Ramakrishna (1836-1886) was an Indian religious leader. He never wrote down his beliefs, but his followers recorded his ideas. His teachings have been published in many parts of the world. They led to the establishment of the Ramakrishna Mission in Calcutta. The mission carries out educational and charitable work throughout India. Its branches have spread to Southeast Asia, Europe, and the United States.
Ramakrishna was born into a poor Brahmin family in Bengal. His original name was Gadadhar Chattopadhyaya. He took the name of Ramakrishna after becoming a holy man. He became a priest at a Kali temple near Calcutta, where his elder brother served as senior priest.
Ramakrishna had little formal education, and spoke only basic village Bengali all his life. He suffered from epileptic fits from childhood onwards, and would fall into trances. At such times he had visions of the goddess Kali. He also claimed to see Muhammad, prophet of Islam, and Jesus Christ. These experiences convinced him of the truth and oneness of all religions. He believed that they were merely different paths all leading to the same destination.
Throughout his life, Ramakrishna had moods that left him either supremely happy or deeply depressed. When he was in his twenties, he married a five-year-old girl called Sarada Devi, but they never lived together. He saw his wife as the image of the goddess Kali, whom he worshipped continually. Ramakrishna followed the practices of yoga, and regarded caste distinctions and riches as great evils.
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