Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa: The Mystic of Bengal and His Profound & Wisdom-Filled Parables

Spread India's Glorious Cultural & Spiritual Heritage


Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, a revered saint and mystic from Bengal, India, holds a distinguished place in the spiritual tapestry of the 19th century. Born in 1836 in a small village near Kolkata, his profound teachings and simplistic lifestyle continue to inspire millions around the world. Sri Ramakrishna’s unique approach to spirituality, characterized by his use of parables and metaphors, made esoteric concepts accessible to all, regardless of their educational background or social standing.

Early Life and Spiritual Journey

From an early age, Ramakrishna exhibited an intense spiritual inclination, often finding solace and ecstasy in religious songs and stories. His devotion led him to the Dakshineswar Kali Temple, where he embarked on an intense spiritual quest that transcended religious boundaries. Ramakrishna practiced various paths of Hinduism and even explored other religions like Islam and Christianity, which underscored his belief in the universal truth of all faiths.

Teaching through Parables

One of the most compelling aspects of Sri Ramakrishna’s teaching method was his use of parables and metaphors. This approach was not just a stylistic choice but a profound pedagogical tool that bridged complex theological principles with everyday experiences. Through simple stories, he conveyed deep spiritual insights, making them understandable and relevant to people from all walks of life.

1. The Parable of the Elephant and the Blind Men

This well-known parable, often recounted by Ramakrishna, illustrates the nature of truth and the limitations of perception. In this story, a group of blind men touch an elephant to learn what it is like. Each one feels a different part and thus describes it differently. The parable beautifully encapsulates Ramakrishna’s teaching that spiritual truth is an integrated whole, and our understanding is often limited by our perspectives and experiences.

2. The Parable of the Salt Doll

Ramakrishna used this metaphor to explain the concept of total surrender in the pursuit of divine realization. He described a salt doll that went to measure the depth of the ocean but dissolved upon touching it, becoming one with the ocean. Through this, Ramakrishna conveyed that to truly understand God, one must dissolve their ego and individuality into the divine essence, losing themselves to find the ultimate truth.

3. The Parable of the Snake and the Holy Man

This story teaches the importance of practical wisdom in spiritual practices. A holy man advised a snake, notorious for its deadly venom, to stop harming others as part of its spiritual discipline. Taking the advice seriously, the snake refrained from biting, but was then mercilessly beaten by children. When the holy man learned about this, he said, “I told you not to bite, but I did not tell you not to hiss.” This teaches that non-violence does not mean allowing oneself to be harmed by others.

More Insightful Parables of Sri Ramakrishna

Sri Ramakrishna used a rich array of parables to convey spiritual truths. Here are more of his insightful parables, each encapsulating profound spiritual lessons:

1. The Parable of the Woodcutter

Ramakrishna told a story about a woodcutter who received advice from a holy man to go deeper into the forest to find better wood. Each time the woodcutter went deeper, he found better wood, eventually discovering sandalwood and then a silver mine, and finally a gold mine. This parable teaches the importance of delving deeper into spiritual practice. It’s a metaphor for not settling for superficial gains in spirituality and instead continually seeking a deeper, more profound connection with the divine.

2. The Parable of the Tidal Wave

This story involves a group of men who went to the sea to see the tides. When a large wave came, they all ran away except for one man who stood still and allowed the wave to engulf him. This man was carried away by the wave but was left unharmed, while the others remained fearful and never truly experienced the sea’s majesty. Ramakrishna used this parable to explain surrender to God’s will, illustrating how embracing divine will without resistance can lead to liberation and joy, even if it seems daunting.

3. The Parable of the Sannyasi and the Scorpion

In this parable, a monk repeatedly tries to save a scorpion that keeps stinging him each time he tries to rescue it from the water. A passerby asks the monk why he continues to help the scorpion despite the pain. The monk replies, “It is the scorpion’s nature to sting, but it is my nature to help.” Ramakrishna used this story to emphasize the importance of living according to one’s true nature of compassion and kindness, irrespective of how others might respond.

4. The Parable of the Frog in the Well

A frog who lived in a well was visited by a frog from the ocean. When the ocean frog told of the vastness of the ocean, the well frog could not believe it, thinking the ocean could only be a little larger than his well. This story was used by Ramakrishna to criticize narrow-mindedness and to encourage openness to broader perspectives and deeper truths, suggesting that one’s limited experience can severely restrict their understanding of the vastness of reality.

