Posted by: Rajesh Shukla | July 23, 2010

Ramkrishna and His Madness

Ramakrishna in trance supported by his nephew Hriday and surrounded by Brahmo devotees.

*After reading many kinds of madness that exists in western philosophy and literature, I was thinking about this madman Ramkrishna.  In it there is no doubt that madness has always been exercised, its not something that is  given; you have to earn it.   Though in many scriptures it is said that one earns this madness through his past karma , yet despite this, madness  is earned through spiritual practice. Narada speaks of earning of madness of love – love is to be earned.  Bhakti  is  a systematic ritual of earning  love and madness.

What characterizes madness is thus not simply blindness, but a blindness blind to itself, to the point of necessarily entailing an illusion of reason. But if this is the case, how can we know where reason stops and madness begins, since both involve the pursuit of some form of reason? If madness as such is defined as an act of faith in reason, no reasonable conviction can indeed be exempted from suspicion of madness. Reason and madness are thereby inextricably linked, madness is essentially a phenomenon of thought, of thought which claims to denounce, in another’s thought, the Other of thought: that which thought is not. Madness can only occur within the world of conflict of thoughts.

But there are some cases in which  madness is an entirely different phenomena. Madness is not necessarily conflict of thought. Chaitanya who was one of the best logician of his time , a Nayaya logician per excellence threw his newly written book on logic in Ganges and madly runs towards his Lord crying ha, Krishna, ha krishna; and never returned to the barren thought and reasoning. Ramkrishna Paramhansa went mad in his very childhood when he saw the swans in the sky in the one rainy evening and his madness grew day by day. He would transcend all the limits of reasoning and thinking , he would loss his consciousness in trance in which there would be no possibility of thinking at all. Vedanta Guru who was able to transcend the limits of reason in his meditation called nirvitraka, when saw him, he could not understand the reason of his nirvitark samadhi that would easily culminate in the complete loss of consciousness. In this case there is no self -reflection unlike Vedanta Gurus or Philosopher would do ; as who reflects on what ? The ‘who’ has already given to the ultimate inhibitor.

Two categories of western philosophical and literary concepts of madness i.e. madness inside thought and thought inside madness; is completely non-existent here in the both cases. Madness is no rely on thought here but on faith and this awareness that ‘I am given to Him’ and now only goal is of His ultimate embrace and acceptance that completes the madness and ultimate silence prevails. When madness is complete there is silence as Upanishads says ‘उपशान्तोयमात्मा’. “When Mother accepts you, you become like a bee; silently drinking her indescribable beauty full of Rasa” Ramkrishna would say.

–Rajesh Shukla


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