Direct Disciples of Sri Ramakrishna

Short life and Teachings
Introduction

In India, since time-immemorial spiritual knowledge has been imparted through Guru-Shishya Parampara, this is only the tradition of Teacher-Student or Master-Disciple hierarchy. The spiritual teacher is an illumined soul who transfers the spiritual power to a fit disciple who is capable of grasping it. The word “disciple”, used in connection with Sri Ramakrishna, refers to one who had been initiated and guided into spiritual life by Sri Ramakrishna and who regarded him as his guru. His disciples were of two kinds: the householders, and the young men, some of whom were later to become monks.

For householders Sri Ramakrishna did not prescribe the hard path of total renunciation. He wanted then to discharge their obligations to their families. Their renunciation was to be mental. But to the young men destined to be monks he pointed out the steep path of renunciation, both external and internal. They must take the vow of absolute continence and eschew all thought of greed and lust. By the practice of continence, aspirants develop a subtle nerve through which they understand the deeper mysteries of God. For them self-control is final, imperative and absolute. The Sannyasis are teachers of men, and their lives should be totally free from blemish. They must not even look at a picture, which may awaken their animal passions. The Master selected his future monks from young men untouched by “woman and gold” and fit enough to be cast in his spiritual mould. When teaching them the path of renunciation and discrimination, he would not allow the householders to be anywhere near them.

The monastic disciples of Sri Ramakrishna are his apostles who represented him and carried his message throughout the world. They lived the life of complete renunciation and selfless service – the ideal for which Sri Ramakrishna stood for. When the Great Light disappeared, the lamps that had been kindled by it began to shed luster in innumerable places. Indeed each monastic disciple of the Master became a centre of wide influence and was instrumented in transforming hundreds of lives. Each one of them was a gigantic spiritual personality – superb in character, unique in achievement, and an asset to humanity. When considers this, one wonders how so many almost superhuman characters could cluster together at one and the same time. Truly Sri Ramakrishna was a great jeweler, who could collect so many jewels and leave them as a legacy to the world.
 








Samadhi Pitha at Belur Math where some of the Direct Disciples of Sri Ramakrishna were cremated.
 
 
SWAMI VIVEKANANDA
(1863 - 1902)

Swami Vivekananda is just another name for the phenomenon that exploded on the Indian scene towards the end of the nineteenth century and restored the self-confidence and self-respect of a nation that had been badly mauled for millennia. Born on the 12th January 1863, of an intellectual but compassionate father and a deeply religious mother, Narendranath – that was his original name – got a good education and cultural training under them. An innate desire for spiritual perfection brought him into contact with Sri Ramakrishna in the early part of 1882. The next four and a half yeas – until the Mahasamadhi of Sri Ramakrishna – were marked by turbulence and turmoil, the direct result of the perfect Master chiseling and shaping the perfect disciple, but ending in total submission of the latter at the feet of the former. As per the specific direction of his guru, Narendra along with the other young men who were his co-disciples, took to monastic orders and founded a monastery in his guru’s name at Baranagore (Calcutta) in 1886. Setting out on pilgrimage, mostly as a wandering monk, he finally arrived at Kanyakumari, the southernmost tip of the Indian soil, sometime during 1892. There, while meditating on the rock inside the sea, the mission of his life was revealed to him. Then, things moved quickly. Setting sail for America on the 31st May 1893 he created history at the World Parliament of Religions held at Chicago during September of the same year. After whirlwind tours in America and England, he triumphantly returned to India via Colombo on the 15th January 1897.

During the next five years he literally shook the Indian nation to its foundations, electrifying it to dynamic self-expression, through his speeches and writings as also conversations. These have been compiled and published in eight volumes, now well-known as The Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda. They contain, as he himself once remarked, enough messages for a millennia. He formally established the Ramakrishna Mission in 1897 and consecrated the newly built Belur math, the Headquarters of the Ramakrishna Monastery, in 1899. He visited the West again during 1899-1900. He shuffled off the mortal coil on the 4th of July 1902. His was a multifaceted personality – a prophet, a patriot, a monk, a yogi, a social reformer, an educationist, an artist, a poet and a humanist – all rolled into one. His dynamic life and message gave a new direction to the resurgent India. His work is being continued even today by the Ramakrishna Math and the Ramakrishna Mission, the twin organizations that he established with the motto: Atmano mokshartham jagaddhitaya cha, ‘For the sake of self-realization and the good of mankind.’ The Math is unique in that it has charted new avenues in Indian monasticism. The Mission is an ideal service organization embodying the teachings of practical Vedanta.

 

TEACHINGS

One way for attaining bhakti is by repeating the name of God a number of times. Mantras have effect – the mere repetition of words… To obtain bhakti, seek the company of holy men who have bhakti and read books like the Gita.

Our first duty is not to hate ourselves; because to advance we must have faith in ourselves first and then in God. He who has no faith in himself can never have faith in God.

