“A man sitting under the shade of the Kalpa-vriksha (wishing-tree) wished to be a king, and in an instant he was a king. The next moment he wished to have a charming damsel, and the damsel was instantly by his side. The man then thought within himself, if a tiger came and devoured him, and alas! in an instant he was in the jaws of a tiger! God is like that wishing-tree: whosoever in His presence thinks that he is destitute and poor, remains as such, but he who thinks and believes that the Lord fulfils all his wants, receives everything from Him.”
-Gadadhar Chatterji (Sri Ramakrishna)
This saying encapsulates the main doctrinal point of the Law of Attraction, of “like attracts like.” and comes from ascetic visionary Sri Ramakrisna living in through the mid 19th century, one of the most revered saints of Hinduism.
Gadadhar Chatterji was born to poor Brahmin parents in 1836 in the West Bengal province of India. Although Gadadhar was illiterate and unschooled, he was an extrermely devout young man whose obsessive and mystical fervor in his worship of Kali enabled him to attain sustained states of blissful awareness of God. His mystical states and odd behavior were so extreme, it led some to believe he was mad. But others were impressed by the young man’s devotion, grace and the content of his spiritual wisdom he imparted to others.
Gadadhar left home as a young man to the Kali temple at Dakshinewsar, a small village located on the outskirts of Calcutta, to assist his older brother, Ramkumar, who was the temple’s head priest, but who died in 1855. Gadadhar took over his brother’s role as head priest, but was dismissed over his bizzare behavior brought on by his intense ecstatic visions and trances. Gadadhar was permitted to live in a modest apartment on the temple grounds, and over a period of time began to draw an ever-increasing crowd of spiritual seekers and intellectuals enamored by the ascetic’s profound yet simple wisdom – and maybe catch a glimpse of his erratic behavior – like washing an outcaste’s hovel with his hair, effefctively renouncing his Brahmin heritage and committing other taboos related to common spiritual practice in an attempt to show that caste and creed were meaningless to him.
After a meeting with a wandering monk, Gadadhar, now going by the name, “Ramakrishna” was initiated into Advaita Vedanta and the found himself drifting into and out of mystical, blissful states of God-consciousness – the Nirvikalpa Samadhi, the highest of all spiritual experiences – for the rest of his life. With his interest in Sufism, Islam and Christianity came more Samadhi states, where Ramakrishna experienced visions of Jesus, Mother Mary and Mohammed. The result of these visions were Ramakrishna‘s teaching that all religions are paths to the divine were available. Doctrines, dogmas and sects were irrelevant.
A group of young men attracted themselves to the spiritual teachings of Ramakrishna, came to the Kali Temple to become his disciples. Ramakrishna selected one to be the leader of his disciples, a young man named Narendra Nath Datta who was destined to take his Guru’s spiritual message to the West.
“Take up one idea! Make that idea your life. Think of it. Dream of it, live on that idea. Let the brain, muscles, nerves every part of your body be full of that idea and just leave every other idea alone. This is the way to success.” -Narendra Nath Datta (Swami Vivekananda)
Narendra Nath Datta was born into an upper class Brahmin family in Calcutta, and received a Western – styled education. Narendra possessed a disdain for superstition and idol worship, but also yearned for spiritual enlightenment and to “See God.” He eventually found what he was looking for after meeting Ramakrishna and becoming his chief disciple, immersing himself in his Master’s spiritual teaching and states of Samadhi.
After Ramakrishna’s death, Narendra and the remaining disciples formed the Monastic Order of Ramakrishna, which was set up to support the poor and needy. Narendra was now given the name: “Swami Vivekananda” and he renounced the world, walking up and down India visiting holy sites and preaching that the highest way to serve God was to serve humanity.
Because of his talented oratorical skill, Vivekananda was chosen to represent Hinduism at the World Parliament of Religion, which was to be held in Chicago in 1893. His speech was tremendously well – received, and the Swami stayed in America for several years lecturing about Indian culture, Yoga and his interpretation of Advaita Vedanta while visiting many cities, before returning to India where he devoted his life to the public service and liberating India from capitalism and British imperialism.
Vivekananda saw that India’s decay and degeneration of the former ancient glory of Vedic culture could not be blamed solely on the British. The deliberate negligence of India’s impoverished people would never be corrected through politics, but only through education and compassion.
While Swami Vivekananda has gone down in history as one of India’s finest freedom fighters, it must be added that Swami Vivekananda followed in the spirit of Ramakrishna‘s statement of, “Whatever you will think, that you will be.” Which is again, the formula of “Like attracts like.”
What Ramakrishna and Vivekananda both imparted to the world was a crucial tenet that would wind its way through the eddies and streams of spirituality and re-emerge into the Human Potential Movement, which was the notion that one is always diminished or exalted by the level of positivity within one’s own mind. Thanks to Vivekananda, these ideas now took firm root within the varieties of spirituality in America and England. The Hindu concept of “Karma,” where “good conduct” brings a favorable future life was now drifting to West, as a mental revolution of how Positive Thinking could give one that “favorable future life” right now. The mind within the human being was now becoming more and more identified as God Itself.
Ramakrishna, His Life and Sayings, by Max Müller *Encyclopedia of the Occultism and Parapsychology,
Swami Vivekananda, edited by L.A. Shepard, Gate Books, 1974
*Meetings with Ramakrishna. Hixon, Lee. Great Swan: Boston: Shambhala, 1992.
Swami Vivekananda in India: a corrective biography, by Rajagopal Chattopadhyaya, MotilalBamarsidass Publ. 1992
Pathways to Joy: The Master Vivekananda on the Four Yoga Paths to God, By Swami Vivekananda, Dave DeLuca
Vivekananda – Biography, Principles and philosophy, Interaction with notable contemporaries, Miscellaneous,