CLASSIC!

Great Swan
Meetings with Ramakrishna
by Lex Hixon
Biography / Spiritual Life

0-943914-80-9
978-0-943914-80-0


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6 x 9 paperback
334 pages

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Description

Already acclaimed as a timeless classic, Great Swan introduces the blissfully unconventional Bengali sage Ramakrishna.

For Lex Hixon, Ramakrishna’s life shows that a “global society based on the intuitive sense of the Sacred—a society with rich diversity but without boundaries”— is not only possible, but inevitable. Hixon’s luminous writing intimately re-creates a series of encounters with this divinely intoxicated master, so readers experience firsthand his power, playfulness, and spiritual intensity.

Blissfully devoted to what he called the Divine Mother, Ramakrishna practiced all religions and taught that all sacred paths spring from the same divine source. These “meetings” are keys to seeing how the sacred feminine is re-emerging in our time, to show the unity at the core of all spiritual endeavor.

“Meet as many adepts from various paths as you can,” Ramakrishna instructed. “Love these persons, receive their initiations, and passionately practice their disciplines. But enter your own inner chamber of primordial awareness to enjoy selfless peace and delight.”

Great Swan may well be the next best thing to a personal meeting with this particular one of them. For many, it’s Lex’s greatest work—a true classic. The sanctity, delightful playfulness, wisdom, power, devotion, and spiritual intensity of one of the most inspiring spiritual teachers of all time permeate every page.

See “Excerpts & Info” on this page for a full listing of extraordinary reviews and comments, and selections from the text.

Table of Contents

 

Preface

Introduction

1 INITIAL ENCOUNTER
Visiting Dakshineswar Garden on the Ganges Near Calcutta

2 FACE TO FACE WITH THE DIVINE DANCER

3 ANCIENT SAGE MEETS MODERN PANDIT
Ramakrishna and Vidyasagar

4 FROM THE GOD-MAN’S TREASURY OF SECRETS

5 THE TASTE OF SUGAR
Boating on the Ganges with Keshab Sen

6 ONE HEMP-SMOKER RECOGNIZES ANOTHER

7 THE SAGE OPENS A GAP IN THE NET OF CONVENTION

8 THE BLISS OF RAMAKRISHNA’S BIRTHDAY

9 THE NEW DISPENSATION
Harmony of All Religions

10 CRY WITH AN INFINITE CRY
The Master Responds to Burning Questions

11 TIMELESS MAN MEETS CONTEMPORARY MAN
Ramakrishna and Bankim Chandra

12 RAMAKRISHNA RELATES HIS INTIMATE EXPERIENCES

13 RADHA AND KRISHNA IN MYSTIC UNION
The Festival at Panihati

14 MEETING MOTHER SARADA
Where There Is Shiva, There Is Shakti

15 THE MASTER EXPOUNDS ADVAITA VEDANTA

16 THE MYSTERY OF NARENDRA AND THE VOW OF SPIRITUAL COMPLETION

17 TWO GREAT SOULS
Ramakrishna’s Last Meeting with Keshab Sen

18 THE PARAMAHAMSA TRANSMITS SPIRITUAL INTENSITY
0 Brother Madhusudana, Please Come!

19 THE IDEAL OF FEMININE LOVE

20 AVATARA MEETS WANDERING SADHU

21 THE MOOD OF THE DIVINE CHILD
Ramakrishna Breaks His Arm

22 UPWARD-FLOWING ENERGY OF KUNDALINI

23 SECRET RHYTHM OF THE WISDOM MOTHER

24 SPECIAL WORSHIP OF KALI
The Master Meets a Young Actor

25 GREAT SWAN MEETS ORTHODOX PANDIT
Ramakrishna and Shashadhar

26 RAMAKRISHNA SINGS THE TANTRIC TRANSMISSION

27 THE MASTER’S TERMINAL ILLNESS
His Friendship with the Humanist, Dr. Sarkar

28 MY PLAY IS OVER

29 THE MASTER TRANSFORMS DR. SARKAR

30 RAMAKRISHNA AND LORD BUDDHA

31 THE MOOD OF FORMLESSNESS
The Master Gives Away His Treasures

32 UNIVERSAL VICTORY
The Passing Away of Ramakrishna

33 DIVINE COMMUNION

Index

Selected review highlights

“. . . wise, beautiful, brilliant . . . contains the master key that opens all hearts.” —Ken Wilber