Every duty is holy, and devotion to duty is the highest form of worship of God.

Education is the manifestation of the perfection already in man.

To me the very essence of education is concentration of mind, not the collecting of facts.

That society is the greatest, where the highest truths become practical.

Faith, faith, faith in ourselves, faith in God – this is the secret of greatness… Have faith in yourselves, and stand up on that faith and be strong; that is what we need.

The Hindus were bold, to their credit be it said, bold thinkers in all heir ideas, so bold that one spark of their though frightens the so-called bold thinkers of the West.

In my opinion, a race must first cultivate a great respect for motherhood, through the sanctification and inviolability of marriage.

Sita is the name in India for everything that is good, pure, and holy; everything that in woman we call woman.

Renunciation and service are the twin ideals of India. Intensify here in these channels and the rest will take care of itself.

 

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SWAMI BRAHMANANDA
(1863-1922)
Click here to know more about Swami Brahmananada ji’s stay at Vrindaban – Kusum Sarovar

Swami Brahmananda, the ‘Spiritual Son’ of Sri Ramakrishna was the first President of the Ramakrishna Order. Known as Rakhal Chandra Ghosh in his premonastic days, he was born at Sikra, a village near Calcutta, on the 21st January, 1863, of aristocratic parents. During his High School days at Calcutta he came into contact with Narendranath (Swami Vivekananda) which developed into an intimate lifelong friendship. Even from his childhood days he was given to devotional moods bordering on mysticism, which naturally led to indifference to studies. His father got him married at an early age to ward off the religious pursuits from his mind and fix him up in the world. Strange to say, this very tie of marriage brought him to Sri Ramakrishna who at once recognized in him his ‘Spiritual Son’ as per the vision vouchsafed to him by the Divine Mother. Thus started a course of spiritual intimacy and intensive training under the loving care of the Guru, which resulted in several exalted mystic moods and spiritual experiences. After the passing away of Sri Ramakrishna, Rakhal, along with Narendra and other brother-disciples, embraced monastic life under the name ‘Swami Brahmananda’. He spent several years as a wandering monk, visiting places of pilgrimage and practicing severe austerities. A little before the return of Swami Vivekananda from the West, he came back to the Baranagore Math and started living there. After his return and establishing the Ramakrishna Mission, Swami Vivekananda made over the responsibility of running the organization, to him remembering that Sri Ramakrishna had once remarked

that Rakhal had the capacity to rule a kingdom. His uncanny sense in solving even knotty problems and spiritual eminence of Himalayan heights took the organization to new levels of glory and development. It was a long stewardship marked by work and worship remarkably blended together. During his tenure as the Head, he also guided many earnest spiritual seekers by taking them under his protection, thus fulfilling Swami Vivekananda’s prophetic remark that Swami Brahmananda was veritably a spiritual dynamo. He passed away on the 10th April, 1922.

 

TEACHINGS

Initiation into a mantra helps concentration of mind; otherwise your mind will change and fluctuate.

The mind is susceptible to suggestions. It learns whatever you teach it. If through discrimination you can impress upon it the joy and fullness of life in the spirit and the folly of worldly attachments, then your mind will devote itself more and more of God.

The way of steadying and purifying the mind is to retire into solitude, control all cravings and engage yourself in contemplation and meditation.

Work and worship must go hand in hand… Why are you afraid of work? Work for Him. You can overcome all disinclination for work if you consider it as dedication of God.



Temple of Swami Brahmananda at Belur Math

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SWAMI PREMANANDA
(1861 - 1918)

The name ‘Swami Premananda’ given to Baburam by Swami Vivekananda at the time of accepting the monastic orders, was a true reflection of his basic trait universal love. Born to affluent parents on December 10, 1861, Baburam completed his early schooling in his village of Antpur (Bengal), came to Calcutta for higher education and joined the Metropolitan Institution. There he had the privilege of having Sri ‘M’ (Mahendranath Gupta), the celebrated author of The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna as his Headmaster and Rakhal (Swami Brahmananda) as his class-mate. It was the latter who was instrumental in taking Baburam to Sri Ramakrishna. Sri Ramakrishna examined Baburam’s features in his own, rather queer, way and was satisfied about his high spiritual potentialities. Increased contacts with Sri Ramakrishna intensified Baburam’s inherent spiritual thirst which had been manifesting itself even from his childhood. After the passing away of Sri Ramakrishna, Baburam, alongwith his brother-disciples like Narendranath (Swami Vivekananda) and Rakhal embraced the monastic life, becoming ‘Swami Premananda.’ He spent most of his life in the monasteries at Baranagore, Alambazaar and Belur taking care of worship, internal management and training of the new monastic recruits.His innate motherly love endeared him to one and all. Many a young man was reformed by his golden touch. During his later sojourn in several parts of Bengal, especially in East Bengal (present Bangladesh), he inspired the youth to be useful to the society

by voluntary service. Though a man of high spiritual attainments, he was wont to hiding them very reticent in giving expression to them. The deadly disease of Kala Azar took him away on the 30th July, 1918.

