SRI RAMAKRISHNA
Sri Ramakrishna is regarded as the Avatar of the modern age by millions of people around the world. Born on 18 February 1836 in Kamarpukur, a village about 120 kilometers to the northwest of Kolkata, Sri Ramakrishna had only the rudiments of school education. At a young age, owing to poverty at home, he became the priest of the Kali temple at Dakshineswar, newly built by Rani Rasmani. He could not continue his priestly duties for long, as he absorbed himself in his spiritual disciplines. Possessed as he was by intense longing for God from his childhood, Sri Ramakrishna plunged into intense spiritual practices. After attaining the realization of God as the Divine Mother of the Universe, Kali, he followed the spiritual paths of different sects of Hinduism and the spiritual paths of other religions like Islam and Christianity, and realized the Ultimate Reality through them all. His spotless holiness, utter simplicity, extraordinary spiritual wisdom and love of God drew people to him like a magnet, and a number of sincere seekers gathered around him as his disciples.
SRI RAMAKRISHNA'S MAIN TEACHINGS ARE
  • God realization is the ultimate goal of human life as that alone can bring man supreme happiness and peace.
  • God is one, and is known by different names in different religions and sects.
  • God can be realized through various paths taught in world religions.
  • All religions are true in so far as they lead to the realization of the Ultimate Truth.
  • God dwells in all people and so everyone, without the distinction of caste, creed or race, should be treated with respect and served with love.
Sri Ramakrishna trained a group of young men, the chief of whom was Narendra, to carry on his mission of spiritualizing the human race all over the glove. After the passing away of Sri Ramakrishna on August 16 1886, this group of sixteen young men under the leadership of Narendra took the vows of Sannyasa and formed a monastic brotherhood, which came to be known as Ramakrishna Math.

Before Sri Ramakrishna passed away, at the Cossipore Garden House, Narendra was sitting near the Master thinking that in the midst of the terrible pain that Sri Ramakrishna was having in his throat, if he can speak out and declare that he is God, then he will surely believe him. No sooner, he thought thus, Sri Ramakrishna said clearly to him: "Well, don't you believe even now? He who was Rama and He who was Krishna is now Sri Ramakrishna in this body."
SWAMI VIVEKANANDA SAID ABOUT SRI RAMAKRISHNA
"This is the message of Sri Ramakrishna to the modern world. Do not care for doctrines, do not care for dogmas or sects or churches or temples; they count for little compared with the essence of existence in each man, which is spirituality. The more this is developed in a man, the more powerful is he for good. Earn that first, acquire that, and criticize no one, for all doctrines and creeds have some good in them. Show by your lives that religion does not mean words, names, or sects, but that it means spiritual realization. Only those can understand who have felt. Only those who have attained to spirituality can communicate it to others, can be great teachers of humanity. They alone are the owners of light. Therefore my Master's message to mankind is "Be spiritual and realize truth for yourself". To proclaim and make clear the fundamental unity underlying in all religions was the mission of my Master. Other teachers have taught special religion, which bear their names; but this great teacher of nineteenth century made no claim for himself. He left every religion undisturbed because he had realized that, in reality they are all part and parcel of the one eternal religion."
SRI SARADA DEVI
Sri Sarada Devi, known to millions as Sri Sri Maa or Holy Mother, is the spiritual consort of Sri Ramakrishna. Born on 22 December 1854 in the village of Jayrambati, she was married to Sri Ramakrishna, according to the custom prevalent in India in those days, at the age of six. At the age of eighteen she went to Dakshineswar. Sri Ramakrishna worshiped her as the Divine Mother and taught her how to discharge the duties of life and at the same time lead an intensely spiritual life.

