Sri Ramakrishna, a mystic saint, was born at Kamarpukur, a village in the Hooghly District of West Bengal. He was an extraordinary spiritual aspirant. In his quest for God or Truth, he performed intense sadhana and reached unprecedented heights of spiritual realization, so much so that even during his lifetime he was being hailed as an incarnation of God. He is one of the greatest prophets of harmony of religions. Of course this is not a new idea to Hinduism. Our ancient scriptures have declared thousands of years ago that ‘Truth is one, the sages call it variously’ (Ekam sat viprah bahudha vadanti). The same idea was explained by Sri Ramakrishna using a beautiful analogy. He said that people drawing water from the same source, i.e., a pond, call it differently. The Hindus use one ghat for drawing water and they call it ‘jal’; the Muslims use another ghat of the same pond and call the same water as ‘pani’; and the Christians use another ghat of the pond for drawing water and they call the same substance as ‘aqua’ or ‘water’. Actually the substance is one and the same, i.e., water, but the people call it differently according to their culture, tradition etc. Sri Ramakrishna also declared: ‘As many faiths, so many paths’, i.e., yato math tato path. His message of harmony of religions was not a mere theory. It was not an amalgamation or collation of teachings from different religions. His message was based on his own personal experience.
Inter-religious dialogue and harmony are talked about and discussed very frequently these days. But Sri Ramakrishna was perhaps the first to preach openly the harmony of religions. Following his message, it was Swami Vivekananda who delivered a unique message of harmony of religions at the first World Parliament of Religions held in Chicago in 1893.