The Gospel of Sri
Ramakrishna according to Ram Chandra Datta
Life of Ram Chandra Datta
Chandra Datta, a householder disciple of the Master, was one
of the recorders of Ramakrishna’s gospel. Ram was born in
Calcutta on 30 October 1851. From his boyhood Ram was very
bold and straightforward in his convictions, and no one could
persuade him to act contrary to them. He studied at the General
Assembly’s Institution and later was admitted to the Campbell
Medical School in Calcutta. Sometime after his graduation
he was appointed as an assistant to the Government Quinine
was deeply interested in science and studied chemistry under
his English supervisor with great diligence. Having learned
this subject thoroughly, Ram extracted from an indigenous
medicinal plant an antidote for blood dysentery. This drug
was approved by the government and was recommended by leading
doctors. As a result, Ram’s fame spread and he was appointed
a member of the Chemist Association of England. He was also
promoted to the post of Government Chemical Examiner and was
asked to teach the military students at the Calcutta Medical
great enthusiasm for science and modern knowledge made him
an inspiring lecturer, but it also made him an atheist. In
his own words: ‘In those days we did not believe in God. We
considered that everything happens, changes, or dissolves
by the force of nature. We were rank materialists, and we
held the view that eating, sleeping, and creature comforts
were the summum bonum of life.’ (1) Ram was fond of debating
with others about God and religion and found great satisfaction
in defeating his opponents. This ardour for atheism lasted
death of his young daughter was a terrible shock to Ram, and
a great change came over his life. On the evening of Kali
Puja, sometime after his daughter’s death, he went up to the
roof of his house and observed the houses of Calcutta glittering
with lights. Above, the dark, clear sky was studded with twinkling
stars. His grief-stricken heart seemed to be searching for
something meaningful in that panorama of nature. All of a
sudden he noticed some clouds passing overhead, driven by
the wind. They quickly disappeared. Ram asked himself: ‘Where
do they come from and where do they go? Does God exist? If
so, can He be seen?’ (80).
started to visit different religious leaders of the Brahmo,
Christian, and Hindu faiths, but no one could answer his questions
about God and religion. During this time Ram’s family guru
came to his house and wanted to initiate him. Ram was forthright.
He said: ‘Sir, I don’t believe in God. I have terrible doubts
about His existence. Can you tell me the way to realize God?’
The guru kept quiet. He did not know what to say.
became more and more determined to have his doubts removed
and to satisfy his hunger for God. He studied many religious
books but could find no satisfactory answers to his questions.
At last he came to know about Ramakrishna from the writings
of Keshab Chandra Sen, a Brahmo leader of Calcutta.
13 November 1879, Ram went to Dakshineswar with Gopal Chandra
Mitra and a cousin, Manomohan Mitra. As soon as they reached
the Dakshineswar temple garden, they enquired about Ramakrishna
and were directed to his room. But when they reached it they
found the door shut, and their Western education made them
hesitate to call out or knock. Just then Ramakrishna opened
the door himself and asked them to come in. Ram noticed that
Ramakrishna did not look like the traditional ochre-clad monk
with matted hair and ash-smeared body. On the contrary, the
Master was the embodiment of simplicity.
saluted them, addressing them as Narayana, and asked them
to sit down. Then he smiled at Ram and said: ‘Hello, are you
not a doctor? [Pointing to Hriday] He is suffering
from fever. Could you check his pulse?’ Ram was astonished
that Ramakrishna knew he was a doctor.
the very beginning Ramakrishna made Ram his own and would
often inquire about his personal life and mental conflicts.
Ram was greatly attracted to the Master and started visiting
him every Sunday, returning home in the evening. Soon Ram
felt bold enough to ask the questions that had been haunting
‘Does God exist? How can one see God?’
‘God really exists. You do not see any stars during the
day, but that does not mean that the stars do not exist.