After the Master's passing away, she played a significant role as the spiritual teacher and universal Mother in the development of the Ramakrishna Movement. By her life of sacrifice, forbearance, service and motherly love, which knew no distinctions of caste, creed, race or wealth, she has set a shining ideal for women all over the world.
SOME TEACHINGS OF SRI SARADA DEVI
  • If you want peace, my child, see nobody's faults. See your own faults. Learn to make the world your own. No one is a stranger, my child. The world is yours.
  • One suffers as a result of one's own actions. So, instead of blaming others for such sufferings, one should pray to the Lord and depending entirely on His grace, try to bear them patiently and with forbearance under all circumstances.
  • You see, my son, it is a fact that you will face dangers. Difficulties always come, but they do not last forever. You will see that they pass away like water under a bridge.
  • Pray to God with tears in your eyes whenever you want illumination or find yourself faced with any doubt or difficulty. The Lord will remove all your impurities, assuage your mental anguish and give you enlightenment.
  • Always do your duty to others, but love you must give to God alone. Worldly love always brings in its wake untold misery.
  • On Love and Compassion: "Let me tell you how to love all equally. Do not demand anything of those you love. If you make demands, some will give you more and some less. In that case, you will love more those who give you more and less those who give you less. Thus your love will not be the same for all. You will not be able to love all impartially."
  • Whenever you go from one place to another, observe the things around you, and also keep yourself well informed about what happens in the place you live. But keep your lips shut.
  • On the necessity of work: "It is essential that one should work. It is through work alone that one may break asunder the bonds of Karma; only then is one free of desires. One shouldn't be without work even for a single moment."
SWAMI VIVEKANANDA
Swami Vivekananda, known in his pre-monastic life as Narendra Nath Datta, was born into an affluent family in Kolkata on 12 January 1863. His father was Vishwanath Datta, a well-known Kolkata attorney, and his mother, Bhuvaneshwari Devi, was endowed with deep devotion, strong character and other noble qualities. A precocious boy, Narendra excelled in music, gymnastics and academic studies. By the time he graduated from Calcutta University, he had acquired a vast knowledge of different subjects, especially Western philosophy and history. Born with a yogic temperament, he used to practice meditation even from his boyhood, and was associated with the Brahmo Samaj reform movement for some time.

However, his philosophical mind was restless, and the Brahmo Samaj could not satisfy his quest for the true meaning of life. Encouraged by one of his relatives, Naren met the Bengali saint Sri Ramakrishna in November 1881. This incident affected Naren a great deal, and he gradually came to realise that Ramakrishna was an extraordinary man. Spending quality time with the saint, Naren gradually began to look upon him as his guide. He eventually accepted Sri Ramakrishna as his master and became completely dedicated to him.

A group of chosen young men had gathered around Sri Ramakrishna and had begun to receive spiritual guidance from him. When he developed throat cancer, they undertook to nurse him. Naren was the leader of this group. Ramakrishna had wanted them to take to monastic life and had symbolically given them saffron clothes. Keeping in line with their master's wish, the group founded a monastery at Baranagar and began to live together. They supported themselves by begging, without knowing where this journey would take them. It was during this time that Naren took for himself the name Vivekananda (meaning "the bliss of discernment"), in keeping with the monastic traditions of India.

After the Master's passing away, Vivekananda set out on a long, extensive pilgrimage throughout India, and came to realise the abject poverty, illiteracy and degradation of the Indians at large. Later, in 1888, Vivekananda left the monastery as a parivrajaka-a wandering monk, "without fixed abode, without ties, independent, and a stranger wherever he goes." His sole possessions were a kamandalu (water pot), staff, and his two favorite books-The Bhagavad Gita and The Imitation of Christ. Vivekananda travelled the length and breadth of India for five years, visiting important centres of learning, acquainting himself with the diverse religious traditions and different patterns of social life. He developed a sympathy for the suffering and poverty of the masses and resolved to uplift the nation. Living mainly on bhiksha (alms), Vivekananda travelled mostly on foot and by railway, using tickets bought by admirers whom he met on the way. During these travels he met and stayed with scholars, dewans, rajas and people from all walks of life-Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Pariahs (low-caste workers) and government officials.

He approached many Indian princes of the time to see if they could do anything for the common people of India. Gradually this idea spread amongst the leaders, and a slow change began to take place. The ruler of Mysore was among the first to make primary education free within his state. This, however, was not enough in Swamiji's view. He wanted education taken to the peasant's doorstep, so that the peasant's children could work and learn at the same time. His correspondence with the Maharaja of Mysore on the subject reveal how genuine and palpable his ideas were. Vivekananda reached Kanyakumari, the southernmost tip of the Indian subcontinent, on 24 December 1892. He swam through the sea and started meditating on a lone rock for three days on the past, present and future of India. The rock is today a primary tourist destination and is called the Vivekananda Rock Memorial.

Vivekananda attended the 1893 World's Parliament of Religions in Chicago, Illinois, and earned great applause for beginning his address with the famous words, "Sisters and brothers of America." It was Vivekananda's arrival in the USA that started the beginning of Western interest in Hinduism-not as merely an exotic Eastern oddity, but as a vital religious and philosophical tradition. A few years after the Parliament, Vivekananda started Vedanta centres in New York City and London, and lectured at major universities on Hinduism.

From the West, he also set his Indian work in motion. Vivekananda wrote a stream of letters to India, giving advice and sending money to his followers and brother monks. His letters from the West in those days laid down the motive of his campaign for social service. He constantly tried to inspire his close disciples in India to do something big. His letters to them contain some of his strongest words. In one such letter, he wrote to Swami Akhandananda,
“Go from door to door amongst the poor and lower classes of the town of Khetri and teach them religion. Also, let them have oral lessons on geography and such other subjects. No good will come of sitting idle and having princely dishes, and saying "Ramakrishna, O Lord!"-unless you can do some good to the poor.”
Eventually, in 1895, the periodical called The Brahmavadin was started in Madras, with money supplied by Vivekananda, for the purpose of teaching Vedanta.

