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Purna Chandra Ghosh

The highlights of his life

(This life-story has been excerpted from the book ‘They Lived With God’ by Swami Chetanananda, published by the Vedanta Society of St. Lois. To read the entire studied life, and lives of 27 other intimate disciples, please read this book. )

  1. Born either in the later part of 1871 or the early part of 1872 in a wealthy family of North Calcutta.
  1. At the age of 13, in 1885, the principal of his school – M. – the recorder of the Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna, asked him if he wanted to see a saint like Sri Chaitanya, and took him to visit the Master.
  2. When Purna came to the Master, Mother said to him: “With this the coming of those of whom you had visions is complete. No one else of this class will come in the future”. (The name Purna literally means ‘Complete’ or ‘Full’.)
  3. He couldn’t visit the Master very often because his parents and relatives were rich aristocrats, considered it beneath their dignity for him to visit or associate with an ordinary temple priest.
  4. One night when Purna was studying alone in his room the Master sent M. to call Purna, met him at a junction near his house, and standing there, the Master fed Purna with his own hands. Purna was overwhelmed with emotion and was bound forever to the Master’s love.
  5. April 1886, visited the Master probably for the last time at Cossipore Garden House where he had shifted for his cancer treatment during his last days.
  6. At the age of 16, (1887), his parents forced him to get married.
  7. In 1907 Purna was elected secretary of Vivekananda Society of Calcutta, which had been founded in 1902, just after Swamiji’s passing away.
  8. Contributed to Brahmavadin, and English monthly started by Swami Vivekananda.
  9. Passed away on November 16, 1913.
  10. Through Purna’s life, Sri Ramakrishna demonstrated the synthesis of an ideal yogi and an ideal householder.

His relationship with Thakur

  1. On July 15, 1885, Balarama asked the Master, ‘Sir, how was it possible for Purna to know all of a sudden that the world is illusory?’ Sri Ramakrishna replied: ‘He has inherited that knowledge from his previous births. In his past lives he practiced many disciplines. It is the body alone that is small or grows big, and not the Atman. Do you know what these youngsters are like? They are like certain plants that grow fruit first and then flowers. These devotees first of all have the vision of God; next they hear about his glories and attributes; and at the last they are united with him.”
  1. In September 1885 Sri Ramakrishna had to move from Dakshineswar to Calcutta for his cancer treatment. Early in the morning of October 30, 1885, Purna visited the Master secretly. When M. arrived the Master said to him, smiling: ‘Purna came this morning. He has such a nice nature!”
  2. On a number of occasions Sri Ramakrishna talked about Purna’s real nature: ‘Purna is a part of Narayana and a spiritual aspirant possessing a high degree of sattva. In this respect he may be said to occupy a place below Narendra (Vivekananda)’. Purna was born with a element of Vishnu. I worship him mentally with bel leaves, but the offering was not accepted. Then I worshipped him with tulsi leaves and sandal paste. That proved to be all right. (The leaves of the bel tree are offered to Shiva, where as tulsi leaves and sandal paste are offered to Vishnu).
  3. On August 29, 1885, the Master received a letter from Purna, in which he had written: ‘I am feeling extremely happy. Now and then I cannot sleep at night for joy.’ After hearing the letter the Master had said: ‘I feel thrilled to hear this. Even later on he will be able to keep this bliss. Let me see the letter.’ He pressed the letter in the palm of his hand and said: ‘Generally I cannot touch letters. But this is a good letter.’

Some aspects of his personality

  1. Purna was an ideal father for his children, and he performed all the duties of a householder faithfully. He educated his children well and married his daughters in good families. He was kind and generous to his younger brothers and friends. Yet, in spite of his many family responsibilities and social commitments, he maintained a high spiritual mood.
  1. Purna was calm, quiet, and unostentatious by nature, but when necessary he could be outspoken and spirited. Once two English soldiers ill-treated some local people of Simla. Purna immediately protested and challenged the soldiers. He was very patriotic and had great appreciation for the freedom fighters of India. He strongly believed that Swamiji’s life and message would inspire India’s new generation. Purna always maintained close contact with his brother disciples even when he was living at Delhi or Simla. A lifelong habit of steady enabled Purna to write well in English, and he used his talents to contribute some valuable articles for the Brahmavadin, an English monthly started by Swami Vivekananda.
  2. On one occasion when Purna was walking with a friend, he seemed to be absent-minded. The friend asked him if he had any body-consciousness or not. Touching his throat Purna replied that he had consciousness above that point but not below. This indicates that Purna was sthitaprajna, a ‘man of steady wisdom’.

More details of his life story

Most people do not realize how difficult it is for an avatar or for an illumined soul to hear a talk about mundane things. Some even experienced a painful sensation in their bodies when they have to listen to worldly talk. Because of this, these great souls long for spiritually-minded companions with whom they can communicate and share their feelings and experiences. Sri Ramakrishna had to wait nearly twenty-three years after his realization for his intimate disciples to come. When Purna came Mother said: “With this the coming of those of whom you had visions is complete. No one else of this class will come in the future”. (The name Purna literally means ‘Complete’ or ‘Full’.)

