Sri Ramakrishna in Today’s Violent World by Ramakrishna Math, Sri Ramakrishna Math Chennai, India, 2009; 208 pages, ISBN 8178235056 , paperback $7.00.
This book is comprised of nineteen articles, varying in length and topic, originally published in the December 2004 Special Issue of the Vedanta Kesari magazine. Ramakrishna had so much to offer his devotees when he lived in mid-nineteenth century India. And as this book shows, his message is still relevant, and given the violence, hatred and fear of today, it is high time that we revisit his teachings and become conversant with them. There are so many gems to be found in this publication. For example, a reference to the Isha Upanishad (verse 6-7) teaches that peace and understanding is born by seeing the Reality of Oneness of creation instead of a separateness based on a person’s caste, creed, etc. We learn how it is that religion was developed to unify the world, but our distrust causes us to grab at each other’s throats and take on a ‘holier than thou’ attitude (p. 19). Further, we learn that Sri Ramakrishna saw all religions from the point of view of Oneness, but that he did not overlook the uniqueness that each has to offer (p. 93). Each article addresses different topics yet as you read through the book, you find that the arrangement takes you from one level to another. There are practical lessons on dealing with anger and hatred, violence among youth, and teachers’ role in imparting education for love. Swami Vivekananda’s words sum up the beauty of Sri Ramakrishna’s message to the modern world: “Do not care for the doctrines, do not care for the dogmas, or sects, or churches or temples; they count for little compared with the essence of existence in each man, which is spirituality; and more that is developed in a man, the more powerful is he for good. Earn that first, acquire that, and criticise no one, for all doctrines and creeds have some good in them. Show by your lives that religion does not mean words, or names, or sects, but that it means spiritual realisation. Only those can understand who have felt. Only those that have attained to spirituality can communicate it to others, can be teachers of mankind. They alone are the power of light.” – Heathclyff St.James Deville