 

TEACHINGS

To follow the Master means to practise what he taught; otherwise nobody can advance by just offering to him a few flowers or through some momentary sentimental outbursts.

Can one become a great devotee of God simply by dancing and jumping or by quoting plentifully from the scriptures? What is wanted is freedom from selfishness – freedom from egotism… Mere talk will not do, this is an age of action.

Not mere theory; actualize it – there has been enough talk and writing. Put the book aside and let your actions speak. This is what the lives of the Master and Swamiji stand for.

The poor, the weak, the fallen, the ignorant – all these you have to make your own. And yet I warn you, that is loving one section of society you must not become hateful of the other, the rich.

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SWAMI YOGANANDA
(1861 - 1899)

Though counted among the disciples of Sri Ramakrishna and guided by him, Swami Yogananda was the first initiated disciple of Sri Sarada Devi, popularly known as the ‘Holy Mother.’ Like the Mother whom he served meticulously with matchless devotion, his life was very unobtrusive for all outward appearances but very deep in inner mystic experiences, of which he sometimes gave a hint or two. Born in 1861 in an orthodox Brahmin family which was in indigent circumstances but had once been aristocratic and rich, Yogindra – the premonastic name of the Swami – was by nature indrawn, gentle and shy. The desire to pluck a nice flower in the Dakshineswar garden brought him face to face with Sri Ramakrishna whom Yogin mistook for a gardener working there! He got the flower all right, but in the process, himself became a ‘flower plant’ to be tended by a great gardener of lives. Though married, the world could never drag his mind down to worldliness. Just as pure gold cannot be shaped into ornaments but has got to be alloyed with a small quantity of other metals, Sri Ramakrishna had to ‘alloy’ him with a bit of harshness to counter his too gentle a personality that could not last in this mundane world. But the disciple was not a goody-goody simpleton. He could exercise his highly critical discernment even against his own guru or leader (Swami Vivekananda) when he thought it necessary. He was a good organizer. He had successfully attracted and inspired many a young man to the monastic life. He was extraordinarily devoted to the Holy Mother whom he served till the last day of his life. His congenitally frail constitution could not stand the rigours he chose to impose upon himself resulting in a rather premature death on March 28, 1899.

 

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SWAMI NIRANJANANANDA
( D. 1904)

Nityaniranjan Ghosh, more commonly known as Niranjan, was probably born in the village Rajarhat-Vishnupur (Bengal), but lived in Calcutta with his uncle. Physically well-built and majestic in appearance, he had somehow become associated with a group of spiritualists who had found in him a very good medium. Having heard about the great spiritual power of Sri Ramakrishna, Niranjan came to Dakshineswar one day. During this very first visit, the great Master told him, ‘My boy! If you think of ghosts and spooks, ghost and spook will you become! But if you think of God, divine will be your life. Which do your prefer?’ And this converted him from spiritualism to spiritual life. Though frank and openhearted, he was subject to loosing temper and consequently all sense of proportions. Sri Ramakrishna took special care to help him overcome this weakness. Niranjan was one of the few who served the Master day and night during his last illness. After his demise he took sannyasa along with others and become ‘Swami Niranjanananda.’ He was mainly instrumental in getting the major portion of the ashes of Sri Ramakrishna, to be later interred at the new Math built by Swami Vivekananda. He had a deep devotion for the Holy mother. Though tender at heart, he could be fiercely stern in the face of hypocrisy. He breathed his last on the 9th May, 1904

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 SWAMI SARADANANDA
(1865 - 1925)

While in ecstacy Sri Ramakrishna’s behaviour would often be mysterious. One day in such a mood, he sat on the lap of a young man, Sharat Chandra by name, and remarked, ‘I was testing how much weight he could bear.’ This Sharat Chandra who was later known as ‘Swami Saradananda’ successfully bore the burden of running the Ramakrishna Math and Mission as its (General) Secretary for nearly three decades.

Sharat Chandra Chakravarti (b. 23rd December 1865) was born at Calcutta in a rich and orthodox Brahmin family. He and Shashi, who later became Swami Ramakrishnananda, were not only cousins and family friends but also studied together at the Metropolitan College of Calcutta.

The first contact of the two cousins with Sri Ramakrishna – during October 1883 – was a turning point in their lives. Friendship with Narendranath (Swami Vivekananda) gave a further fillip to their spiritual and monastic aspirations.

Sharat, who was an adept in serving the sick, both by temperament and by experience, was one of the few important disciples of Sri Ramakrishna who

nursed him during his fatal illness. After his passing away, Sharat too joined the select band of monastics under the leadership of Narendra and became ‘Swami Saradananda.’

