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PRABUDDHA BHARATAPrabuddha Bharata | January 2007  






           The Contemplative Tradition in the Ramakrishna Order



          Swami Prabhananda



     The period of eight and a half months that Sri Ramakrishna lived at the Cossipore garden house is popularly considered to be the beginning of the monastic community that later became known as the Ramakrishna Order of monks. What began with a handful of fiery young men gradually became a religious community belongingto the Puri sect of the Dashanami tradition. These monks then took up the mission of living theideal that Sri Ramakrishna had placed before them and also of spreading his teachings - teachings that their leader, Swami Vivekananda, believed to be the gospel for the modern world.

     Sri Ramakrishnas own sadhana was rooted in renunciation - spontaneous renunciation. And renunciation formed the heart of the monastic community that he founded. When Sri Ramakrishna chose Narendra (Swami Vivekananda) as the leader of this group, he also made him its role model. For Sri Ramakrishna recognized that Narendra was a dhyana-siddha (an adept in meditation), that he was never attached to lust and gold, that he was free from ignorance and delusion, and that he belonged to the class of ever-free souls. Moreover, he knew that renunciation was the very soul of Narendras life.

     Even when Swamiji was in the West, spreading his masters message, he kept the inner flame of renunciation burning in the hearts of the monks of the Order with his fiery letters. Later, after he returned to India, he inspired them even more with his own life and words. In one address to the monastic community, he described renunciation as love of death. But he also told them that they must adapt themselves to a changing world. Further, he said, You must try to combine in your life immense idealism with immense practicality.(1) He wanted the members of the Order to be no less than the great rishis of ancient India. He also gave them the motto Atmano mokshartham jagaddhitaya ca; For ones own liberation and for the good of the world to guide them in their life. Thus we find that Swami Vivekanandas life is the perennial guide for the Ramakrishna Order, inspiring its members in all their activities.


     Some Personal Recollections


     About a hundred and twenty years have passed since the founding of the Order. Before looking ahead to the future, let us take a look back. My strong curiosity about the mystery of contemplative life brought me in touch with some great souls of the Order. Following are a few brief accounts of some meetings with them:

     - In the winter of 1959, when I was a young brahmacharin, I went to the Ramakrishna Mission TB Sanatorium at Dungri, Ranchi. Soon after I arrived, I found a senior swami sitting alone in the courtyard of the monks quarters. After I prostrated at his feet, he looked at me and said, Do you hear the anahata sound? Anahata means unstruck. It is the primordial spiritual vibration. Startled by such a question, I could only utter, What? He quietly asked again, Do you not hear the sound of omkar? What do you say, Maharaj? I replied. At this he said, Why? I hear it continuously. Then he straightened his back, shut his eyes, and dived deep within his heart. His woollen wrapper dropped from his back, and his partly unbuttoned shirt showed his chest. Before my amazed eyes, the flush on his face spread to his chest, and an ethereal smile spread over his countenance. Four or five minutes passed. Then he said softly, When I sit straight I hear the sound quite distinctly. After a moment he said, I first heard this holy sound in 1911 . Since then I have heard it continuously. This sound does not come from outside. It emanates from the core of the heart and merges back into it. Japat siddhi - one attains it through japa.

     This was Swami Shantananda (18841974 ), a disciple of Holy Mother, Sri Sarada Devi. Once he gave me his personal diary to read, and in it I found some of his spiritual experiences recorded. Later he again asked me several times if I had experienced the anahata sound, and I said no. But he encouraged me to practise intense japa. When I was leaving for the Himalayas for six months of tapasya, he reminded me to strive for this experience. He also gave me some money to get milk regularly, for such meditation requires strenuous brainwork. On my return, the first question he asked was if I had heard the sound of omkar. When I said no, he encouraged me to continue striving for the experience.




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