After spreading India's ancient wisdom in the USA and England for four years, he returned to India in 1897. Soon after his arrival, he inaugurated the Ramakrishna Mission, a unique organization in which monks of the Ramakrishna Order work together with lay devotees for the uplift of the poor masses through social service programmes, being inspired by the ideal that Sri Ramakrishna gave to Swami Vivekananda
 “Serve the jiva (living being) as Shiva (God Himself)”
He founded two other monasteries-one at Mayavati, near Almora in the Himalayas, called Advaita Ashrama; and another at Madras. Two journals were also started: Prabuddha Bharata in English and Udbodhan in Bengali. The same year, famine relief work was started by Swami Akhandananda in Murshidabad district.

His tours, hectic lecturing schedule, private discussions and correspondence, not to mention the privations he had endured during his early years of wandering, had taken their toll on his health. He was suffering from asthma, diabetes and other physical ailments. A few days before he died, he was seen intently studying the almanac. Three days before his death he pointed out the spot for his cremation, where a temple in his memory stands today.

Vivekananda died at ten minutes past nine p.m. on July 4, 1902, while he was meditating, fulfilling his own prophecy that he would not live to be forty.

Swami Vivekananda believed that the essence of Hinduism was best expressed in the Vedanta philosophy, based on the interpretation of Adi Shankara. He summarized the Vedanta's teachings as follows:
  • Each soul is potentially divine.
  • The goal is to manifest this Divinity within by controlling nature, external and internal.
  • Do this either by work, or worship, or mental discipline, or philosophy-by one, or more, or all of these-and be free.
  • This is the whole of religion. Doctrines, or dogmas, or rituals, or books, or temples, or forms, are but secondary details.
He founded two other monasteries-one at Mayavati, near Almora in the Himalayas, called Advaita Ashrama; and another at Madras. Two journals were also started: Prabuddha Bharata in English and Udbodhan in Bengali. The same year, famine relief work was started by Swami Akhandananda in Murshidabad district.

His tours, hectic lecturing schedule, private discussions and correspondence, not to mention the privations he had endured during his early years of wandering, had taken their toll on his health. He was suffering from asthma, diabetes and other physical ailments. A few days before he died, he was seen intently studying the almanac. Three days before his death he pointed out the spot for his cremation, where a temple in his memory stands today.

Vivekananda died at ten minutes past nine p.m. on July 4, 1902, while he was meditating, fulfilling his own prophecy that he would not live to be forty.