Purnachandra Gosh was one of the six direct disciples of Sri Ramakrishna who were designated by the Master as Ishvarakotis, that is, great souls who are eternally free from the bonds of Karma and who take birth of their own will to do good mankind. The other five Ishvarakotis were Swamis Vivekananda, Brahmananda, Premananda, Yogananda and Niranjanananda. Although Purna did not become a monk he commanded much respect from the Master’s devotees for his spirituality.

Purna was born either in the later part of 1871 or the early part of 1872 in a wealthy family of North Calcutta. Purna was a student at the Shyambazar branch of the Metropolitan Institution, a school founded by Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar. The headmaster of this school was M., the recorder of The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna.

One day in March 1885, M. said to Purna, ‘Would you like to see a saint like Sri Chaitanya. Purna immediately said yes. He was then just 13 years old and in the eighth grade. Purna’s relatives were a problem, however. Since they were rich aristocrats, Purna knew that they would consider it beneath their dignity for him to visit or associate with an ordinary temple priest. They were also very strict disciplinarians. For this reason M. devised a plan to take Purna to the Master secretly, during the school hours. One day he hired a carriage and they both left school for Dakshineswar. The Master immediately recognized Purna’s divine nature and treated him as one belonging to his own inner circle.

As a mother bird protects her babies by spreading her wings, so Sri Ramakrishna protected his young disciples and devotees from the temptations, trials and tribulations of life. At three o’clock in the afternoon of April 6, 1885, the Master reached Balarama’s house. It was terribly hot that day, and the Master was exhausted from the trip. Seeing M., he asked, ‘Why haven’t you brought Purna?’
M.: ‘He doesn’t like to come to a gathering of people. He is afraid you might praise him before others and his relatives might then hear about it’.
Master: ‘Yes, that’s true. I wont do it in the future. Well, how do you find Purna? Does he go into ecstatic moods?’
M.: ‘No, I have not noticed in him any outer sign of such emotion’.
Master: ‘Purna will not show his emotion outwardly; he hasn’t that kind of temperament. His other signs are good. Did you ask him what he felt after meeting me’.
M.: ‘Yes, sir, we talked about that. He has been telling me for the last four or five days that whenever he thinks of God or repeats his name, tears flow from his eyes and the hair on his body stands on end — such is his joy.’
Master: ‘Indeed! That’s all he needs’.

It is very reassuring and encouraging to hear from the Master himself about his concern and love for his disciples.

One night Purna was studying alone in his room when he suddenly noticed M. standing outside near his window. He immediately came out and M. whispered to him: ‘The Master is waiting for you at the junction of Shyampukar Street and Cornwallis Street (now Bidhan Sarani). Please come with me.’ The Master was extremely pleased to see Purna. He said: ‘I have brought a sandesh (a sweet) for you. Please eat it.’ The Master fed Purna with his own hands. Overwhelmed with emotion, Purna began to cry. The three of them went to M.’s house, where the Master gave Purna some instruction on spiritual disciplines.

How can one live in the world and at the same time keep ones mind in god? The scriptures answered this vital question thus: ‘A woman who is attached to a paramour will constantly have her mind on him, even though she is engaged in her household duties.’ Likewise, one should establish a relationship with god and constantly think of him. This is exactly what happened in Purna’s life. His parents confined him to the house, but his mind dwelt in the Master.

In September 1885 Sri Ramakrishna had to move from Dakshineswar to Calcutta for his cancer treatment. Early in the morning of October 30, 1885, Purna visited the Master secretly. When M. arrived the Master said to him, smiling: ‘Purna came this morning. He has such a nice nature!”

So far as the records show, the last time Purna saw Sri Ramakrishna was at the Cossipore garden house in April 1886, a few months before the Master’s death. Purna came in a hired carriage paid for by M. After Sri Ramakrishna’s passing away Purna became more withdrawn and indifferent towards the world. He sometimes visited the monastic disciples of Sri Ramakrishna, but this alarmed his parents. Fearing that Purna might also become a monk, they forced him to marry against his will. He was then only sixteen. Although he was thus engaged in his duties as a householder, whenever the devotees would come to visit him he would talk only about the Master, or he would remain silent, a reverent listener to their conversation.

In Sri Ramakrishna’s divine drama Purna’s role was in the background. He simply led the life according to the Master’s instructions. The other devotees and disciples of Sri Ramakrishna had much love and respect for him because of his extraordinary faith, reliance on god, devotion, humility, and selflessness.

In 1907 Purna was elected secretary of Vivekananda Society of Calcutta, which had been founded in 1902, just after Swamiji’s passing away. Purna visited the society regularly and meditated in the shrine along with other member. He was a great inspiration to the younger members and gave them advice like a friend. Purna had to spend several months in a year in Simla for official work. While there, he would go in the evening after office hours to a solitary place on a hill and spend sometime in meditation. People seldom saw his spiritual emotion, as he had tremendous power to hold it within. But one day a devotee was singing devotional songs at Purna’s Simla home. A friend noticed that tears were flowing from Purna’s eyes and that they remained red for a long time.