Like his other monastic brothers, Swami Saradananda also spent a few years as an itinerant monk practicing severe austerities. However, when Swami Vivekananda called him for continuing his work in the West, Saradananda went to London first and later to New York for the same. While he was proving to be a great success in the West, especially due to his spiritual attainments, he was recalled to India in 1898 by Swami Vivekananda to take over the executive responsibility of the Ramakrishna Math and Mission as its (General) Secretary in which capacity he served till his last day.

The way he served Sri Sarada Devi, the Holy Mother, was a model par excellance for anyone to emulate. In order to build a residence for her at Calcutta which would also house the office of the Udbodhan, the Bengali Monthly of the Ramakrishna Order, he laboured hard. To repay the debts he had incurred in doing so, he wrote the now monumental work Sri Ramakrishna Lilaprasanga (‘Sri Ramakrishna, the Great Master’).

The Swami was as learned as he was spiritual. His courtesy and gentleness were so overwhelming that even the rudest of men would melt into submission. Equanimity and cool headedness, even under very trying circumstances, were another remarkable characteristic of his.

Soon after successfully convening the Ramakrishna Mission Convention at Belur Math in 1926, he took ill and shuffled off the mortal coil on the 19th August, 1927.

 

TEACHINGS

Through selfless work the mind gets purified. And when the mind becomes pure, there arise knowledge and devotion in it. Whatever work stands in the way of God-realization and increases discontent is bad work. You should wholly discard it.

The Ramakrishna Mission does not like to express any opinion, good or bad, about political discussions, for the Master did not instruct us to do anything of the kind, and Swamiji asked the Mission to keep itself aloof from such effort. That is why the Mission has been all along engaging itself in spirituality and service to humanity.

Now-a-days there are so many religious societies, but people lose all interest in them after a few days. What is the reason for this? The reason is our words are not in accord with out thoughts. The first step in religion is to be sincere to the core.

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SWAMI SHIVANANDA
(1854 - 1934)

Swami Shivananda, the second President of the Ramakrishna Order, was popularly known as ‘Mahapurush Maharaj.’

Born probably in 1854 at Barasat of West Bengal, in a respectable and deeply religious family, Tarak – that was his original name – got a good education, both secular and spiritual. When he was working in Calcutta in an English Firm, he got an opportunity of seeing Sri Ramakrishna about whom he had already heard. Later, when he met Sri Ramakrishna at Dakshineswar, the later was pleasantly surprised to learn that he was the son of Ramkanai Ghosal, his old friend. Needless to say that Tarak had the full approval of his father for becoming the disciple of Sri Ramakrishna.

Tarak was the first person to join the monastery at Baranagore after the demise of the Master, and was christened ‘Swami Shivananda’ while receiving the monastic orders. Though Tarak had been married, he had successfully kept up the vow of brahmacharya (celibacy). This made Swami Vivekananda remark in later days that he was a ‘Mahapurush’. This name stuck and be became known as ‘Mahapurush Maharaj’. Like his brother-disciples, he also spent a few years as an itinerant monk. But he had to settle down at the monastery in 1897 after the triumphant return of  Swami

Vivekananda from the West. For some time he was in Ceylon (Sri Lanka) also, preaching Vedanta at the behest of Swami Vivekananda. He also took a leading part in the first plague relief work of the Ramakrishna Mission in 1899. It was he who started the Ashrama at Varanasi.

But the most memorable part of his life was during his stewardship of the Ramakrishna Organizations as the President from 1922 to 1934, when he blessed a large number of people with initiation and brought spiritual solace and comfort to thousands of devotees. He passed away on the 20th February, 1934 after a protracted illness which, never alienated him from his Lord whose presence he was constantly aware of. He was one of the finest examples of the fact that the beauty and sublimity of the inner life of a holy man can never be described in words but can only be tangibly felt.

 

TEACHINGS

Low thoughts will come and go. Don’t mind them. Through His grace, as a result of constant practice you will get strength. Devote your whole mind to japa, meditation, worship and the study of the scriptures, whichever appeals to you for the time being.

Mere mechanical japa does not help much. You must have love for the Lord. But then, even mechanical japa has some results; after all it is the Lord’s name that is being repeated.

Pray to the Lord for strength, knowledge and dispassion. Pray to Him with all your heart for His grace and for devotion and faith. It is not possible for everyone to practise hard austerities, but then, through prayer everything is attained.

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SWAMI RAMAKRISHNANANDA
(1863 - 1911)

It is said that Swami Vivekananda at the time of Sannyasa wanted to take the name ‘Ramakrishnananda’ for himself, but gave it up in favour of Shashibhushan, who, he thought, deserved it best. And, Shashi deserved it eminently by dint of his devoted service to Sri Ramakrishna especially during his last days. The way he served Sri Ramakrishna when he was alive and the way he carried on his worship through he relics after his Mahasamadhi were, to say the least, exemplary.

