Every religious tradition offers the world a unique and particular gift, without which humankind would be infinitely poorer. The Hindu tradition's unique gift to the human family is the concept of the Atman, the ultimate Reality which lies at the core of our being. While the religious traditions of the West categorize human beings in terms of a body/mind dichotomy, the Hindu traditions see all living beings as trichotomous—that is, possessing three aspects—body, mind and Atman. The Atman, the ultimate divine Reality which lies within us, is one with Brahman, the infinite divine Reality which pervades the universe.
In the past three readings, three aspects of the personality of Sri Ramakrishna have been mentioned—namely, the ideal person, the world teacher and the deity—and it was pointed out that his status as the ideal person of the present age lay in his being the embodiment of the vijnani and rishi ideals. Before proceeding further, it is necessary to state the view of his chief apostle Swami Vivekananda on this matter.
Sri Ramakrishna was not a mere ideal man or a world teacher, but was a unique being endowed with the supra-human attributes of the Divine Person. Even during his lifetime he had become an object of worship, and several great scholars, spiritual adepts and religious leaders had considered him an avatar. Today he is being worshipped by millions of people belonging to all strata of society, casts, creeds and nationalities.
What are the marks of a fully illumined soul? According to Sri Ramakrishna these are three: renunciation, knowledge, and compassion. The relevance of the vijnani ideal in the present-day world can by appreciated only when we understand how important these three values are to the modern man’s life.
Greatness is of two types: contemporary and eternal. An ordinary person who has attained greatness in any field like social service, religion, art or science, can influence the lives of a few thousand people but only for a short period, for his influence does not usually survive his death. But world prophets like Krishna, Buddha, Jesus and Muhammad influence the lives of millions of people for centuries. Their influence is not limited by time. Nay, it undergoes a process of time enlargement: with the passage of centuries the glory of these prophets, instead of decreasing goes on increasing.