During Girish Gosh’s last illness in 1911, Purna visited him. Seeing Purna, a beloved disciple of the Master, Girish forgot his pain and suffering. Both talked about Sri Ramakrishna for sometime, and when Purna was about to leave, Girish said to him: ‘Brother, bless me so that I may remember the master with every breath. Glory to Sri Ramakrishna!’ Purna humbly replied: ‘The Master is always looking after you. Please bless us.’

Purna had a wealthy friend named Shyam Basu, who was related to Balaram Basu. Shyam Basu used to visit Purna quite often and would call him ‘Guruji.’ Although he was a sincere gentleman, his moral character was not good. One day a person mentioned Shyam Basu’s shortcomings to Purna. At this Purna replied: It is true Shyam Basu has some defects like other ordinary people, but whatever he does, he does privately without dragging others into it. Yet he possesses a noble quality that is very rare, and that is his veracity. He keeps his word, remaining ever steadfast like the Himalayas. And if he sees anyone in difficulty, he comes forward to help without passing any judgement. By the grace of the Master, Purna was free from the disease of faultfinding. Later, through Purna’s influence, Shyam Basu’s life was changed, and he became very devoted to Sri Ramakrishna and Swami Vivekananda.

On July 13, 1885, Sri Ramakrishna has prophesied about Purna: ‘Purna is in such an exalted state that either he will very soon give up his body – the body is useless after the realization of God – or his inner nature will within a few days burst forth. He has a divine nature – the traits of a god. It makes a person less fearful of men. If you put a garland of flowers round his neck or smear his body with sandal paste or burn incense before him, he will go into samadhi; for then he will know beyond the shadow of a doubt that Narayana himself dwells in his body, that it is Narayana who has assumed the body. I have come to know about it’.

The death of an earthbound soul is like a tug of war. His prana (life-force) wants to leave the body, but his unfulfilled desires want the prana to stay. Thus the struggle goes on. In Purna’s case, however, it was clearly seen he did not feel any pain at the time of his death and that his mind was soaring high during his last hours.

Kanti Gosh, Purna’s young brother, described Purna’s passing away in a letter: ‘We could not believe that he was dead. On his final day he was very calm and seemed to be immersed in samadhi. We were surprised when the doctor told us that he had died a couple of hours before. Even at that time the crown of his head was warm. I felt an atmosphere like that of a temple in his room. Another striking thing happened when his body was brought out from his room to the courtyard. At that time some large raindrops fell on his body, but not anywhere else. Moreover, it was a moonlit night.

Purna Chandra justified his name (Purna means ‘full’; Chandra means ‘moon’). He was a stainless full moon, shedding beautiful, soothing light to all, imperceptibly. He was an unattached yogi, endowed with all divine qualities. Through Purna’s life, Sri Ramakrishna demonstrated the synthesis of an ideal yogi and an ideal householder.

Swamiji’s extraordinary life on earth came to an end on July 4, 1902.

Swamiji’s temple Belur Math – built at the exact spot where his body was cremated

The Swami knew his end was nearing. His body was wearing away day by day, and he was preparing for the final departure. “How often does a man ruin his disciples”, he said, “by remaining always with them! leader leaves them, for without his absence they cannot develop themselves.” He refused to express any opinion on the questions of the day. “I can no more enter into outside affairs, I am already on the way” was his reply to those who came to him with problems regarding work. “You may be right, but I cannot enter any more into these matters; I am going down into death”, he told Sister Nivedita when she questioned him on some important matter concerning her educational programme.

Everything about the Swami in the last days was deliberate and significant. A week before the end, he was seen consulting the Bengali almanac. Three days before, on an Ekadashi day, he fed Sister Nivedita with his own hands, though he himself was fasting. At the end of her meal he helped her wash her hands by pouring water for her, and then he dried them with a towel. “It is I who should do these things for you, Swamiji, not you for me”, she protested. His reply startled her: “Jesus washed the feet of his disciples,” he said. The reply, “But that was the last time” came to her lips, but remained unuttered. Something checked her. Here also it was the last time.

