This religious classic by Lex Hixon celebrates the life and work of Sri Ramakrishna (1836-1886), the God-intoxicated sage of Bengal. He states that this is not a conventional biography but a workbook for those on the mystic path. Using extensive quotations from Ramakrishna's lectures, conversations, and parables, the author invites us to "swim in this refreshing, surprising current of love and wisdom." For Hixon, "the Great Swan," as he calls Ramakrishna, is a fully awakened being, "an Einstein of the planetary civilization of the near future."

Ramakrishna affirms the harmony of all religions and the many guises of the Wisdom Goddess. His devotional life is a model to all — he is very quiet, bursts into song, and laughs easily. "Why should I live a monotonous spiritual life? I enjoy every possible preparation of fish-curried, fried, pickled, plain. Sometimes I worship Divine Reality with ceremony, sometimes I repeat various Divine Names, sometimes I sing mystic hymns, sometimes I dance in ecstasy, sometimes I plunge into silent meditation."

Ramakrishna's everyday spirituality is a wonder to behold. Here's one story about him: "He is leaning dangerously far out of the carriage window, embracing with ecstasy every passing detail of the city, crying out drunkenly to the patrons of wine shops and perfume stalls: 'Yes! You are experiencing a drop of Divine Bliss. But go further!' " In this passage, Ramakrishna gives us a mantra to use every day as we immerse ourselves in the Divine Presence: "Go further."

Wherever you turn in this edifying work, you will find fresh images of spiritual meaning. Ramakrishna calls the heart "God's living room." Found by a devotee sweeping the path north of his room, the Great Swan replies, " Mother Kali walks here barefoot. I am clearing the way for Her delicate Lotus Feet." The next time you are sweeping your place, use this image and see what a difference it makes. Best of all, Ramakrishna does not separate devotion from ethics and service of others. They are of one piece. "Look upon human beings as God and serve all their needs as the supreme form of worship."