5. The Parable of the Brahmin and the Cobra

A Brahmin was about to sacrifice a goat when a cobra, worshipped as a holy animal, whispered into the Brahmin’s ear that he would incur sin from the sacrifice. The Brahmin argued that it was his duty according to scripture. The cobra responded that if the Brahmin was blindly following scripture, he (the cobra) should start eating rats, which was against his nature. Ramakrishna used this story to illustrate the importance of discernment and right action, rather than blindly following religious rituals or texts.

Additional Parables of Sri Ramakrishna

Sri Ramakrishna shared many other parables, each with its unique lesson and insight into human nature and spiritual truth. Here are a few more to enrich the collection:

6. The Parable of the Farmer and the King

A farmer once toiled over a piece of land day in and day out. One day, the king rode by and promised the farmer that the amount of land he could cover on foot from sunrise to sunset would be his. Overcome by greed, the farmer tried to cover as much ground as possible without resting. By sunset, he had exhausted himself to death and could not enjoy any of the land. Ramakrishna used this parable to caution against greed and the endless pursuit of worldly gains, emphasizing the importance of contentment and moderation.

7. The Parable of the Returning Pilgrim

A man went on a pilgrimage, and upon returning, everyone gathered to hear of his spiritual insights. However, he only spoke of the difficulties of the roads, the quality of the food, and other mundane details, missing any spiritual significance. Ramakrishna used this story to highlight how people can go through life, or even seek spiritual experiences, without truly grasping their deeper meaning, absorbed instead by life’s superficialities.

8. The Parable of the Holy Man and the Ghosts

A holy man entered a village where he heard that a tree was haunted by ghosts. Intrigued, he decided to spend the night under the tree. As the ghosts approached, he looked at them and saw divine forms. The ghosts were transformed by his perception. This parable was used by Ramakrishna to teach that the world is a reflection of one’s own thoughts and beliefs; if one sees the world with purity, the world appears pure.

9. The Parable of the Pots on the Stove

In this story, Ramakrishna describes pots boiling on a stove, each pot with its lid shaking at different rates due to the intensity of the boil inside. He used this metaphor for people’s minds in meditation. Some minds are calm like lightly simmering pots, while others are tumultuous and restless like vigorously boiling ones. The lesson here is about the variance in human concentration and the need for understanding one’s own pace and method in spiritual practice.

10. The Parable of the Feast Invitation

A man sent out invitations for a feast by telling his servant to invite anyone he met. The servant took this literally and brought in everyone he found, including a lunatic, a blind man, and a cripple. When the guests arrived, they couldn’t appreciate the feast due to their ailments. Ramakrishna used this story to illustrate that spiritual teachings are not equally accessible or understandable to everyone and that readiness and suitability are crucial for spiritual lessons to be absorbed and appreciated effectively.

These additional stories further demonstrate Sri Ramakrishna’s masterful use of parables to teach spiritual and moral lessons, making them relatable and impactful to his diverse audience.

Impact and Legacy

Sri Ramakrishna’s teachings transcended the boundaries of religion and offered a universal approach to spirituality. His discourses, full of rich metaphors and everyday relevancy, attracted intellectuals, scholars, and common folk alike. His most famous disciple, Swami Vivekananda, played a pivotal role in spreading his guru’s teachings across India and the world, emphasizing the harmony of religions and the importance of personal experience in spiritual growth.

Today, Ramakrishna’s teachings continue to be a source of inspiration and spiritual guidance for many. His life and works are a testament to the power of inclusive spirituality and the profound impact of using simple, relatable teaching methods to convey complex spiritual truths.

In an age where spirituality often seems disconnected from daily life, the teachings of Sri Ramakrishna remind us of the beauty of simplicity and the depth that lies within it. His parables, a blend of profound truth and simplicity, continue to guide individuals towards a more compassionate and understanding approach to diverse spiritual paths.


These parables reflect Ramakrishna’s skillful use of simple stories to convey deep spiritual teachings. They demonstrate his unique approach to teaching through relatable, everyday analogies that make profound spiritual concepts accessible to people of all backgrounds. His parables continue to inspire and instruct, offering timeless wisdom on compassion, duty, perseverance, and the pursuit of spiritual depth.

Spread India's Glorious Cultural & Spiritual Heritage

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