On the last day, Friday, 4th July 1902, he rose very early. Going to the chapel alone, he shut the doors and bolted them, contrary to his habit, and meditated for three hours. He came down the steps of the shrine, singing a beautiful song to the divine Mother Kali. Then he said in a whisper: “If there were another Vivekananda, then he would have understood what this Vivekananda has done. And yet how many Vivekanandas shall be born in time?” Next he asked his disciple, Swami Shuddhananda, to read a passage from the Shukla Yajur-Veda with the commentary of Mahidhara on it. He did not agree with Mahidhara and exhorted the disciple to make independent research into the Vedas. He partook of the noon meal with great relish, in company with the members of the Math, unlike on other days when he took his meal alone in his room. Immediately after, he gave lessons to the Brahmacharins on Sanskrit grammar for three hours. In the afternoon, he went out with Swami Premananda and walked nearly two miles, discussing his plan to start a Vedic College in the monastery. When questioned as to its utility, he said: “The study of the Vedas will kill superstition.” On his return, he inquired about the welfare of every member of the monastery. Then he conversed for a long time with the members on the rise and fall of nations. “India is immortal”, he said, “if she persists in her search for God. But if she goes in for politics and social conflict, she will die.” At seven o’clock in the evening, the bell announced the worship in the chapel. The Swami went to his room and told the disciple attending him that no one should come to him until called for. He spent an hour in meditation and telling beads, then called the disciple to open all the windows and fan his head. He lay down quietly on his bed. The attendant thought that he was either sleeping or meditating. At the end of an hour, his hands trembled a little and he breathed once very heavily. There was silence for a minute or two, and again he breathed in the same manner. He had breathed his last. He had just completed thirty-nine years, five months, and twenty-four days, thus fulfilling a prophecy which was frequently on his lips, “I shall never live to see forty”.

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

Last year in India

Immediately after arrival in Bombay, he left for Calcutta, and reached Belur Math late in the evening of 9th December, 1900, without any previous intimation. The gates of the monastery were closed for the night. Hearing the dinner bell, in his eagerness to join the monks at their meal, he scaled the gate. There was great rejoining over the hero’s home-coming.

The tree under his room, where he received visitors

Now the Swami tried to lead a carefree life at the monastery, surrounded by his pets: the dog Bagha, the she-goat Hansi, an antelope, a stork, several cows and sheep and ducks and geese, and a kid which he named Matru. He used to run and play with Matru on the grounds, sometimes clad in his loin-cloth ; or he would supervise the cooking arrangement ; or be with the monks singing devotional songs.

Sometimes he would be seen imparting spiritual instruction to the visitors, at other times engaged in serious study in his room or explaining to the members of the Math the intricate passages of the scriptures and unfolding to them his scheme of future work.

Swamiji’s room overlooking the Ganges (view from the river)

He freed himself entirely from all formal duties by executing a deed of trust in favour of his brother disciples, investing in them all the properties, including the Belur Math so far held in his name. Brahmananda was elected President. Still he kept a careful watch on the life in the monastery, in spite of his physical suffering, and he was obeyed unquestioningly by all including the President. He looked to every detail – cleanliness, meals, study, meditation, work. He drew up a weekly time-table and saw to it that it was scrupulously followed. The classes on the Vedas and the Puranas were held daily, he himself conducting them when his health permitted.

Inside his room – where he studied

The bell sounded at fixed hours for meals, study, discussion, and meditation. About three months before his death, he made it a rule that at four o’clock in the morning a handbell should be rung from room to room to awaken the monks. Within half an hour all were to gather in the chapel for meditation. He was always there before them. He got up at three and went to the chapel, where he meditated for more than two hours. As he got up, he used to chant softly “Shiva!” Shiva!”. His presence in the chapel created an intense spiritual atmosphere. Swami Brahmananda used to say: “Ah! one at once becomes absorbed if one sits for meditation in the company of Naren. I do not feel this when I sit alone.”

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

Work in India

For the purpose of establishing his work on a firm basis, the Swami summoned all the monastic and lay disciples of Shri Ramakrishna to a meeting at Balaram Bose’s house on 1st May 1897. He told them that he has conclusion that without an organization nothing great and permanent could be achieved, and proposed that an association be formed in the name of the Master know as the Ramakrishna Mission.

The aims and ideals of the Mission as propounded by the Swami were purely spiritual and humanitarian. The Mission had nothing to do with politics. Suitable resolutions were passed to this effects and the Ramakrishna Mission came into being. The Swami himself became the General President, Swami Yogananda the Vice-President, and Swami Brahmananda the President of the Calcutta centre.

To fulfill the Swami’s cherished dream of having a permanent monastery on the Ganga, plot of land was secured at Belur, near Calcutta, early in 1898, and the Math was removed to Nilambar Mukherjee’s garden house at Belur.

His main concern, however, was the training of the young Sannyasins and Brahmacharins, who were to carry on his work in the future. He encouraged them to develop an all-round personality, himself setting the example. He arranged study classes them: “You will go to hell if you seek your own salvation. Seek the salvation of others if you want to reach the Highest.” You must try to combine in your life immense idealism with immense practicality. You must be prepared to go into deep meditation now, and the next moment you must be ready to go and cultivate the fields. You must be prepared to explain the intricacies of the scriptures now, and the next moment to go and sell the produce of the fields in the market…… The true man is he who is strong as strength itself and yet possesses a woman’s heart.”

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

Return of the Hero

Though the Swami was completely absorbed in his work in the West, he never forgot about his original mission. He was constantly in correspondence with his disciples in Madras and elsewhere, guiding, instructing, and encouraging them to push on with the work in India. In his immortal letters, detailed instructions were given about organizing the work.

