BORN to a poor Brahmin family in rural Bengal in 1836, Ramakrishna Paramahamsa was one of the pioneering figures of the Bengali Renaissance. His religious influence is evident in the founding of the Ramakrishna Mission by his most famous devotee, Swami Vivekananda and his teachings have had a profound effect on Indian religious thought. He spent his entire adult life as the priest of the Dakshineshwar Kali temple.
The facts of his life are as stark as his teachings: born at Kamarkupur, he had his first religious trance at the age of six when he witnessed a flock of white cranes flying against a backdrop of gathering rain clouds. These episodes of ecstasy became more and more pronounced as the years progressed. Later he went to Dakshineshwar along with his cousin Hriday where he became the temple priest, in the process becoming a fervent worshipper of the goddess Kali. He was initiated into Tantra worship by the priestess Bhairavi Brahmani and was taught Advaita Vedanta by Tota Puri, a wandering monk. He would often go into a state of nirvakalpa samadhi, the highest state of renunciation possible.
In Ramakrishna Paramahamsa: The Sadhaka of Dakshineshwar, Amiya Sen has tried to construct a portrait of one of India’s most notable religious figures, who attracted criticism and affection in equal measure. Many like Debendranath Tagore dismissed him as nothing less than a charlatan whereas others, which included several Western scholars, saw him as a true saint along the lines of the Hindu spiritual tradition.
Lucidly written, this biography covers all aspects of the life of Ramakrishna and is recommended for those who are interested in Hinduism and Indian religious figures.