Monday, February 19, 2007
(Dorothy's friend in the park)
NOTE: Shri Ramakrishna (1836-1886) was a noted Indian bhakta (lover of God) who could barely write. Yet his presence and avowed beliefs left an indelible mark on Hindu thought and practice. He stood outside all the traditional schools, preferring his own simple and highly devout dedication to the goddess herself in the form of Kali or Shakti.
(The following quotation is taken from "Vedanta, Heart of Hinduism,"
by Hans Torwesten.)
In Ramakrishna's case, all aspects of the divine reality were equally valid, not because of indifference but because his intense love embraced them all--including even Christ and the God of Islam. He did not just "tolerate" them. Quite the contrary! He lived with them, became totally absorbed in them, and in turn discovered each to be a gateway to the impersonal absolute, in his eyes their common ground.
We never have the impression that Ramakrishna consciously labored to achieve this synthesis of the different religious traditions; he quite simply experienced them without the slightest sectarian prejudice, then in the end declared that each revealed a certain aspect of the divine reality. He compared God to a chameleon which constantly changes color, saying that people get into arguments about it because each has seen the chameleon only briefly and one asserts that it is a beautiful red, the other that it is a bright green; that only the one actually living under the tree where the chameleon also lives knows that it takes on different colors--even sometimes seeming to be without any color at all. "God has many names and innumerable forms, through which we can approach Him. . . . Just as water is called by different names in various languages...so is the one Sat-chit-ananda called by some 'God,'
by others 'Allah,' by some 'Hari,' and again by others 'Brahman.'"