To quote only a few of his inspiring words: “Work hard, be steady, and have faith in the Lord. . . . Keep the motto before you – ‘Elevation of the masses without injuring their religion’. . . the fate of a nation does not depend upon the number of husbands their widows get, but upon the condition of the masses. Can you raise them? Can you give them back their lost individuality? . . . This is to be done and we will do it. You are all born to do it. Have faith in yourselves, great convictions are the mothers of great deeds.” (Complete Works, 1963, V. 29-30).

In the middle of November 1896, he suddenly decided that he must go back to India. So he asked Mrs. Servier, after a class talk, to book their berths for India from Naples by the earliest steamer available. On 16th December the Swami left London with the Serviers.

At Naples, Mr. Goodwin joined the party, and they arrived in Colombo on 15th January 1897.

The news of the swami’s return had already reached India. He was no longer the unknown, wandering Sannyasin. The great work he had done for India in the west had become known throughout India. From Colombo to Madras, in all the important cities, committees consisting of all sections of the society had been formed to accord him a fitting reception.

All along the route of his tour, specially in Jaffna and Kumbakonam, he gave inspiring lectures, reminding the people of the glory of India’s past and exhorting them to apply themselves to the task of raising her to her ancient splendour. But it was in Madras that he gave full expression to his ideas. On the third day after his arrival, a public address of welcome was presented to him at the Victoria Hall, but it was too small to contain the large gathering. The Swami at the insistent demand of the enthusiastic public waiting outside, spoke to them in the open from the top of a coach in “the Gita fashion”, urging them to maintain their enthusiasm and utilize it for the service of India. During his stay in Madras the Swami gave five public lectures, the subjects selected being “My Plan of Campaign”, The Sages of India”, Vedanta in Its Relation to Practical Life”, The Work before Us”, and “The Future of India”. In these, the Swami addressed the whole of India, and here one finds his message to India expressed in the most inspiring Languages.

Let us listen to a few of his soul-stirring words: “I see that each nation, like each individual, has one theme in this life, which is its centre, the principal note round which every other note comes to form the harmony, in one nation political power is its vitality, as in England, artistic life in another, and so on. In India, religious life forms the centre, the keynote of the whole music of national life. …. Therefore, if you succeed in the attempt to throw off your religion and take up either politics, or society, or any other things as your centre, as the vitality of your national life, the results will be that you will become extinct.

Every man has to make his own choice ; so has every nation. We made our choice ages ago and we must abide by it. And, after all, it is not such a bad choice. It is such a bad choice in this world to think not of matter but of spirit, not of man but of God?

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

Work in America

In order to further the cause of India and to free himself from obligation to his friends, he accepted the offer of a lecture bureau for a lecture tour of America. He thought that would help him also in spreading his ideas. The tour took him round the large cities in the Eastern and Mid-Western States. Everywhere, people flocked to hear him. His speeches, delivered extempore, were mostly devoted to the exposition of religion and philosophy as preached and practiced by the Hindus through the centuries. He also explained to the America audience the Hindus manners, customs, and religious practices, removing some of the misconceptions spread through the monstrous and fantastic stories told by the Christian missionaries.

The Hindoo Monk (as he was known then! – a newspaper picture)

The Swami also spoke with great reverence on Christ and his teachings and the valuable contribution of the West to the culture and civilization of the world. He did not hide his admiration for the tremendous progress the West had made in the fields of industry and economics, as well as for the western democratic social systems with equal opportunity for everyone. While he was never sparing in his praise of the good side of western civilization, the hollowness of the western society- the tears behind the peal of laughter-became more and more apparent to him as he moved from city to city. He was mercilessly critical of the defects in European culture-the signs of brutality, inhumanity, pettiness, arrogance, and ignorance of other cultures-as he was severe in his criticism of the defects of Indian social customs like untouchability and other allied evils during his lectures from Colombo to Almora after his return from the West in 1897.

Thus the Swami’s western work took him gradually beyond his original plan, which was just to raise money for the uplift of the Indian masses. He realized that his services could not be confined within narrow limits. He wrote to his disciples who were urging him to return to India: “I have helped you all as I could. You must now help yourselves. What country has any special claim on me? Am I a nation’s slave? I do not care whether they are Hindus, or Mohammedans, or Christians, but those that love the Lord will always command my service.” He gave away most of his earnings through lectures to the charitable institutions there in American and asked his friends to do the same. He wholeheartedly devoted himself to the service of the West.

This attitude, however, was no mere volte face. It arose from the fact that he had become conscious of the full significance of his life’s work. His mission was to the whole world, not to India only. He realized that his task was to preach the fundamental universal principles of religion, and to preach them to all countries. Later he was to assure India that only if she clung to those universal principles, which were her birthright, would her poverty and other problems be solved. To these universal principles he gave the name “Vedanta”. As Miss Marie Burke writes in Swami Vivekananda in America: “Never before had it been broadened into a philosophy and religion which included every faith of the world and every noble effort of man-reconciling spirituality and material advancement, faith and reason, science and mysticism, work and contemplation, service to man and absorption in God. Never before had it been conceived as the one universal religion, by accepting the principles of which the follower of any or no creed could continue along his own path and at the same time be able to identify himself with every other creed and aspect of religion.