“. . . Lex has looked into the eyes of the divine and has burst into flame—he invites us into the blazing heart of one of the great spiritual masters. Accept the invitation.” —Stephen Levine, author, Who Dies?, Breaking the Drought

“You read this life at the peril of your complacency, for the reading of this biography alone can lead to God intoxication.” —Rabbi Zalman Schachter Shalomi

“Ramakrishna’s life enables us to see God face to face.” —Mahatma Gandhi

“In this marvelous experiment and translation, Lex Hixon not only freshens the words but recreates the community out of which Ramakrishna spoke and sang . . .” —Coleman Barks, contemporary translator of Jalaluddin Rumi

“Lex Hixon has done our world a great service by bringing Ramakrishna to life in this powerful, intimate, personal perspective. The gateways to the Master’s presence are opened through this important work.” —Alan Cohen, author, The Dragon Doesn’t Live Here Anymore

“Sri Ramakrishna is certainly one of the greatest saints of India. Great Swan is not just a book but it is an opportunity to have a deeper association with Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa the great Spiritual Master. The result is an experience, an encounter—through which one cannot help but be forever changed.” —Swami Satchidananda

Full reviews

 

From Kirkus Reviews:

“A remarkable portrait of a most remarkable spiritual teacher.
“Though little known in the West, Ramakrishna (1836-86) is generally revered in India as a direct incarnation of God, similar in some ways to Christ. Rather than write a standard biography of this Hindu mystic who embraced and, reportedly, embodied the essence of all major world religions—a biography like Richard Schiffman’s Sri Ramakrishna (1989)—Hixon (Coming Home, 1978) here attempts a more daunting task: to re-create the experience of observing, over the course of years, a man who “has attained the goal of spiritual evolution.” To do this, the author draws on numerous eyewitness accounts of the sage, smoothly blending them into the voice of a disciple who observes his “Master” lecturing, conversing, playing, singing, dancing, and slipping into profound mystical ecstasies. There is no skepticism in this devotional telling but, rather, a pervasive sense of wonder and even rapture that Hixon makes concrete through tight physical detail, as in this deathbed scene: “Ramakrishna’s charming smile and the fresh white cloth around his waist shine in the flickering lamplight. His honey-colored skin, dulled by illness, seems to regain its extraordinary luster. . . . The room is being filled with light. . . . It is like a lightning flash, prolonged for several minutes. The pressure is unbearable.” There is also much inspired exposition by Ramakrishna of religious principles and practices, making this account of great interest to those spiritually inclined but occasionally a tough go for those more interested in Ramakrishna’s incandescent character than in his teachings.
“You don’t have to share Hixon’s conviction in order to appreciate his achievement in evoking—artfully and with considerable emotional power—what it might be like to encounter, as Ramakrishna put it, ‘a human emanation of Divine Reality.’” —Kirkus Reviews

 

“GREAT SWAN offers deep insight into the true nature of an advanced being. By learning about meetings with Ramakrishna we get glimpses into the elegant simplicity, love and one-pointedness that are the hallmarks to the path of knowledge.” —Deepak Chopra


“This is a miracle of a book. With purity, innocence and power, Lex Hixon brings us into the presence of Ramakrishna and his wife Sarada Devi. We are incarnated in the court of consciousness, made manifest among the lovers of God. There is no turning back after turning these pages for we have been touched by the feathers of the Great Swan, lured into a life larger than our aspirations, richer than all our dreams.”
—Jean Houston, Ph.D., author of The Possible Human and The Search for the Beloved


“To hear lovers share stories of their beloved, as Lex Hixon does of Ramakrishna, is a spiritual balm for the heart.” —Ram Das