Born on the 13th July, 1863 – the same year as Vivekananda – in an orthodox Brahmin family of the Hoogly district of Bengal. Shashi got a good education and an excellent training during the early years which laid the foundation for a lofty character. His very first visit – along with his cousin Sharat (Swami Saradananda) – to Sri Ramakrishna forged strong links with him, whom he accepted as the polestar of his life.

During the last illness of the Master, Shashi toiled day and night to serve him and to look to his comforts. After his demise, when the relics were gathered and established in the shrine of the maiden monastery at

Baranagore, it was Shashi who took upon himself the responsibility of worshipping it as also take care his monastic brothers who had been fired by an intense spirit of renunciation. No mother would have served her children with greater feeling and care than Shashi cared for them.

At the behest of Swami Vivekananda, Shashi – now Swami Ramakrishnananda – came down to Madras to start a monastery there. By his austere life, devoted service and immense scholarship he was able to put the monastery on a solid foundation though he had often to pass through fiery ordeals. It was he who kindled the interest of the people in the then princely State of Mysore, in the teachings of Sri Ramakrishna and eventually start a Math at Bangalore also.

The Swami was a combination of intellectual scholarhip of the highest level and devotion of the deepest type. In spite of all his stern external discipline, he possessed a soft and motherly heart.

The hard incessant work he did to consolidate the work of the Math at Madras broke even his massive frame. He left the mortal coil on 21st August 1911.

 

TEACHINGS

What kind of devotion takes us to God? The child’s devotion to the mother. Why does the baby go to the mother? Because it has, reasoned out that the mother is the best friend it has. And why do you go to God? Because you have previously reasoned out hat God will help you and no one else can. So, as the baby goes to the mother, you will go to God.

So long as we have no ideal to follow, we have to heed the calls of our lower nature. A characterless man is a slave to all worldly enjoyments.

You have been worshipping this god of your body for so many lives; it is not easy to begin worship the true God all at once. If you would raise your Self, you must crucify the body and conquer the senses.

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SWAMI ABHEDANANDA
(1866 - 1939)

Author of several exquisite Sanskrit hymns on Sri Ramakrishna and Sri Sarada Devi – the most popular one being ‘prakritim paramam’- Swami Abhedananda was a rare combination of several talents like intellectual acumen, devotional fervour and yogic introspection. He was a good speaker and a prolific writer.

Known as Kaliprasad Chandra in his pre-monastic days, he was born on the 2nd October 1866 in Calcutta to enlightened parents, both to whom were deeply devoted to Mother Kali. Even from his boyhood days, he was inclined towards the study of Sanskrit. As he grew up he was drawn to the study of philosophical works, both eastern and western. His desire to become a yogi brought him to Sri Ramakrishna who immediately recognized him as a disciple of his inner circle. He progressed speedily in the inner life under the guidance of the Master.

After the demise of the Master, Kali accepted Sannyasa along with the other disciples and became ‘Swami Abhedananda.’ He was given to much study and contemplation during the early days of his monastic life earning for himself the nickname ‘Kali Tapasvi.’

When Swami Vivekananda wanted a proper assistant to continue the work in the West, he naturally thought of Swami Abhedananda.

His very first discourse on Advaita Vedanta delivered at London was an instant success. He later shifted to New York. He toured and lectured very extensively in the West (both U.S.A. and Europe) for a quarter of a century. His lectures attracted the cream of Western intellects as also earnest seekers of Truth. He returned to India in 1921 and formed a ‘Ramakrishna Vedanta Society’ in Calcutta to carry on his work in his own way. When he gave up the mortal coil on the 8th September, 1939, the era of the direct Sanyasin disciples of the Master came to an end.

 

TEACHINGS

If you desire to have firm and unshakable faith and devotion to the Lord, you should also take to tapasya, hard austerities. Tapasya does not mean aimless wandering hither and thither, it really means regular and steadfast japa, meditation and self-control.

Why should you be afraid of doing work? If the mind is not purified by work, one cannot attain true knowledge. Wherever you go with your little mind, the mind will also accompany you and abide with you.

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SWAMI ADBHUTANANDA
(D. 1920)

Swami Vivekananda once declared that Latu (the premonastic name of Swami Adbhutananda) was the greatest miracle of Sri Ramakrishna. If an orphan servant boy who had absolutely no knowledge of even the alphabets could rise to such a state of sainthood that scholars of great book-learning would sit at his feet and listen spellbound to his words of wisdom, it was nothing short of a miracle that Sri Ramakrishna brought about. Hence, the appropriateness of his name (adbuhta = wonder).

