Swami Brahmananda

An introduction

Monastic Name: Swami Brahmananda

Pre-Monastic Name: Rakhal Chandra Ghosh

January 1863
Born on 21st January and was named Rakhal (meaning a ‘cowherd boy’ – playmate of Krishna)

Middle of 1881
Met Sri Ramakrishna for the first time. In this year, he married an 11 year sister of Manomohan Mittra who was a devotee of Sri Ramakrishna, who took Rakhal to Sri Ramakrishna, and who also later made it possible for him to renounce the world.

January 1886
Got ochre cloth (monastic robes) and rosaries distributed by the Master among 12 of his disciples.

January 1887
Took final monastic vows with other brother disciples by performing the traditional viraja homa in front of the Master’s picture.

March 1888 – 1892
Travelled and went on pilgrimages spending a lot of time practising meditation, relying solely on God for all needs – including the next meal.

May 1897
Formed the Ramakrishna Mission with Swami Vivekananda and other disciples. Swami Vivekananda became general president and Swami Brahmananda – the president of the Kolkata Centre. Handled accounts, kept the monastery’s diary, supervised the monastery and gave spiritual instructions to the novices.

Became the President of the Mission after the passing away of Swami Vivekananda.

During his presidency
Over saw the development of The Ramakrishna Math and Ramakrishna Mission into a strong and vibrant institution with numerous centres.

10 April 1922
Passed away at Belur Math.

The life story of Swami Brahmananda

Extracts from: The Apostles of Sri Ramakrishna; Compiled and Edited by Swami Gambhirananada; Advaita Ashrama; Mayavati; June 1995

One day Sri Ramakrishna saw a vision which threw his whole body into a shiver. He saw that the Divine Mother pointed out to him a boy as being his son. How could he have a son? The very idea was death to him! Then the Divine Mother consoled Her disconsolate child and said that the boy was his spiritual son and not a son in the worldly sense. Sri Ramakrishna breathed a sigh of relief. Afterwards when the same boy came to him as a disciple Ramakrishna at once recognised him to be the one he had seen in his vision. He was later known as Swami Brahmananda.

The early name of Swami Brahmananda was Rakhal Chandra Ghosh.

Rakhal received from the Master not only the tender affection of a parent, but also the guidance of a spiritual Guru. It was the unsurpassed love of the Master which at first drew Rakhal to him, but the latter soon found that behind that human affection there was a spiritual power which could transform lives by a mere wish or thought. Through the Master’s incomparable love, Rakhal began to undergo a great spiritual transformation.

After the passing of the Master, Rakhal joined the monastery at Baranagore along with the other young disciples. Subsequently they took Sanyasa ceremonially and changed their family names. Thus Rakhal became Swami Brahmananda. But his brother-disciples preferred to address him as “Raja”, as a mark of deep love and respect, and in subsequent years, he was known in the order as Raja Maharaj or simply Maharaj.

Two years after Maharaj had returned to the Math, Swami Vivekananda also had returned to India. When the great Swamiji met Maharaj, he handed over to the latter all the money he had collected for the Indian work, and said: “Now I am relieved. I have handed over the sacred trust to the right person.” Maharaj was the “friend, philosopher, and guide” of Swamiji in everything concerning the management of the monastery and the philanthropic works of the Mission. He gave advice about his plans, and followed his ideas in action. He also took care of his health. When the Ramakrishna Mission Society was started, Swamiji became the general President and Maharaj was made the President of the Calcutta centre. But in the beginning of 1902 Swamiji relinquished his position. Swami Brahmananda was then elected to that place and he worked as the President of the Ramakrishna Math and Mission till his last day.

Maharaj’s method of work was wonderful. Though his responsibility was too great for any ordinary mortal, his calmness was never disturbed, the serenity of his mind was never ruffled. About the secret of work he once said: “Give the whole of your mind to God. If there is no wastage of mental energy, with a fraction of your mind you can do so much work that the world will be dazed.” The truth of this was exemplified in the life of the Swami himself. Who could have believed on seeing him that he was bearing such a heavy burden? Rather it seemed as if he was indifferent with regard to the affairs of the organisation and that his whole mind was given to God. It was as if only by an effort that he could bring his mind down to mundane things. His far away look, his half-closed eyes, deeply calm composure indicated that his thoughts did not belong to this plane of existence. Yet he was sure of the progress of the work for he relied more on the spiritual attainments and character of the members of the organisation than on the outer circumstances, though he never neglected the latter. He had intimate knowledge of the minds of the different members working even in distant centres. He could read characters at a glance and guide them accordingly. Every member of the vast organisation felt that his interest was safe in the hands of the Swami. His gentle wish was more than a command to all the workers.