“This is a wise, beautiful, brilliant book, designed to introduce us to—no, to directly immerse us in—the mind and spirit of the remarkable Ramakrishna. But as Hixon so accurately points out, ‘Ramakrishna is not a quaint person from an ancient culture, representing a particular religious background, but an Einstein of the planetary civilization of the near future, a greenhouse for the future evolution of humanity.’ This book thus contains the master key that opens all cultures and all hearts. Lex Hixon has succeeded beautifully in this task, and I bow in deep gratitude for the wisdom that comes through Lex to all of us fortunate enough to read this wonderful book.” —Ken Wilber


“Lex has the heart of pure devotion, and there are few who have ever lived that can bring forth that light so purely as Ramakrishna. He sees as God sees. Ramakrishna has expanded the heart of twentieth century America considerably through the influence of his disciples and spiritual friends. He heals Freud. And us all . . . Lex has looked into the eyes of the divine and has burst into flame—he invites us into the blazing heart of one of the great spiritual masters. Accept the invitation.” —Stephen Levine


“Ramakrishna is the supreme guide to the spiritual transformation that must now happen very fast for the planet to be saved, and, in Lex Hixon’s book, we meet him in all his humor, passion, nobility and mystical incandescence. This is a very daring book, destined to change the lives of many who read it.” —Andrew Harvey, author, Hidden Journey


“Very few people, certainly in the West, could do justice to Ramakrishna’s great breadth of view and openness of spirit in a manner comparable to Lex Hixon, given Lex’s profound spiritual quest into the world’s great spiritual traditions.” —Father Thomas Keating, author, Open Mind, Open Heart


“This book brings you eyebrow to eyebrow with Ramakrishna—a wonderful, wonderful way to spend a week.” —Bernard Glassman, Roshi


“It takes one to know one. Lex Hixon, Sheikh Nur, known as Alexander Paul in Orthodox Christianity and in Zen as Jikai, can well describe Ramakrishna knowing the allness of God from within the human experience. Ramakrishna, a contemporary of many great Hasidic masters, reminds one of the ecstatic Reb Zussia of Anipolye on the one hand and the deeply non-dualistic seeker of unity, Reb Ahron of Starossellia, on the other. . . . You read this life at the peril of your complacency, for the reading of this biography alone can lead to God intoxication.” —Rabbi Zalman Schachter Shalomi


“Hixon’s book emphasizes—from the vantage point of a knowledgeable, discerning Westerner on the brink of the twenty-first century—the atmosphere that Ramakrishna created through his words, his deeds, and above all the mere fact of his spiritual presence.” —Huston Smith


“In this marvelous experiment and translation, Lex Hixon not only freshens the words but recreates the community out of which Ramakrishna spoke and sang. One of this God-man’s revelations is that we are not separate individuals. The communion of God-lovers is the avataric descent. ‘This is the most secret teaching.’ One feels the plural nature of enlightenment in this book.” —Coleman Barks, contemporary translator of Jalaluddin Rumi


“It happened that I had just been rereading Swami Nikhilananda’s Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna (something I’ve done from time to time over the last twenty years) when I came across Lex Hixon’s Great Swan, and found it to be an unexpected and delightful surprise. In it the now familiar words of Sri Ramakrishna are newly presented. Hixon’s thorough research has made available to him (and so to us) a wealth of new descriptive material that has made it possible to present Ramakrishna’s encounters with his disciples in a fresh and vivid setting. It seems to me that Hixon with Great Swan is giving us a new interpretation of a great classic—much as a modern interpreter/performer might rediscover Shubert or Chopin for a contemporary audience. I don’t think Hixon’s work will replace Nikhilananda’s ‘Gospel’ nor do I suspect it is meant to. But it will surely bring the words and something of the presence of Ramakrishna to a new generation, perhaps both larger and more receptive than any in the past. This is a work of devotion, beautifully accomplished. —Philip Glass, composer


“I have known and loved Ramakrishna in my heart for many years. To sit in the presence of one who knows his identity as spirit is one of the greatest spiritual opportunities life can afford. Lex Hixon has done our world a great service by bringing Ramakrishna to life in this powerful, intimate, personal perspective. The gateways to the Master’s presence are opened through this important work.” —Alan Cohen, author of The Dragon Doesn’t Live Here Anymore and The Healing of the Planet Earth


