As a young seeker Narendranath was very curious not just to know about God, but also to see him. With this keen interest he went to many great saints whether they could help him see God. But to his dismay none could give him the answer which he expected. Disappointed and desperate the young man one day, along with his friends, went to meet Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, a somewhat eccentric priest of the Kali temple at Dakshineswar in Calcutta. At the first opportunity Narendranath asked him the same question - "Sir, have you seen God?"
But Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, unlike the erudite saints whom Narendranath met before, replied in rural dialect without mincing words - "Yes, I have seen God. I have seen Him more tangibly than I see you. I have talked with him more intimately than I am talking to you. But my child, who wants to see God! People shed jugs of tears for money, wife and children. But if they weep for God for only one day they would surely see Him."
Narendranath was astounded. For the first time, he was face to face with a man who asserted that he had seen God. For the first time, in fact, he was hearing that God could be seen. He could feel that Ramakrishna's words were uttered from the depths of an inner experience. But on encountering Ramakrishna, Narendranath’s skeptical mind could not understand Ramakrishna’s ecstatic devotion to goddess Kali. He viewed Ramakrishna’s ecstasies and visions as mere imagination and hallucinations. He placed many questions and arguments before Ramakrishna, who patiently prodded him to “try to see the truth from all angles”. He intuitively knew that here was a genuine man to whom God was a living reality and not at all a philosophical concept or an intellectual pastime. It was under the tutelage of Sri Ramakrishna that Narendra Nath Dutta evolved into a full-blossomed spiritual soul, later to be known as Swami Vivekananda.
The spiritual initiation given by Ramakrishna Paramahamsa evolved Swami Vivekananda as an Advaitic, who can see the existence of God in the things that exist. From his guru Ramakrishna, Vivekananda learnt that all living beings were an embodiment of the Divine; therefore, service to God could be rendered by serving mankind.
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