The early life of the Swami is shrouded in mystery. Born in a remote village of Bihar, and orphaned at a tender age, the boy was later brought to Calcutta by his uncle. Good fortune favoured him by getting him the job of a servant in the house of Sri Ramachandra Datta, a great devotee of Sri Ramakrishna. The religious atmosphere in the house helped unfold his religious temperament. The frequent errands to Dakshineswar brought him into close contact with Sri Ramakrishna who graciously accepted him as a disciple. Later on, as Sri Ramakrishna felt the need for an attendant, Latu started living with him and serving him. Since the guru was all in all for him, his service was exceptionally devoted.

After the demise of the Master, Latu embraced monastic life and became ‘Swami Adbhutananda.’ Though he lived a mendicant’s life, he seldom moved away from Dakshineswar, his holiest place of pilgrimage. Through hard austerity and long bouts of meditation he was able to live constantly in God.

He lived for an unusually long period of nine years at the house of Balaram Bose, another great devotee of Sri Ramakrishna. It was during this period that many earnest seekers would meet him and get their doubts resolved.

He spent his last days at Varanasi where he breathed his last on April 24, 1920.

 

TEACHINGS

What is the use of prayer and meditation if you have no dependence on Him? Everything else is useless if you lack this.

It is a great sin to find fault with others. You will invariably find that it is such people as never do a good act themselves who easily see defects in others and energetically spread rumours.

It is better to continue calling on the Lord devotedly than to know, speak, and preach thousand and one religious cants and shibboleths.

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SWAMI ADVAITANANDA
(1828 - 1909)

The darkness of a crisis in life often acts like the twilight before dawn leading to the effulgence of the sun. When Gopal Chandra Ghosh of Sinthi (Calcutta) lost his wife and was heartbroken, that very grief led him to Sri Ramakrishna, seeking relief. The contact thus established through a crisis ultimately led to glorious spiritual heights.

Gopalda – as he was endearingly called – was older than even Sri Ramakrishna. Nevertheless, the attitude of reverence and devotion he cherished towards Sri Ramakrishna, his guru, was unflinching. It was his good luck that made him instrumental in the birth of the future Ramakrishna Order of monks by gifting a few pieces of ochre-coloured cloths of Sri Ramakrishna who personally distributed them among Narendra, Rakhal and others including Gopal himself, during his last days at Cossipore.

Along with Tarak (Swami Shivananda), Gopalda was he first to join the Baranagore monastery after the departure of the Master from this world. The monastic name given to him was ‘Swami Advaitananda.’ He spent a few years at the monastery, shifted to Varanasi for about five years and returned to the newly established Math at Alambazar, and later at Belur.

His advanced age prevented him from taking active part in his missionary activities of the new organization.
His personal cleanliness, neat and methodical ways of doing any work, had been admired even by Sri Ramakrishna.

The Swami passed away on the 28th December, 1909 at the ripe old age of eighty-one.

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SWAMI TURIYANANDA
(1863 - 1922)

A few people, there are, who appear to life in this world, but do not really belong here. Swami Turiyananda was one of them. Born in a religious family, of Brahmana parents, on the 3rd January, 1863 (just nine days earlier to the advent of Swami Vivekananda), Harinath Chattopadhyaya – that was his premonastic name – was given to much orthodox observances even in his younger days. An innate desire for liberation in this very life, kindled by the study of Vedantic works brought him to Sri Ramakrishna. The Master through his deep spiritual insight and all-encompassing love, quickly won his heart. Not only that, he soon discovered and destroyed two unhealthy trends in his personality – abhorrence of womankind and excessive reliance on self-effort.

After accepting the monastic robes and vows, Harinath became ‘Swami Turiyananda.’ His orthodox mental makeup made him undertake long and arduous journeys as an itinerant monk, and practise severe austerities as also study of the scriptures. Though he had great love and respect for Swami Vivekananda, he was at first averse to active missionary work. But Swamiji’s love melted his heart. He accompanied Swamiji to the United States and worked there for about three years. The Shanti Ashrama in California was practically his creation.

 

After returning to India he spent his days mostly in austerity and in training the younger generation of monks. His burning spirit of renunciation, deep faith in the Divine Mother, and insight into the intricacies of the scriptures left an indelible impression on everyone that came into contact with him. His fortitude and the control he could exercise over his body were astonishing.

He left the body on the 21st July, 1922.

 

TEACHINGS

Never pride yourself in your having gained control over the passions. If you do, they will at once raise their heads. Ever pray to him, ‘O Lord, save me from them.’

Nothing short of complete self-surrender to Him will do. You call Him the Inner controller (Antaryamin), omniscient, omnipresent, and yet you are afraid to surrender yourself to Him!

Never expect anything from anyone. But always give. Otherwise a sense of dryness will overtake you. But you must not give your mind to anyone. That you must give only to God.

Work done in the spirit of service can lead one as surely to the goal as meditation and japa.