There is butter in milk, but can anyone know it merely by
sight? In order to get the butter you must churn the milk
in a cool place before sunrise. If you want to catch fish
in a pond, you have to learn the art of fishing from those
who know it, and then you must sit patiently with a fishing
rod, throwing the line into the water. Gradually the fish
will grab your bait. Then, as soon as the float sinks, you
can pull the fish to the shore. Similarly, you cannot realize
God by a mere wish. Have faith in the instructions of a
holy man. Make your mind like a fishing rod and your prana,
or life-force, like a hook. Your devotion and japa are like
the bait. Eventually you will be blessed by the vision of
had recently been connected with the Brahmo Samaj, whose members
did not believe in a God with form, so he was wondering how
one could see a formless God. The Master read his mind and
said: ‘Yes, God can be seen. Can God, whose creation is so
beautiful and enchanting, be imperceptible?’
‘Is it possible to realize God in this life?’
‘You get what you desire. Faith alone is the key to success.
… The more you advance in one direction, the more you leave
behind the opposite direction. If you move ten steps towards
the east, you move ten steps away from the west.’
‘But one must have tangible proof. Unless we have direct experience
of God, how can our weak and doubting minds have faith in
‘A typhoid patient in a delirious state clamours to take
gallons of water and heaps of rice. But the physician pays
no heed to these entreaties, nor does he prescribe medicine
at the patient’s dictation. He knows what he is doing’ (81-2).
was very moved; he was impressed by Ramakrishna’s simple,
convincing answers. He became so intoxicated listening to
these divine discourses that he was reluctant to return home.
Whenever he visited the Master, he would forget all about
the world, his family, and his duties.
the days went by, Ram saw more and more of Ramakrishna’s extraordinary
spiritual powers, and his scepticism was replaced by faith.
often the devotees of Ramakrishna would arrange festivals
in their homes and would invite the Master and other devotees
to attend. At these gatherings the Master would talk about
God and sing and dance in ecstasy, filling the whole house
with an intense atmosphere of spirituality. The host generally
bore all the expenses of the feast, including paying the Master’s
carriage fare and sometimes hiring a musician. Now, Ram was
known for his miserliness, and when he started to calculate
the expenses involved in hosting such a festival, he hesitated.
But when Ramakrishna set a date to visit his home, Ram had
a change of heart and gladly began to make the necessary preparations.
Saturday, 2 June 1883, the full moon day of the Bengali month
of Vaishakh, Ramakrishna went to Ram’s house. Ram felt so
blessed on this occasion that afterwards he would arrange
a festival every year to celebrate that auspicious day. After
this, Ram invited the Master to his house many times and became
so expert in festival management that other devotees would
consult him before inviting the Master to their homes.
true disciple carries out his teacher’s instructions to the
letter, proving thereby his love for the teacher. The Master
had said, ‘Those who serve the devotees, serve me.’ Ram strictly
observed this commandment of the Master, serving the followers
of Ramakrishna with great devotion until the end of his life.
He used to say, ‘He who calls on Ramakrishna is my nearest
relative.’ His wife, Krishnapreyasi, was also very devout,
and she cheerfully helped her husband in his spiritual path.
Ram, furthermore, had heard the Master cautioning the devotees
about money: ‘Just as water under a bridge is constantly flowing
and as a result it never becomes stagnant and foul, so also
the money earned by a real devotee should be spent for a noble
cause rather than be accumulated. The desire for accumulation
breeds the poison of attachment’ (86). Ram, therefore, did
not save his earnings, but spent money freely for the good
of others - especially for the poor, the needy, and the afflicted.
He helped many students financially, even to the extent of
providing free board and lodging in his own home. But Ram’s
main interest was in arranging kirtan every evening in his
home and feeding the thirty or so participants.
life is not always smooth. Ram and the other devotees would
be absorbed in their singing until the late hours of the night,
and this naturally caused much disturbance. Soon Ram’s neighbours
began to complain. He then decided to buy a secluded garden
house where he could hold kirtans and practise spiritual disciplines.
When he informed the Master of his intention, Ramakrishna
advised, ‘Buy such a solitary garden house that if a hundred
murders were committed there no one would know it’ (ibid.).