“The Herculean task of teaching Vedanta in a foreign land had completely worn him out; he needed rest badly.

The Thousand Island Park – where he rested

Thence he proceeded to Thousand Island Park on the St. Lawrence where, at the earnest request of a few students, who were ready to put aside all other interests to study Vedanta, he agreed to hold classes for them.

There, under ideal surroundings, he taught those intimate students. The subjects discussed in that heavenly atmosphere surcharged with his spirituality were many. The Swami expounded to them such precious texts as the Bhagavad-Gita and the Narada-Bhakti-Sutras, with his mind always absorbed in Brahman. He himself said later that he was at his best at Thousand Island Park. One of the students records: “Of the wonderful weeks that followed, it is difficult to write. Only if one’s mind were lifted to that high state of consciousness in which we lived for the time, could one hope to recapture the experience. We were filled with joy. . . . On the wings of inspiration, he carried us to the height which was his natural abode. … His first overwhelming desire was to show us the path of Mukti, to set us free. … His second object … was to train this group to carry on the work in America.” There he reached one of his loftiest heights ;the students saw ideas unfold and flower. He sought to awaken the heroic energy of the souls placed in his hands. He said: “If I could only set you free with a touch!” And how many were helped to freedom during his lifetime; Besides, the number of those who are being inspired to divinity by his immortal message is on the increase as time rolls on.

A concrete result of his New York work was the establishment of a Vedanta Society there, under the presidentship of Mr. Francis H. Leggett.

The Swami had seen by now the best and the worst of both the East and the West. He was now convinced that each had something to learn from the other. Ï believe that the Hindu faith has developed the spiritual at the expense of the material,” he said, “and I think that in the West the contrary is true. By uniting the materialism of the West with the spiritualism of the East, I believe much can be accomplished.” In Detroit, he said: “May not one combine the energy of the lion and the gentleness of the lamb? Perhaps, the future holds the conjunction of the East and the West, a combination which would be productive of marvelous results.” The problem was how to harmonise everything without sacrificing anything. He had in his mind the plan of bringing his brother disciples to teach and preach Vedanta in America, and taking some of his American and English disciples to teach science, industry, economics, applied sociology, organization, and co-operation in India.

That, however, would not go far unless there was a complete and thorough reorganization of the great religious and philosophical thought of India on a sound national and universal basis. Then alone could Indian thought recover its dynamic drive and progressive power to advance and spiritualise the west. For this purpose, he seriously thought of writing a book. He revealed this idea of his to Alasinga, his disciple, thus: “Now, I will tell you my discovery. All of religion is contained in Vedanta, that is, the three stages of the Vedanta philosophy-the Dvaita, Vishishtadvaita, and Advaita; one comes after the other. These are the three stages of spiritual growth in man. Each one is necessary. This is the essential of religion. The Vedanta applied to the various ethnic customs and creeds of India is Hinduism. The first stage, Dvaita, applied to the idea of ethnic groups of Europe is Christianity; as applied to the Semitic groups, Mohammedanism. The Advaita as applied in its Yoga perception form is Buddhism, etc. now by religion is meant Vedanta. The application must vary according to the different needs, surroundings, and other circumstances of different nations.

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

The Parliament of Religions

At Porbandar, where he arrived after visiting Verawal and Somnath (Prabhas), he stayed for eleven months, and helped the Dewan of the place, Pandit Shankar Pandurang, in translating the Vedas. He completed his study of the Mahabhashya, and learnt French at the instance of the Dewan, who suggested to him to go to the West, where his ideas were likely to be better appreciated. Hearing about the Parliament of Religions to be held at Chicago he expressed to his host at Porbander his desire to attend it.

The Swami found himself the guest of the Maharaja of Mysore, Chamaraja Wadiar. In his talk with the Maharaja, he unburdened the heavy load he was, as it were, carrying on his head, and expressed his intention of going to the West to get funds to ameliorate the material condition of India. The Maharaja offered to bear the expenses.

While arrangements were being made for sailing, a sudden invitation came from the Maharaja of Khetri to go to his place, with the assurance that he would do everything for the trip. The Swami agreed to this. With the Maharaja he went to Jaipur, and from there he left for Bombay alone. On the way to Bombay he halted for a night at the house of a railway employee, one of his hosts during his wandering days. At Mt. Abu he met Swamis Brahmananda and Turiyananda, to whom he said with great feeling: Ï travelled all over India. But, alas, it was agony to me, brothers, to see the terrible poverty of the masses, and I could not restrain my tears. It is now my firm conviction that to preach religion to them without trying to remove their poverty and suffering is futile. It is for this reason-to find means for the salvation of the poor of India-that I am going to America.”

