciple, wrote in his book Sri Ramakrishna, the Great Master, ". . . there were so many extraordinary visions and experiences in the Master's life day after day, that it is beyond the power of man to mention all of them." But the ecstasies and Samadhi here recorded, those huge splashes from the Ocean of Satchidananda, are more than enough to fill- us with reverential awe. Are we not here witnessing Religion at its very source?
"In all organised religions," Swami Vivekananda once said, "their founders, prophets and messengers are declared to have gone' into states of mind that were neither waking nor sleeping, in which they came face to face with a new series of facts relating to what is called the spiritual kingdom. They realised things there much more intensely than we realise facts around us in our waking state. . . . These facts are the basis of all the religions of the world." 1 And these facts, the Lord Himself tells us, are revealed again and again throughout history in response to the world's need: "Whenever there is a decline of dharma," said Sri Krishna, and a rise of adharma, I incarnate Myself." 2
All of us are only too well aware that dharma (generally translated as righteousness") has declined in the present age, that it has, in fact, reached rock bottom. It would be tedious here to attempt to trace the causes of our adharmic state; yet one may wonder if it is not rooted in a worldview that is stone-blind to transcendental facts - those facts of which Swami Vivekananda speaks and which constitute, as all great sages have told us, the very essence of our being. Until very recently, the dominant trends of modern Western culture have totally ignored man's fundamental need for a glimpse of, or at least a belief in, transcendental reality. But without such glimpse or such belief his ideals die, and with their death his culture rots. Dharma indeed declines.
SAINTS, as a' rule, do not write autobiographies. Those few who have done so, such as St. Teresa or Gandhi, have extended to us who are not yet saints, hands of uplifting power on the ladder of the spirit. The present book is not an autobiography, but it has some of the characteristics of one. It is not a case-history, nor a diary, yet it has some of the nature of each of these.
The visions of a great saint can be of incalculable value to us because of what they reveal of a realm which is beyond ordinary experience and yet attainable at least in part, if we ourselves become extraordinary. If this be true of the visions of a saint, what shall we say of the visions of a Divine Incarnation? Two views, at least, might be taken. One could presume that the spiritual experiences of an Incarnation of God are so vastly superior to those of an ordinary saint, and of such a different order, that to understand or aspire to such is utterly beyond the hopes of spiritual seekers. Or one might suppose that such experiences differ from those of saints and seers, if at all, only in degree and not in kind; that while the Incarnation's visions may be of greater intensity or frequency, or profundity, still they are not essentially of a different order from those of others; that they are suitable for the application of reason and helpful to the aspirant's understanding. It is the latter view which has been adopted in approaching the present material. In the accounts of the life of Gotama Buddha we hear of his night-long temptation by Mara, with its seductive and fantastic visions. Later there are descriptions of his entering into the four dhyanas, stages of ecstasy; and some assert that he 'ascended into heaven' to preach the Doctrine to his mother. Let us take the case of Jesus Christ. In addition to the descending dove and the voice of the Heavenly Father at his baptism, we have as glimpses of his inner life only the temptation in the wilderness by Satan, where it is also said that angels ministered unto him, and his prayer in the garden of Gethsemane as recorded in the Gospel of John. It is true that he prophesied and made claims about his own nature: but very little of the inner content of his divine communion is left to us in the canonical scripture. Again, who knows whether these accounts now represent what was told to the disciples by these great teachers? In the case of Sri Ramakrishna most fortunately we are in a very different historical position, and this fact carries interesting implications for validating accounts of the experiences of the earlier personalities.
The following record concerns itself primarily with what came from 'the other side' in the superconscious experiences of Sri Ramakrishna. We have tried to present accurately the content of these experiences in so far as it was reported by Ramakrishna himself to his companions, devotees, and disciples. The various occasions on which the same incident was told have been carefully sought out and compared, and variations noted. Incidents of this type known to have been reported have thus been brought together from the sources into a presumed chronological order. Sri Ramakrishna kept no diary. We have to rely on the memory of Mahendranath Gupta, or "M.", the cherished writer of the Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna, and on the authenticity of the material gathered by Ramakrishna's disciple and biographer, Swami Saradananda, in his brilliant work, Sri Sri Ramakrishna Lilaprasanga, the English title of which is Sri Ramakrishna the Great Master. These are the two principal sources. The chronology of much of the material is therefore well established, but one cannot hope that a perfectly accurate order of events has been reconstructed.
Instances exist where some of the content of the superconscious revelation can be inferred. For example, in the state called bhava-samadhi Ramakrishna foretold how long he would live at Dakshineswar and when Mathur Babu protested, he promised to extend the time.' When the statue of Sri Krishna was broken Ramakrishna, in a state of ecstasy, prescribed the remedy.2 Again, M. and other disciples have recorded for us many occasions on which the Master was heard to utter various prayers to the Lord. These are Sri Ramakrishna's own words, and we can infer that he was in communion with God at those times, but as we are concerned primarily with the 'divine dialogue', with what comes (or seems to come) directly from beyond the conscious level, most such incidents have not been included. Some incidents, however, will be found here which while not rich in content nevertheless reveal how Ramakrishna's mind behaved in trance.
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