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EditorialEditorial : Sri Ramakrishna’s Grand Unification

With the rise of the anatomically modern humans 200,000 years ago the world gradually started changing. And for the last 10,000 years we have been modifying plants and animals to suit our human purposes. Through grafting, implanting, transplanting, cross-pollinating, crossbreeding, selective breeding, and other techniques we have speeded up processes that would normally take aeons for nature to fulfil. Structurally, the human brain has not changed much, though the mind has. The human mind has evolved from a primitive social life to exploring the universe to contemplating its own origins. There are many factors that aided this expansion of consciousness, but if we look at the basics, we find that it is due to two powerful forces that have formed a loop, as it were, with consciousness: knowledge and love. As consciousness expands, so do knowledge and love; and as knowledge and love expand, so does consciousness. Humankind is thus redesigning itself and the world through consciousness.

The last few centuries have witnessed an accelerated expansion of consciousness. Many old institutions such as religion, democracy, social structures, culture, and so on have not correspondingly expanded in this mental space; that is why there is so much resistance to it. But today’s human consciousness is irrepressibly overriding stubborn obstacles. The powers of knowledge and love unify, giving room to the ideas of the oneness and the interconnectedness of all life to become current and central themes in many sciences. Physicists are at present trying to unify all the known forces into a Grand Unified Theory, and they may succeed one day because this is the age of unification. On the individual level, just as some old institutions and ideas display resistance, most of us also have not been able to fully assimilate into our consciousness the expanded ideas of unselfishness, altruism, empathy, compassion, and concern. We still hold on to divisive ideas of education, wealth, race, culture, language, and so forth. Humankind needs to urgently educate and culture itself in order to build a new type of civilization.

Sri Ramakrishna’s advent in 1836 is a watershed in the evolution of the modern mind. He was the epitome of the highest knowledge and love that consciousness can ever hold. Through such a mind, embodying the two powers of knowledge and love, he accommodated all religions, sects, paths, practices, and cultures. Where there was divisiveness he showed their unity, even among the three philosophies of Dvaita, Vishishtadvaita, and Advaita, with their centuries-old disputations. His experiences were not confined to the field of religion alone, but spilled over into all aspects of our fragmented human life. Thus he was the first harmonizer and unifier of such apparently disparate things as science and religion, religion and society, individual and collective life. In the field of metaphysics he showed the unification of the absolute and the relative Reality, the personal and the impersonal God, Shiva and Shakti.

Sri Ramakrishna teaches that there are two types of minds: those with the characteristics of Shiva and those with the characteristics ofVishnu. He says: ‘Jnana is the characteristic of Shiva, and bhakti of Vishnu. One who partakes of Shiva’s nature becomes a jnani, and one who partakes of Vishnu’s nature becomes a bhakta.’ Sri Ramakrishna himself was the embodiment of Shiva and Vishnu. His mother Chandramani Devi, while once standing and chatting in front of a Shiva temple behind their house, saw divine light emanating from the Shiva linga and filling the small temple. That light flowed out in waves and engulfed her. She fell down unconscious, and when revived, she felt herself pregnant with that light. While on a pilgrimage to Gaya, Sri Ramakrishna’s father had a wonderful vision of Vishnu seated on a throne and beckoning him thus: ‘Kshudiram, I am very pleased with your sincere devotion. I shall incarnate Myself as your son and accept the loving service you offer Me in your cottage.’ Thus Shiva and Vishnu, whom people consider as different, are in essence one, as was proved in Sri Ramakrishna’s incarnation. And so was divine knowledge and love.

Sri Ramakrishna was also the embodiment of Purusha and Prakriti. Mathur Babu once saw the Master in a high state of consciousness pacing up and down near his room at Dakshineswar and appearing alternately as Shiva and Kali. Mathur ran up to him and falling prostrate declared: ‘Father, I was watching you just now as you walked back and forth. I saw it distinctly: As you walked towards me, you were no longer yourself. You were the Divine Mother Kali from the temple! Then, as you turned around and walked in the opposite direction, you became Lord Shiva! At first I thought it was some kind of optical illusion. I rubbed my eyes and looked again, but I saw the same thing. As often as I looked I saw it!’ This is just one instance in Sri Ramakrishna’s life, but when we study his unique life, we find the merging in him of many gods, goddesses, and past avataras during his ecstatic states. He embodied them all, like he did with Shiva and Vishnu. Sincere sadhakas and followers of different religions found their object of adoration, their Chosen Ideal, dwelling and reflecting in him. Sri Ramakrishna criticized no one, no path, no religious or worldly attitude, but accommodated everyone and everything in his vast consciousness.

As consciousness expands, humankind grows in knowledge, love, and power. This evolution of consciousness is hastening human growth and is also leading us to higher dimensions of existence. In knowledge and love lies embedded the essence of perfection, truth, and infinity. This is intuitively felt by everyone, and this is the goal that humankind is striving for. There is no separate ideal of perfection of knowledge and love but only one. To know is to love, and to love is to know. Thus in the ultimate unification, knowledge and love are one.

In every age an avatara comes not just to show the way to perfection and clear obstacles from its path but also to become the ideal representation of perfection. This perfection is not physical but mental—consciousness expanding to its pristine nature. Swami Vivekananda says: ‘Conscious efforts lead to superconscious illumination. Infinite perfection is in every man though unmanifested.’ In this age Sri Ramakrishna is that ideal of perfection. Swamiji also points out that ‘Ramakrishna has no peer; nowhere else in this world exists that unprecedented perfection, that wonderful kindness for all that does not stop to justify itself, that intense sympathy for man in bondage.’ In Sri Ramakrishna also, astoundingly, is humankind embodied, for as Swamiji showed, he lived the life of the whole human race from the earliest times and traversed all the stages that future humanity would take to reach perfection. Sri Ramakrishna is thus the perfect Consciousness of the mind that unifies humanity and divinity, absolute and relative, collective and individual.

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