The first session of the Parliament was held on Monday, 11th September 1893, in the spacious hall of the Art Palace; and its huge galleries were packed with nearly 7,000 people-men and women representing the best culture of the country. Representatives of all organized religions-Hinduism, Jainism Buddhism, Christianity, Confucianism, Mohammedanism, and Mazdaism-were there, and amongst them was Swami Vivekananda, who represented no particular sect. the Swami represented nothing and yet everything. There was a grand procession of delegates. Cardinal Gibbons, the highest prelate of the Roman Catholic Church in the U.S.A., opened the meeting with a prayer and, after that, Dr. Barrows, the Chairman, introduced the delegates one by one. All of them, except Swami Vivekananda, read prepared for the first time, and his heart was fluttering and his tongue dried up. He was so nervous that he did not speak in the morning session. He went on postponing the summons from the chair.

In the end, when he could no longer put off his turn, he stepped up to the rostrum and, in his mind, bowing down to Saraswati Devi, began to speak. No sooner had he addressed the assembly “Sisters and Brothers of America” than there was deafening applause lasting for full two minutes. The audience rose as one man to express heartfelt appreciation for the warm feelings which those five simple words conveyed to them. Others addressed them in the set way, but the Swami touched the deepest cord of their hearts by discarding the formality and stressing the kinship of humanity with such sincerity. After the applause had subsided, the Swami made a brief speech.

The Swami, however, did not take this as a personal triumph. Although he had become famous overnight, and the doors of the rich were open to him, he wept over his victory, remembering his people at home, sunk in poverty and ignorance, for whose sake he had come to America.

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

The Baranagore days

One of the lay disciples of Sri Ramakrishna offered to contribute towards the maintenance of a monastery where the young disciples of the Master could stay and continue their spiritual and devotional exercises, and where the householder disciples might now and then go for peace and solace. Accordingly, an old dilapidated house was rented at the Baranagore, and two of the monastic disciples went to live there. Narendranath who was busy conducting a law suit pending at the court, used to spend the night at the monastery. He exhorted the others to join the brotherhood.

At Baranagore – after the passing away of the Master

Lest this devotion should become dammed up within the narrow limits of a creed or cult, the leader forced them to study the thought of the world outside. He himself instructed them in western and eastern philosophy, comparative religion, theology, history, sociology, literature, art, and science. He read out to them the great books of human thought, explained to them the evolution of the universal mind, discussed with them the problems of religion and philosophy, and led them indefatigably towards the wide horizons of the boundless truth which surpassed all limits of schools and races, and embraced and unified all particulars truths. In the light of the teachings of Shri Ramakrishna, he reconciled the apparent contradictions between the various systems.

The wandering monk

Between the closing of 1888, when Narendranath first left on his temporary excursions, and the year 1891, when he parted from his brethren alone and as an unknown beggar, “to be swallowed up in the immensity of India”, there came over him a remarkable change in outlook. When he first left in 1888, it was mainly to fulfill the natural desire of an Indian monk for a life of solitude. But when he left the monastery in 1891, it was to fulfill a great destiny. By then he had realized that his was not to be the life of an ordinary recluse struggling for personal salvation. Many times he had tried it: he had entered the deepest of Himalayan forests to lose himself in the silent meditation of the absolute. Every time he had failed. Something or other brought him back from the depths of meditation to the midst of the suffering masses, beset with a thousand and one miseries. The sickness of a brother monk, or the death of a devotee, or the poverty at the Baranagore monastery, was enough to disturb him. More than all, the fever of the age, the misery of the time, and the mute appeal issuing from the millions in oppressed and downtrodden Indian pained his heart.

He lived in anguish during that period, in a seething cauldron as it were, and carried within himself a soul on fire whose embers took years to cool down. As he moved from place to place in the north, and later on in the south, studying closely the life of the people in all strata of society, he was deeply moved. He wept to see the stagnant life of the Indian masses crushed down by ignorance and poverty, and the spell of materialistic ideas among the educated who blindly imitated the glamour of the West but who never felt that they were the cause of India’s degeneration and downfall. Spirituality was at a low discount in the very land of its birth. The picture of ancient India, once the envy of the world, came before his eyes vividly in all its grandeur and glory. The contrast was unbearable. Things should not be allowed to drift in this way. He visualized that India must become dynamic in all spheres of human activity and effect the spiritual conquest of the world, and he felt that he was the instrument chosen.

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

Master & Disciple

The second time Narendranath went to Dakshineswar, a month later. Sri Ramakrishna was alone, sitting on his bedstead. As soon as he saw Narendranath, he received him cordially and asked him to sit near himself on the bed. In a moment, overcome with emotion, the Master drew closer to him. Muttering something to him, and with eyes fixed on the young aspirant, he touched him with his right his foot. The magic touch produced a strange experience in Narendranath. With his eyes open, he saw the walls and everything in the room, nay, the whole universe and himself within it, whirling and vanishing into an all-encompassing void. He was frightened as he thought he might be on the verge of death; and cried out: “What are you doing to me? I have my parents at home.” Sri Ramakrishna laughed aloud at this, and stroking Narendranath chest said: “All right, let us leave it there for the present. Everything will come in time.” Surprisingly, as soon as he uttered these words, Narendranath became his old self again. Sri Ramakrishna, too, was quite normal in his behaviour towards him after the incident, and treated him kindly and with great affection.