“With Great Swan, Lex Hixon gives us a generous gift. He does a daring thing: he loses himself in love for Ramakrishna as he sees him, and so gains the confidence to paraphrase the Master’s profound speech. He makes no claim of scientific objectivity, philological precision, anthropological sophistication, though he commands all these scholarly tools. Rather he proclaims the intention to make himself the vessel, a medium, for the Sage himself to bring his playful wisdom into our modern idiom and atmosphere. And it works. Ramakrishna, The Great Swan of Wisdom, comes alive in these pages, skillfully contextualized, lovingly dramatized, and brilliantly articulated in our modern speech. Some, who feel they already have the Sage through earlier translations, may take exception to Hixon’s daring approach. But I suspect most will be delighted by the feeling that they really meet this remarkable Being. —Robert Thurman, Jey Tsong Khapa Professor, Indo-Tibetan Buddhist Studies


“Hixon claims his book ‘is not a conventional biography but a workbook’ to provide Ramakrishna’s guidance to the spiritually inclined reader of any religious tradition and to clarify the mystical path. Hixon is self-effacing: what shines through is Ramakrishna’s sanctity and wisdom, as well as the devotion of his disciples. Recommended for most libraries.” —Library Journal, April 1, 1992


“Great Swan: Meetings with Ramakrishna fulfills the reader on multiple levels—as a lively and compelling biography of one of the great spiritual masters of our time; as a book of poetry and song that is luminous and beautiful; and as a rich text of truth and healing. Reading it is like walking into a garden—the sweet air and the vibrant colors open the heart and clear the head. There is a wildness about this book and a gentleness of heart. This is a rare and fantastic combination!” —Elizabeth Lesser,
Cofounder of Omega Institute


“I just have a feeling this book will serve as a vehicle to make differences not only in me as I read it, but also, the Earth Mother as others read it. It is wonderful to be writing thanks about a book where a male talks lovingly about the Divine Mother.”
—Mary Elizabeth Thunder, Native American Peace Elder, Sundancer; founder, Thunder-Horse Ranch


“Reading Great Swan, the reader is transported beyond the limitations of a book into the presence of the spiritual master Ramakrishna. Lex Hixon has captured in words the ecstasy, bliss and devotion that are felt only in the heart of a true spiritual seeker. His unique and amazing accomplishment is that his book awakens in the heart of the reader the same state of God intoxication that he describes in Ramakrishna.” —Yogi Amrit Desai, Founder and Spiritual Director, Kripalu Center


“Lex Hixon vividly puts before us Ramakrishna’s burning—burning of the differences we imagine between us, be they religious, economic, or most provocatively, sexual. Ramakrishna dressed for months as a woman, showing us, at this time when we so need it, that we are one, one, one. . . . Never have we needed Ramakrishna’s teachings of the Divine Mother more. Our differences are momentary, imaginary. The Divine does not make them, only we do. Hixon burns away the dross in his presentation of Ramakrishna, the ignited Being, as he gives us this refreshing new translation of Ramakrishna, one of the most important teachers for our time.
—China Galland, author of Longing for Darkness: Tara and the Black Madonna and Women in the Wilderness


“Sri Ramakrishna is certainly one of the greatest saints of India. Great Swan is not just a book but it is an opportunity to have a deeper association with Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa the great Spiritual Master. The result is an experience, an encounter—through which one cannot help but be forever changed.” —Swami Satchidananda


“The magic touch of your ‘Great Swan,’ a fruit from the hundred year-old tree planted by Swami Vivekananda, a spiritual gift in solid form from the West to India to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Swamiji in Chicago.” —Swami Atmasthananda General Secretary, Ramakrishna Mission, India

“Great Swan is a new approach to the Life and Ideals of Sri Ramakrishna. It will be well received by the public here in America. You may quote my words.” —Swami Sarvagatananda, Director, Ramakrishna, Vedanta Society of Massachusetts


