August 16 is celebrated as the day of Ramakrishna Paramahamsa’s mahasamadhi. In this story, Sadhguru tells us of Ramakrishna Paramahamsa’s enlightenment and his meeting with Totapuri, a great yogi.
Sadhguru: Ramakrishna Paramahamsa lived as a very intense devotee for most of his life. He was a devotee of Kali. For him, Kali was not a deity, Kali was a living reality. She danced in front of him, she ate from his own hands, she came when he called, and she left him dripping with ecstasy. This was real, it was actually happening. This was not a hallucination, he was actually feeding her. Ramakrishna’s consciousness was so crystallized that whatever form he wished became a reality for him. It is such a beautiful state for a human being to be in. But though Ramakrishna’s body, mind and emotion were dripping with ecstasy, his being was longing to go beyond this ecstasy. Somewhere there was an awareness that the ecstasy itself was a bondage.
One day, Ramakrishna was sitting on the banks of the Hoogli River when Totapuri – a very great and rare yogi, very few like that have ever happened – came that way. Totapuri saw that Ramakrishna was a man of such intensity with the possibility to go all the way and attain enlightenment. But the problem was, he was just stuck to his devotion.
Totapuri came to Ramakrishna and tried to convince him, “Why are you still so attached to your devotion? You have the potential to take the ultimate step.” But Ramakrishna said, “I want only Kali, that’s all.” He was like a child who wanted his mother. It is not possible to reason with that. It is a different state altogether. Ramakrishna was devoted to Kali and Kali was his only interest. When he was high on her, he would be bursting with ecstasy and dancing and singing. When he got a little low, when he lost contact, he would cry like a baby. This was the way he was. So whatever enlightenment Totapuri talked about, he was not interested in all that. In many ways Totapuri tried to instruct him, but Ramakrishna was unwilling. At the same time, he was willing to sit before Totapuri because Totapuri’s presence was such.
Totapuri saw that Ramakrishna was just going on like this. Then he said, “This is very simple. Right now you are empowering your emotion, you are empowering your body, you are empowering the chemistry within you. You are not empowering your awareness. You have the necessary energy but you just have to empower your awareness.”
Ramakrishna agreed and said, “Okay, I will empower my awareness and sit.”
But the moment he has a vision of Kali, he would again go into uncontrollable states of love and ecstasy. No matter how many times he sat down, the moment he saw Kali, he would just fly off.
So Totapuri said, “The next time Kali appears, you have to take a sword and cut her into pieces.”
Ramakrishna asked, “Where do I get the sword from?”
Totapuri replied, “From the same place you get Kali from. If you are able to create a whole Kali, why can’t you create a sword? You can do it. If you are able to create a goddess, why can’t you create a sword to cut her? Get ready.”
Ramakrishna sat. But the moment Kali came, he burst into ecstasy and forgot all about the sword and the awareness.
Then Totapuri told him, “You sit this time. The moment Kali comes…” and he picked up a piece of glass and said, “With this piece of glass, I am going to cut you where you are stuck. When I cut that place, you create the sword and cut Kali down.”
Again Ramakrishna sat and just when Ramakrishna was on the edge of ecstasy, when Kali appeared in his vision, Totapuri took the piece of glass and cut Ramakrishna really deep across his forehead.
At that moment, Ramakrishna created the sword and cut Kali down, becoming free from the Mother and the ecstasy of feeding off her. That is when he truly became a Paramahamsa, he became fully enlightened. Till then he was a lover, he was a devotee, he was a child to the Mother Goddess that he created.
Editor’s Note: Sadhguru explores the realm of the enlightened in "Encounter the Enlightened."