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SWAMI TRIGUNATITANANDA
(1865 - 1914)

The depression brought about by the loss of a gold watch led the young Sarada Prasanna to Dakshineswar seeking peace. Master Mahashaya, the celebrated author of the Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna who was his teacher, led him to his future guru. The first visit itself forged strong links between them. Fearing that his religious inclination and frequent visits to the Saint of Dakshineswar might ultimately induce him to become a monk, his relatives tried hard to change is mind, taking recourse to, in the process, religious rites and charms. But nothing worked. And, Sarada Prasanna became ‘Swami Trigunatitananda.’

The Swami had a strong constitution and was a dare-devil. During his itinerant days he had often been on the brink of disaster and was miraculously saved. It is said that he once underwent surgery for fistula without anaesthetics.

He never cared for his personal comforts but was ever eager to serve others. The famous relief work he organized at Dinajpur (now in Bangladesh) bears testimony to this.

At the behest of Swami Vivekananda, Swami Trigunatitananda started the Udbodhan, the Bengal Monthly of the Ramakrishna Order, and assiduously built it up.

When Swami Turiyananda returned to India from San Francisco, it was Trigunatitananda who was entrusted with the responsibility of organizing the Vedanta work there. It was he who built the first Hindu Temple in the West.
 

The great life came to an abrupt end as a result of a mad man’s act of throwing a bomb. He breathed his last on the 10th January, 1914.

 

TEACHINGS

People talk of finding out the proper kind of guru. But that is not a reasonable position in all cases. Whoever the guru may be, everything will progress nicely if the disciple is earnest and sincere.

People of all castes can be initiated by a good guru who has attained perfection. What caste can a true devotee or the perfect soul have? When the individual sould merges in God (like rivers in the sea), they can no more have any individuality. So how can there be then, the distinction of caste, as Brahmin, Shudra etc., belong to the body and never to the soul?

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SWAMI AKHANDANANDA
(1864-1937)

‘I do not covet earthly kingdom, or heaven, or even salvation. The only thing I desire is the removal of the miseries of the afflicted!’ If these words of Prahlada, the great devotee, could be found truly reflected in anyone’s life, it was in the life of Swami Akhandananda, the third President of the Ramakrishna Order. The Swami, known as Gangadhar Ghatak before ordination into Sannyasa, was born on the 30th September, 1864 in Calcutta. Even in his boyhood days Gangadhar was deeply religious and orthodox to the point of being dubbed as ‘oldish’ even by Sri Ramakrishna himself! As a corrective measure Sri Ramakrishna introduced him to Narendranath (Swami Vivekananda) who was, for all outwar appearances, very heterodox, but inside him he had nothing but God. This acquaintance matured into a deep a lifelong friendship between them.

After the demise of the Master, Gangadhar, who took monastic orders and became ‘Swami Akhandananda,’ led the unfettered life of a wandering monk. For three years he roamed in the Himalayas and visited Tibet also three times. Because of his experience in the Himalayas, Swami Vivekananda took him as his guide in his sojourn there.

Swami Vivekananda’s burning words to do something for the poor and illiterate masses, inspired Swami Akhandananda to do some good work for the education of

poor children both in Khetri and in Udaipur. Finally he started an orphanage in the village of Sargacchi in the Murshidabad district of Bengal to where he had gone to conduct famine relief work. He and the institution grew up with each other.

On the death of Swami Shivananda, Swami Akhandananda was elected as the third President of the Ramakrishna Order.

The Swami had a flair for learning languages, which brought him into intimate contact with the people wherever he went. His childlike simplicity endeared him to one and all. His austerity and scholarship were a source of inspiration for many.

He breathed his last on February 7, 1937.

 

TEACHINGS

The spiritual path for the present age lies through the harmony of all paths of earlier ages- harmony of knowledge, devotion and selfless work. We must have all these : We must have knowledge, devotion and service. It won’t do to have only one.

In this age of Kali, one thing that counts is the Lord’s name. Go on repeating His name. ….Just repeat His name for a hundred and eight times; that will bear fruit in time. Try to increase the number slowly.

No work should be considered degrading. All works are His. Swamiji himself scoured the vessels. When you sweep the floor or dress vegetables, think that you are doing His work.

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SWAMI SUBODHANANDA
(1867-1932)

At the behest of Swami Vivekananda, but most reluctantly, Swami Subodhananda rose to speak before a gathering of monks and novices of the Math. And lo! There was an earth-quake! (It was the earthquake of 1897). It was really an ‘earth-shaking’ speech!

Whether the speech was ‘earth-shaking’ or not, the Swami could certainly help even the lowliest in spirits, to shake off his dejection. He was a wonderful combination of compassion, love, childlike simplicity and profound spiritual wisdom.

His premonastic name was Subodh Chandra Ghosh. He was born in Calcutta on the 8th November, 1867. His parents were deeply religious by nature which automatically left its influence on the son also.