“Everybody should read this beautiful book.” —Yogi Bhajan, 3HO Organization


“In Great Swan, Ramakrishna’s words echo with the song of the lover. He tells us the simple and tremendous truth, that only through love can we reach Reality. He says he is simply ‘a true human being moving in one direction, towards Truth alone,’ and his words go straight to the heart of every seeker, reminding and encouraging us. For the Sufi he is a friend who knows what it means to be a ‘lover of God’, and how nothing else matters. This is a book to be read and reread.” —Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee, author, The Lover and the Serpent: Dreamwork in the Sufi Tradition


“Hixon has given the reader far more than just another book. He has somehow managed to bring the atmosphere, the very presence of Ramakrishna, his spiritual consort, Sarada Devi, and his circle of disciples onto the pages of this book in such a way that they leap right off the page into the reader’s heart . . . Hixon drew upon the extant literature regarding Ramakrishna, his own seven-year relationship as an initiate with Swami Nikhilananda, and his own spiritual realization in order to accomplish this remarkable work. His scholarship is impeccable, but his heart is even greater—and it is this combination which allowed this work to manifest. I am no stranger to Ramakrishna, having been an avid reader of The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna for a quarter of a century now. I must confess that I did not think anything could be added to that book. Lex Hixon has proven me to be profoundly wrong, to my very great delight. I wholeheartedly encourage all seekers of truth, regardless of their lineage, to avail themselves of the light that is contained between the covers of this book, this spiritual banquet.” —Sheikh Vasheest The Sound


“Like an artist at an easel, Hixon pens a vital pastel portrait of one of Hinduism’s most extraordinary sages, 19th century guru of Swami Vivekananda. Its factually faithful but fearlessly free style makes an ageless voice intimate, earthy and contemporary. Great Swan is a daring and exciting departure from rule-book biographies.” —Hinduism Today


“Sri Ramakrishna taught and lived a vision of unity in which all paths presented by the world’s great religions lead to the same God, who dwells in every human heart. It is a message that the world desperately needs today. I fervently hope that in these ‘meetings with Ramakrishna,’ many readers will discover this great teacher and make his vision of the unity of all religions and all life the basis of a new world.”

—Sri Eknath Easwaran, author, teacher, founder & director of the Blue Mountain Center of Meditation


“Thank you for the lovely book about Sri Ramakrishna. His teachings must be more widespread. Nobody’s teachings have ever mirrored so much love, so much surrender as His. It is pure light, pure devotion.” —Irina Tweedie, author, Daughter of Fire


“The wonderful gift, and I use this word in its most literal definition, is that this book involves the reader as a participant rather than an observer. . . . To be told about a healing experience seldom provides one with enough information to understand its profundity. That Lex is able to overcome this limitation in Great Swan is a remarkable achievement.” —Pamela Auchincloss, Pamela Auchincloss Gallery

 

About Lex Hixon


The late Lex Hixon (1941–1995) held joint citizenship in several sacred worlds—Advaita Vedanta, Islamic Sufism, Vajrayana Buddhism, Eastern Orthodox Christianity, and Soto Zen. He earned a PhD in World Religions from Columbia University and wrote seven books, including Coming Home and Living Buddha Zen.

Lex was truly an ambassador for the brighter possibilities of humanity’s future. An accredited scholar and a contagiously passionate mystic, he left a priceless legacy for all who aspire to global community. His warm, joyful manner of teaching, celebrating, and encouraging spiritual seekers of all kinds touched thousands of lives.

Lex was originally a disciple of Swami Nikhilananda of the Ramakrishna Order. His subsequent experience of being “orthodox in five different spiritual traditions” produced a unique philosophy—a “theory of relativity for religions.”

For many years, Lex hosted the WBAI radio program “In the Spirit,” on which he interviewed many religious teachers and was responsible for introducing their practices to many Americans. He was the founder of Free Spirit magazine. Shortly before his death, he was in the process of being ordained as a successor in the initiatory lineage of Dogen’s Soto Zen.

Other books by Lex Hixon


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