Swami Vivekananda believed that the essence of Hinduism was best expressed in the Vedanta philosophy, based on the interpretation of Adi Shankara. He summarized the Vedanta's teachings as follows:
SWAMI TRIGUNATITANANDA
Swami Trigunatitananda (30 January 1865 – 10 January 1915), pre-monastic name Sarada Prasanna Mitra, was a direct disciple of Sri Ramakrishna, the 19th-century Indian Hindu SHYPERLINK "https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sant_(religion)"aint regarded as the Avatar of the modern age. He established the monthly Bengali magazine Udbodhan of Ramakrishna Math and later, at the behest of Vivekananda, went to America in 1902 and took charge of the San Francisco Centre. One of his contributions was the construction of a new building in San Francisco which came to be known as the Hindu Temple. He passed away in January 1915.
Early life
Trigunatitananda was born as Sarada Prasanna Mitra, on 30 January 1865. He was born to an aristocratic family in the village of Naora in Bhangar I, (now in South 24 HYPERLINK "https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/South_24_Parganas"Parganas) near Calcutta. Sarada was enrolled in the Metropolitan Institution at Shyampukur, Calcutta. This was a school of Iswar Chandra Vidyasagar, a social reformer, educator and scholar of 19th century India. The headmaster there was Mahendranath Gupta, better known as "M", the author of The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna (or Sri Ramakrishna Kathamrita in Bengali). Sarada did not do well in the school leaving "entrance examination". "M" took young Sarada to Dakshineswar temple to meet Ramakrishna on 27 December 1884. At a very young age Sarada had shown a religious disposition and this was reinforced by contact with Ramakrishna, whom he visited often after joining the Metropolitan college. When his parents decided to arrange a marriage for him according to Indian customs, he left his house for Puri in January 1886, but was brought back by his parents. He appeared for and passed his First Arts examination. He dedicated himself to the service of Ramakrishna when the latter was terminally ill in Cossipore Garden House. After Ramakrishna died, Sarada began to stay with Narendranath Dutta (later Vivekananda) and a group of dedicated direct disciples of Ramakrishna, who renounced worldly life, in "Baranagar Math".
 Monastic life
In January 1887 Sarada took the vows of complete renunciation or sannyas along with his brother disciples, and came to be known as Trigunatitananda (one who has surpassed the three gunas or attributes and have attained supreme bliss, an enlightened one. Triguna: the three gunas or attributes of Sattva (contemplation), Rajas (activity) and Tamas (darkness or passivity)). In 1891 Trigunatita started on pilgrimage for Vrindaban, Mathura, Jaipur, Ajmere, Kathiawar. At Porbandar he met Vivekananda. After that he returned to Baranagar Math. In 1895 he set out on foot for Mount Kailash and Lake HYPERLINK "https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lake_Manasarovar" Manasarovar.  He came back to Calcutta and stayed in the house of a devotee and led a contemplative life for some time. After some time he went to stay in the newly formed Alambazar Math of the Ramakrishna order. He was influenced by Vivekananda's ideal of service and philanthropic activities. In 1897 when the district of Dinajpur in Bengal was in the grip of a famine, he went there and organised relief work. Vivekananda had planned a magazine to spread the message of Vedanta. For this purpose, a press was bought and Trigunatita was put in charge of publishing the magazine, Udbodhan. After Yogananda's death, Tigunatitananda became a personal attendant to Sarada Devi for a time. His brother Ashutosh Mitra, later a monk of the Ramakrishna Order, also served her for a time.
Work in America
In 1902 when Turiyananda returned from America prematurely due to ill health, Trigunatitananda was sent to replace him. On 2 January 1903, he reached San Francisco and was taken to the house of T.H. Logan, president of the San Francisco Vedanta society. A few weeks later he went to the home of Mr. and Mrs C.F. Peterson where he was to make his headquarters. Classes and lectures were held regularly. Before long the flat became too small for the Society's operations, and they moved to another flat at 40 Steiner Street. In 1904, because of the work involved, Trigunatitananda felt that a new building for Vedanta Society of San Francisco was needed. Funds were raised, and in January 1906 the building in Webster Street, which came to be known as the first Hindu Temple in the western world, was established and opened to the public. The Swami published a pamphlet explaining each tower and detail of the structure. "This temple," the pamphlet began, "may be considered as a combination of a Hindu temple, a Christian church, a Mohammedan mosque, a Hindu math or monastery, and an American residence." Then it goes on to explain the symbolism built into the temple.

About this temple Trigunatitananda had said, Believe me, believe me, if there is last tinge of selfishness in building this temple, it will fall, but if it is the Master's work, it will stand.[2]:182 It survived unscathed the major 1906 San Francisco earthquake. Soon after this a monastery was set up with about ten monks, and a convent. In 1909 the Swami started a monthly magazine called the Voice of Freedom, which was produced for seven years, based on the ideals of Vedanta.

Every year the Swami led a selected group of students to Shanti Ashrama, in the San Antone valley in California, a spiritual retreat which was established by Turiyananda, his predecessor and a brother disciple. The inmates spent their time in meditation and prayer.
Last days
Trigunatita suffered from chronic rheumatism  disease, but continued his work. On 28 December 1914 he was holding a Sunday service when a bomb was thrown onto the pulpit by a former student. That student died and Trigunatita was fatally injured. On his way to the hospital he was only concerned about the student. A nurse who attended on him commented: "I have never seen such a calm, uncomplaining, and enduring patient in my life. He died on 10 January 1915. In 1916 his relics were installed on the top of the highest hill, Siddha Giri, the "Hill of Realization" at Shanti Ashram.
Quotes
  • Work hard. Discipline yourself. Build your character. Endure to the end. Realize your Self. And be free.
  • Keep on praying to God with your whole heart; if the need arises for you to have a Guru, God will send somebody for you who will be just the man you want.
  • People talk of finding out the proper kind of guru. But that is not a reasonable position in all cases. Whoeverthe guru may be, everything will progress nicely if the disciple is earnest and sincere.
  • People of all castes can be initiated by a good guru who has attained perfection. What caste can a true devotee or the perfect soul have? When the individual soul merges in God (like rivers in the sea), they can no more have any individuality. So how can there be then, the distinction of caste, as Brahmin, Shudra etc., belonging to the body and never to the soul?
Legacy
  • Trigunatitananda established the first Hindu Temple of the West in San Francisco.
  • He started the monthly Bengali magazine and publishing house Udbodhan which was later shifted to a new house by Swami Saradananda
  • He established the first nunnery in the West for Ramakrishna Order and Vedanta Society
  • Responding to Vivekananda's call for philanthropic activities he started relief operations in Dinajpur in 1897
  • He was one of the earliest and longest serving teachers of Vedanta philosophy in the West