Accordingly, in the middle of 1883 Ram purchased a garden
house at Kankurgachhi, a suburb just east of Calcutta.
a few months the Master said to Ram: ‘How is it that you have
not yet taken me to the new garden you have purchased for
holding kirtan? Let us go one day to your garden to see what
it is like’ (ibid.). Ram was exuberant. Immediately he arranged
everything for the Master’s visit. On 26 December 1883 the
Master visited Ram’s garden house (Yogodyan). That visit is
recorded in M’s Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna.
September 1885 Ramakrishna moved to Shyampukur, in the northern
section of Calcutta, for his cancer treatment. Ram took an
active part in the arrangements that were made for the Master’s
care. The stuffy and polluted atmosphere of Calcutta aggravated
Ramakrishna’s illness. In accordance with his doctor’s advice,
the devotees moved him to a garden house in Cossipore, a suburb
north of Calcutta. Ram, as usual, took the managerial role
there, and he also contributed money towards the Master’s
living expenses according to his means.
1 January 1886, Ramakrishna went into an extraordinary spiritual
mood and blessed many devotees, saying, ‘Be illumined.’ Ram
was one of those present on that occasion. Later he celebrated
that day every year as ‘Kalpataru Day’ (Wish-fulfilling Day)
at his garden house.
17 January 1899, at 10:45 p.m., Ram breathed his last. His
body was cremated on the bank of the Ganges and the relics
were placed next to Ramakrishna’s temple at Yogodyan. Before
he passed away he told his disciples: ‘When I die please bury
a little of the ashes of my body at the entrance to Yogodyan.
Whoever enters this place will walk over my head, and thus
I shall get the touch of the Master’s devotees’ feet forever.’
1885 when the Master heard that Ram was writing something
about him, he cautioned Ram, saying: ‘Do not publish my biography
now. If you do, my body will not last long.’ Ram honoured
this request. But in July 1890, four years after the Master’s
passing away, he wrote the first biography of Ramakrishna:
Sri Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsadever Jivanvrittanta.
the introduction to the biography Ram wrote:
I have written in this book about Paramahamsadeva is based
on some incidents I have witnessed myself, some I have heard
directly from the Master, and some on information sent by
Hridayram Mukhopadhyay, the Master’s nephew. I verified
some incidents of the Master’s early life supplied by Hriday
through Manomohan Mitra, who went to Kamarpukur and compared
them with the statements of the local people. (2)
had a keen desire to write a chronological biography of
Paramahamsadeva, but failed because only the Master knew
what he had done and none else. Even Hriday did not know
everything about him although he constantly lived with him.
I asked questions of the elderly people of Dakshineswar,
but they also could not give any information about the Master.
When the Master talked, he did not say anything about the
date, month, or year. He only told us the chronology of
his practising sadhana that we have recorded accordingly
biography of Ramakrishna is 240 pages long, with twenty-two
chapters and an appendix. He describes the Master’s birth
and early life, his coming to Calcutta and accepting the post
of priest at the Kali temple of Dakshineswar, his vision of
Kali, his various sadhanas, his marriage, his practising Christianity
and Islam, his pilgrimage, his meeting with the great people
of India, the coming of his devotees, the training of his
disciples, and his passing away. Although this biography has
tremendous historical value, it seems that Ram wrote and interpreted
it according to his understanding.
was so moved by the teachings of Ramakrishna that he would
go to Dakshineswar with paper and pencil to write down the
Master’s immortal words. Seeing him taking notes, the Master
said to Ram: ‘Why are you writing all these things? You will
see, later your mind will be your guru.’ However, in May 1885
Ram compiled some of Ramakrishna’s important teachings that
he had noted down and brought them out in a Bengali book entitled
Tattwasara. A few of the devotees objected to this
and they reported it to the Master. Ramakrishna called Ram
aside one day and said: ‘Look here, some devotees informed
me that you were publishing a book. What have you written?’
Ram replied that he had collected some of his teachings and
put them together in a book. Ram then read some of it to the
Master, who said: ‘Oh, you have written those teachings? Very
good. Listen, if you think that you have written them you
will get very little response from others; but if you think
that the Lord is working through you then it will be in great
wrote in the introduction to his version of the Master’s gospel:
goal of Tattwasara is to spread the teachings of
a holy man. It would be nice if a wise pandit would take
over this task, but I am sorry to say that no one came forward.
