Swami Premananda

An introduction | The life story | His teachings

An introduction

Monastic Name: Swami Premananda

Pre-Monastic Name: Baburam Ghosh

December 1861
Born on 10th December Taraprasanna Ghosh and Matangini Devi – a pious and devoted couple.

April 1886
Met Sri Ramakrishna for the first time

March 1885
Came to stay with Sri Ramakrishna at Dakshineshwar permanently as the Master needed someone who had totally renounced ‘woman and gold’ to come and live with him.

December 1886
Took the vows of renunciation guided by Swamiji, alongwith seven other brother disciples at Antpur on Christmas eve.

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

1887 – 1898
Passed his days in wandering and austerity. Travelled extensively across India.

1898 onwards
Became the ‘official’ manager of the Belur Math on Swamiji’s instructions. Served the devotees of Thakur as Thakur himself. Also trained the monks and young novitiates.

1901 onwards
Became an active preacher, and from 1913 – 1917 visited East Bengal (now Bangladesh) every year. As a result of his extensive preaching in East Bengal, many young men fulfilled their callings and became monks.

30 July 1918
Passed away at Kolkata.

His last wish was “Remember, let there be no negligence towards the devotees!”

The life story

Sri Ramakrishna used to refer to half a dozen among his disciples as Ishwarakotis (divine and ever free): and to this select group belonged Swami Premananda. Talent and greatness like cream do not always float on the top; often times they lie hidden like gems in the dark caves of the sea. And though the aroma of this saint of angelic beauty and sweetness did not travel beyond a small circle of devotees and acquaintances, yet he occupies a place of great eminence among the children of Sri Ramakrishna.

Swami Premananda was born on December 10, 1861 in the prosperous and picturesque village of Antpur, in the district of Hooghly, Bengal.

The father is reflected in the son. Some of Sri Ramakrishna’s disciples specially recalled some aspects of the infinite excellences of the Master. Swami Premananda mirrored more than anyone else the Master’s all-consuming love for all. Monks, householders, devotees, visitors and guests, all felt the tenderness of the monastery. Like an indulgent mother, he sheltered under his protecting wings those whose perverse ways had alienated them from society. His sympathy unlocked in many of these lost souls of the world unsuspected springs of devotion and service.

Concern for the devotees did not leave him even during his fatal illness. If anybody remonstrated with him for his anxiety lest it should affect his health, he would reply, “It is my nature. The service of the devotee is the worship of God”. A couple of days before he passed away, he called to his side a Sanyasin who looked after the management of the Math during his absence and asked him in a voice tender with emotion, “could you possibly do one thing?” The Sanyasin replied, “Please tell me what I am to do.” “Will you be able to serve the devotees” was the question he met with. “Yes, I shall”, was his reply. “Don’t forget, then”, said Baburam Maharaj almost imploringly.

It was Swami Vivekananda’s dream that the Mission he founded should become the rallying point of a new resurgent spirit in India and that the monastery at Belur should become a great centre of learning from which would emanate noble and inspiring ideas. Swami Premananda made earnest efforts to realise an aspect of Swamiji’s dream namely to convert the Math into a great centre of Sanskrit learning. Through his efforts a study circle was gradually formed under the guidance of a competent pundit. He also encouraged the study of other subjects like Western philosophy. The dissemination of education among the illiterate masses also interested him greatly. He blessed and encouraged all who undertook such activities. He wrote to one:

“Be you the torch-bearers in the path of spreading knowledge. The cultivation of knowledge in the company of the Sadhus will impart a new appearance to the country determined. It is only by so doing that the boys will become men-nay, they will become Rishis and gods… What will one school or three or four Sevashramas avail? Have faith in God’s grace, establish schools and Sevashramas in every town, village, and hamlet.

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

His 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.

What one seeks, that one gets. You have got what you wanted. When you really hanker after God, He will raise your mind from things of the world and grant you His vision. But as long as you are attached to the world and are strongly inclined to the things of the world can you yearn for the Lord with all your heart?

Practise to be like the kitten, calling on their mother, and remain with joy and satisfaction in the place and state in which She, the Divine mother, puts you. Complete resignation to the will of the Divine Mother is what is wanted. You must become ever joined with the Lord wholly without any distraction. Pure and absolute single-minded devotion to the Lord is what you should cultivate.

It is by the power of habit that evil thoughts rise in the mind. Form a contrary habit by continued practice, and gradually the habit of evil thoughts may not arise in the mind. Bad thoughts gain strength by association. Hence, associate with the good and give up evil company.

The essentials of religion are principally two: Self knowledge and self-control. By religion I do not mean any particular doctrines, dogmas, beliefs, or faiths but I mean the realization in our daily life, in each case of the worship of the Supreme Being, which is the ideal of our religion.

The real purpose of life is to gain self-knowledge; life is not meant for a discussion as to whether virtue or vice exists. Virtue and vice arise from desires. Peace arises from detachment. Peace means the conquest of desires. And the way to the conquest of desires is through doing good to others, striving for the welfare of others. Instead of thinking about oneself, one should think of others, this leads to a gradual elimination of the nervousness of mind.

Compiled and Edited by Swami Gambhirananada
The Apostles of Sri Ramakrishna
Advaita Ashrama; Mayavati; June 199
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