Narendra’s meeting with Ramakrishna in November 1881 proved to be a turning point in Narendra’s life. Narendra said about this first meeting that
“Ramakrishna looked just like an ordinary man, with nothing remarkable about him. He used the most simple language and I thought ‘Can this man be a great teacher?’. I crept near to him and asked him the question which I had been asking others all my life: ‘Do you believe in God, Sir?’ ‘Yes’, he replied. ‘Can you prove it, Sir?’ ‘Yes’. ‘How?’ ‘Because I see Him just as I see you here, only in a much intenser sense.’ That impressed me at once. […] I began to go to that man, day after day, and I actually saw that religion could be given. One touch, one glance, can change a whole life.”
Though Narendra did not accept Ramakrishna as his guru initially and revolted against his ideas, he was attracted by his personality and visited him frequently. He initially looked upon Ramakrishna’s ecstasies and visions as, “mere figments of imagination”, “mere hallucinations”. As a member of Brahmo Samaj, he revolted against idol worship and polytheism, and Ramakrishna’s worship of Kali. He even rejected the Advaitist Vedantism of identity with absolute as blasphemy and madness and often made fun of the concept. Though at first Narendra could not accept Ramakrishna and his visions, he did not neglect him. Instead, he tested Ramakrishna, who faced all of Narendra’s arguments and examinations with patience—”Try to see the truth from all angles” was his reply. During the course of five years of his training under Ramakrishna, Narendra was increasingly ready to renounce everything for the sake of realising God. In time, Narendra accepted Ramakrishna as his guru and completely surrendered as disciple.
In 1885, Ramakrishna developed throat cancer and he was transferred to Calcutta and later to Cossipore. Narendra and Ramakrishna’s other disciples took care of him during his final days. Narendra’s spiritual education under Ramakrishna continued. At Cossipore, Narendra reportedly experienced Nirvikalpa Samadhi. During Ramakrishna’s last days, Narendra and some of the other disciples received the ochre monastic robes from Ramakrishna, forming the first monastic order of Ramakrishna. Narendra was taught that service to men was the most effective worship of God. When young Narendra Nath doubted Ramakrishna’s claim of avatar, Ramakrishna said, “He who was Rama, He who was Krishna, He himself is now Ramakrishna in this body.” During his final days, Ramakrishna asked Narendra Nath to take care of other monastic disciples and in turn asked them to look upon Vivekananda as their leader. Ramakrishna died in the early morning hours of 16 August 1886 at his garden house in Cossipore. According to his disciples, this was Mahasamadhi.