However, I have given a start and I believe that henceforth
some competent people will write many books based on the
teachings of Paramahamsadeva like Tattwasara and spread
many profound truths of the spiritual realm.
I should say that it is extremely difficult to express fully
the words and ideas of the Master. For that reason, I suggest
that those who want to attain true knowledge should go to
Paramahamsadeva at the Kali temple of Dakshineswar. Once
in an ecstatic mood the Master said: ‘Those who come here
with simple faith for pure knowledge and God realization,
their desires will certainly be fulfilled.’ (4)
are six chapters in Tattwasara: God; The Nature of
God, with Form and without Form; Brahman and Shakti; Methods
of Sadhana; How to Attain God; and Necessity of Practising
Sadhana. Ram included his own commentaries on Ramakrishna’s
teachings in this book.
or Teachings of Ramakrishna Paramahamsa
1886 Ram collected more of the Master’s teachings, which he
published in three volumes in 1886 and 1887 under the title
Tattwa-prakashika, or Teachings of Ramakrishna Paramahamsa.
This 460-page book includes 300 teachings. It should be noted
that the gospel Ram recorded is different from other gospels.
He wrote commentaries on the Master’s teachings according
to his knowledge and comprehension, and elaborated them based
on science, philosophy, folklore, and scripture.
wrote in the preface to this book:
gems of my heart are now published in the form of Tattwaprakashika
for bringing happiness to humanity. The gems I received
from the Master are undecaying and infinite. No thieves
or robbers can steal them. None can have them until I offer
them willingly. Previously I published some of these gems
[in Tattwasara], and many people were eager to have more,
so I have published this book in an enlarged form.
rainwater falls from above and takes form according to the
container, so the Master’s teachings have been understood
by people according to their capacity. I interpreted his
teachings according to my knowledge. Some people think that
material science, mental science, and spiritual science
are contradictory; but the Master’s teachings harmonize
all three sciences. (5)
the gospel according to Girish Chandra Sen, the teachings
of Ramakrishna in these books are recorded in Ram’s own language.
In the Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna, however, M tried
to preserve the Master’s language in his record. In Tattwa-prakashika
Ram included 300 of the Master’s teachings, with his own interpretations,
in ten chapters: God; Difference between Brahman and Shakti;
Nature of God, with Form and Formless; Maya; Place for Sadhana;
Methods of Sadhana; Guru; God realization; Who is a True Spiritual
Aspirant? and General Teachings: to the Monks and the Householders.
is noteworthy that Ram was the first person to publish a biography
of Ramakrishna, the first to build a temple for the worship
of the Master’s relics, and the first to preach publicly that
Ramakrishna was an avatara. His burning faith, devotion, renunciation,
erudition, and his power to convince people made him an ideal
evangelist. And more important, he had the blessings of his
1893 to 1897, Ram gave eighteen lectures on Ramakrishna’s
life and teachings at the Star, City, and Minerva theatres.
These lectures created a sensation in Calcutta. At first some
of Ramakrishna’s devotees objected to these lectures, but
Ram would not listen to them. He gave his first lecture on
Good Friday in 1893, entitled ‘Is Ramakrishna Paramahamsa
an Avatara?’ Ram substantiated his belief that Ramakrishna
was an avatara through scriptural quotations, reasoning, empirical
evidence, and incidents from his own personal experience.
Ram’s writings and lectures about Ramakrishna are written
in Bengali and have not been translated.
Swami Chetanananda, They Lived with God (Calcutta:
Advaita Ashrama, 1991), 79-80.
Ram Chandra Datta, Sri Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsadever
Jivan-vrittanta (Calcutta: Yogodyan, 1950), iii.
They Lived with God, 89.
Ram Chandra Datta, Tattwasara, ed. Apurva Kumar Mukhopadhyay
(Calcutta: Shashadhar Prakashani, 1983), i-ii.
Ram Chandra Datta, Tattwa-prakashika (Calcutta: Yogodyan,