Coming to know of Sri Ramakrishna through a Bengali book of his teachings, Subodh lost no time in meeting the Saint of Dakshineswar. Even during the first two visits, Sri Ramakrishna gauged the spiritual potential of the boy and put him into a deep meditation by mystic methods.

Subodh joined the Baranagore monastery along with the other disciple of the Master and got name ‘Swami Subodhananda’ after ordination. Because of his simple and childlike nature, he was endearingly called ‘Khoka

Maharaj’ (khoka=child) by his monastic brothers. After much austerities and itinerant life, the Swami settled down to a life of service to the suffering humanity. He was very actively associated with many of the relief works of the Ramakrishna Mission. He was extremely liberal in the matter of initiation also, especially towards the weaker sections of the society, whom he tried to help in all possible ways.

The Swami passed away on the 2nd December 1932.

 

TEACHINGS

Before the Lord enters the temple of anyone of His children’s hearts, he fills it with devotion, faith and love, just as a king sends different pieces of furniture and vessels to a subject’s house which he intends to visit. Else, where can the poor subject get all those things? The Lord grants devotion, faith and love, just because He will come.

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SWAMI VIJNANANANDA
(1868-1938)

Sri Ramakrishna one day challenged a young man to wrestle with him. The tall and hefty youth put him down in no time. And the wonder of wonders: The young man soon felt a power entering from Sri Ramakrishna’s body into his own, making him completely powerless! That was how Hariprasanna had one of his early encounters with the Master.

Born on the 28th October, 1868 in a respectable Brahmin family at Belgharia (Calcutta), Hariprasanna Chattopadhyaya (the pre-monastic name of Swami Vijnanananda) received a good education from his parents. He became an engineer and rose to the position of District Engineer at the erstwhile State of United Provinces, before renouncing the world.

From his very first visit, Sri Ramakrishna spotted him out as one belonging to the inner circle and a future monk. He took particular care to instill in him the ideal of brahmacharya or celibacy. His visits to Dakshineswar and contact with the Master laid a firm foundation for his spiritual life

When the Master passed away, Hariprasanna who was still a student at Patna, had a strange vision in which he saw Sri Ramakrishna as if in flesh and blood, standing before him.

Since he had lost his father early and had to support his mother, he was obliged to take to government service, but kept in touch with the disciples of the Master, especially Narendra (Swami Vivekananda). Later – in 1896, to be more precise – he gave up the world and joined the Math then at Alambazar and became ‘Swami Vijnanananda’ after ordination.

Since he was an engineer with good experience in building construction, he was entrusted by Swami Vivekananda himself with the task of building the Math campus as also preparing suitable plans for a memorial temple of Sri Ramakrishna. So he prepared it in consultation with a noted European architect of Calcutta and Swamiji approved of the same. Due to the sudden demise of Swamiji and lack of funds, the project had to wait for a long time to be taken up. It was completed and dedicated by Swami Vijnanananda himself on the 14th January, 1938.

A group of young men in Allahabad had formed themselves into an association called ‘Brahmavadin Club’ with a view to uplifting themselves morally and spiritually. They had done so under the inspiration of a devotee of Sri Ramakrishna. This devotee had left Allahabad in 1900. As luck would have it, Swami Vijnanananda arrived at Allahabad in the same year as a wandering monk. The young men who were delighted to have a disciple of Sri Ramakrishna amongst them requested the Swmi to live in the rented premises of their Club and guide them. The Swami agreed and lived there for nearly ten years, spending most of his time in austerity and study. He later on established a permanent branch of the Ramakrishna Math at Allahabad in 1910.

The Swami was a great scholar, not only in Sanskrit and religio-philosophical works but also in astronomy and astrology.

He was elected the President of the Ramakrishna Order in 1937 after the demise of Swami Akhandananda. He strove hard to complete the construction of the temple of Sri Ramakrishna at Belur Math, which he successfully did and dedicated in January 1938 as already indicated. He then returned to Allahabad and passed away on the 25th April the same year. The body was consigned to the sacred waters of the Triveni, at the confluence of the rivers Ganga and Yamuna, and the invisible Saraswati.

 

TEACHINGS

One should not ask for anything from God, but remain satisfied with whatever. He is pleased to give. If you ask for anything He will give a gift which is like a double-edged sword. Real welfare lies in using things properly; wrong use of things beings misfortune.

Whatever situation one may be in, one can, to some degree, serve the motherland, serve the common people, and above all, serve God. Always have the good of the universe at heart and let this become a part of your daily prayer.

One reason for the decadence of our country is that in the name of religion, people put forward harmful theories, as a result of which, people lose their faith in religion itself. Simplicity, faithfulness and purity of heart are called for.

One who can detach his mind from material things will see the light of God and his presence in everything. Worldly attachment draws people away from God and scorch them in the wild fire of the world.

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