Sri Ramakrishna and His Divine Play


By Swami Saradananda. Translated from the Bengali by Swami Chetanananda

This is the marvelous story of Sri Ramakrishna's life—the intimate details of how he realized God and how he taught his disciples to do the same. It is the authentic, factual, descriptive, interpretive, and comprehensive biography of Ramakrishna, the spiritual phenomenon of our age.

Hardback, 1,008 pages

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This is the marvelous story of Sri Ramakrishna’s life—the intimate details of how he realized God and how he taught his disciples to do the same. It is the authentic, factual, descriptive, interpretive, and comprehensive biography of Ramakrishna, the spiritual phenomenon of our age.

This source biography of Ramakrishna (1836-1886) is based on interviews with those who knew him. It is also an interpreted description of the entire range of Ramakrishna’s spiritual disciplines and experiences, explained as much as possible in terms of reason and common empirical experience, with reference to Hindu scriptures and spiritual traditions, western philosophy, Hindu psychology, and Western religious tradition. The setting is Northeast India from 1775 to 1886.

  • for experienced meditators this book offers delightful and profound answers to deeper questions about traveling the spiritual path.
  • for scholars this book offers the source biography for Ramakrishna’s life and teachings, as well as an authentic look into India’s spiritual history and its various religious and philosophical traditions.
  • for those simply interested in adventure, this book provides absorbing details of the journey through consciousness of one of the greatest spiritual figures of all time.


Sri Ramakrishna was one of the greatest of India’s spiritual adepts of recent times, actively embodying India’s profound tradition of plurality. By assimilating the sadhanas, customs and practices of different faiths into his own personal practice, he presented a powerful example of respect for other traditions, even while maintaining a deep fidelity to his own. His transparently pure and well-documented life remains a guide and inspiration to millions on their spiritual path. I am sure many readers will be grateful to Swami Chetanananda for his English translation of Swami Saradananda’s authoritative biography of Sri Ramakrishna from the original Bengali.

His Holiness the Dalai Lama

Detailed eyewitness accounts of spiritual geniuses—whose impact on history far surpasses that of kings and potentates—are second only to sacred scriptures in the place they occupy in the library of humanity. Now, at last, we have a splendid translation of the source biography from which all previous accounts of Sri Ramakrishna have drawn. Swami Chetanananda’s long-awaited translation of Sri Ramakrishna and His Divine Play is an epic event in the unfolding saga of world spirituality.

Huston Smith, author of The World’s Religions and Why Religion Matters

“That someone should live so fully, burn with divine love so ardently, and teach so profoundly is very rare indeed, but it is all the more unusual to have a detailed contemporary account of such a life…. This extraordinary literary work communicates a real sense of Ramakrishna, his life and times.”

Francis Clooney, S.J., Theology Department, Boston College

“The life and teachings of Ramakrishna, an itinerant mystic who espoused the essential truth of all religion, speak directly to the spiritual yearning of humanity… This new translation of Saradananda’s inimitable opus is a rare treasure, one that vividly re-creates the experience of being in the presence of an illumined being and reveals anew the implications of such illumination for the rest of us.”

Yoga Journal

“This new translation gives us the opportunity to read the life story of this remarkable holy man …magnificent.”

Library Journal

“…particularly timely in its testimony of the vitality of all religions and the need for a harmonious religious pluralism.”

Publishers Weekly


The Master’s mind ultimately developed unlimited love for God, devout faith, and dependence on the Creator of the universe as “the Goal, the Support, the Lord, the Witness, the Abode, the Refuge, and the Friend” (Gita 9:18). Because of this he established a loving relationship with the Divine Mother and felt Her presence always. Furthermore, he had proof that a true aspirant experiences God’s constant presence through childlike dependence on the mother. That blessed one always hears God’s sweet message and always travels fearlessly in this world protected by His powerful hands. Now the Master’s mind became fully accustomed to performing all actions, big or small, at the command or prompting of the Divine Mother.

One may ask: Why did the Master continue practicing sadhana even after attaining the constant presence of the Divine Mother, the Cause of the Universe? An aspirant practices meditation and austerities in order to realize God, but what is the need for sadhana if one looks upon Him as a close relative? Previously we answered this question from one point of view; now we shall address it in a different way. As we listened to the Master’s story of his sadhana, the same question arose in our minds. We did not hesitate to ask him about it. The Master said in reply: “One who lives near the sea sometimes has a desire to find out how many pearls are hidden in the ocean depths. Similarly, after realizing the Divine Mother and being constantly near Her, I thought that I should see Her multiple forms. If I had a desire to see Her in a particular way, I would importune Her with a longing heart. Then the gracious Mother would supply whatever was necessary to experience that form, make me practice that sadhana, and reveal Herself to me accordingly. Thus, I practiced sadhanas belonging to various paths.”

(From page 304, Vol. II, Ch.15, Subtitles 1(4)-2)

In Sri Ramakrishna’s life can be found a synthesis of four yogas: karma, jnana, bhakti, and raja. And the philosophies of the three main schools of Vedanta—dualism, qualified nondualism, and nondualism—were blended in his teachings. He lived his life at the cross roads where many religious sects of India met. He never spoke a harsh word against anyone’s faith. He was so all-embracing that members of every sect thought that he was one of them. His all-encompassing love and compassion transcended all sectarian narrowness and bigotry.

Truly, Sri Ramakrishna’s life is a bridge between the ancient and the modern, between the East and the West. Five of his monastic disciples came to the West carrying the universal message of Sri Ramakrishna and Vedanta. Swami Vivekananda, the Master’s foremost disciple, said: “This is the message of Sri Ramakrishna to the modern world: ‘Do not care for doctrines; do not care for dogmas, or sects, or churches, or temples. They count for little compared with the essence of existence in each man, which is spirituality; and the more this is developed in a man, the more powerful is he for good. Earn that first, acquire that, and criticize 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 realization.’”

(From Page 7, Translator’s Notes)