Drawn by this kindness and, even more, by the need to fathom the mystery, Narendranath went to Dakshineswar for a third time, probably a week later. He was determined not to allow the previous experience to repeat itself, and was fully on his guard. But with all his critical faculties alert, he fared no better. Sri Ramakrishna took him to the adjacent garden belonging to Jadunath Mallik. After a stroll, they sat down in the parlour. Soon, Sri Ramakrishna fell into a spiritual trance and touched Narendranath. Despite his precautions Narendranath was totally over-whelmed adn he lost all outward consciousness. When he regained consciousness, he found Sri Ramakrishna stroking his chest.

Referring to his incident, Sri Ramakrishna said later on: “I put several questions to him while he was in that state. I asked him about his antecedents, and where he lived, his mission in this world and the duration of his mortal life. He gave fitting answers after diving deep into himself. The answers only confirmed what I had seen and inferred about him, These things shall remain a secret, but I came to know that he was a sage who had attained perfection, a past master in meditation, and the day he know his real nature, he will give up the body by an act of will, through Yoga.”

Of all the disciples of Sri Ramakrishna, Narendranath alone doubted the Master and critised any of his teachings that appeared irrational.

Firmly poised as he was in the knowledge of the highest truth, Sri Ramakrishna, however, did not upset the intellectual outbursts of Narendranath. He rose equal to the occasion. He never asked Narendranath to abandon his reason. On the other hand, he enjoyed his criticisms, and even encouraged them. He told him: “Test me as the money changers test their coins. You must not accept me until you have tested me thoroughly.”

Narendranath was bitterly against the doctrine of Advaita Vedanta which Sri Ramakrishna was eager to explain to him. The Advaita idea of the identity of the individual soul and the Supreme Self appeared to him as bizarre and blasphemous. Sri Ramakrishna tried his best to bring home to the disciple the truth of Advaita by reason and argument, but without success. One day after a trying discussion, he found Narendranath speaking about the doctrine disparagingly to a friend and in a light vein. Sri Ramakrishna, in a semi-conscious mood, approached him and just touched him, and immediately a wonderful change came over Narendranath. He was filled with the consciousness that everything around him was God. The impression persisted even when he reached home, at the end of the day. He did not relish his food. He ate too much or too little, to the consternation of his mother. He felt that the food, the materials, the server and he himself were all God. In the street, he did not feel like moving out of way of the swiftly, moving cabs, thinking they were God Himself. In the public park, he struck his head against the railing to see if they were real. This feeling lasted for many days. Henceforth he could not deny the truth of Advaita.

In 1884, Vishwanath Datta (Narendranath’s father) suddenly passed away, plunging the whole family into grief and poverty. He was the only earning member of the family, and being of a prodigal nature, he spent lavishly and left the family in debt.

Everywhere the door was slammed in his (Vivekananda’s) face. Friends turned into enemies in an instant. Creditors began knocking at the door. Temptations came. Two rich women made proposals to him to end his poverty, and he turned them down with scorn. Often he went without food so that others at home might have a better share. He was face to face with realities and the world appeared to him to be the creation of a devil.

Nevertheless, the protégé of Sri Ramakrishna did not lose his faith in God and divine mercy. Every morning, taking His name he got up and went in search of a job. One day his devout mother overheard him and said bitterly: “Hush, you fool, you have been crying yourself hoarse for God from your childhood. What has He done for you?” Narendranath was stung to the quick, and began doubting the existence of God.

One evening, after a whole day’s fast and exposure to rain, Narendranath was returning home with tired limbs and a jaded mind. Overpowered with exhaustion, he sat down on the outer plinth of a roadside house in a dazed condition. Various thoughts crowded into his mind. He was too weak to drive them off and concentrate on any particular thing. Suddenly he felt that, by some divine power, the coverings of his soul were being removed one after another. His doubts regarding the coexistence of divine justice and mercy and the presence of misery in the creation of a benign providence were automatically sloved. He felt completely refreshed and full of mental peace. He decided to become a monk, renouncing the world. He even fixed a date for it. Sri Ramakrishna came to Calcutta that day. Narendranath went to have his blessings, and accompanied the Master to Dakshineswar. There, in a state of spiritual trance, Sri Ramakrishna began to sing a touching song which brought tears to the eyes of both. The meaning of the song was very clear, for it revealed that the Master had known the disciple’s decision even without being told of it. But Sri Ramakrishna persuaded Narendranath to stay in the world as long as he himself lived.

Thus, with infinite patience, Sri Ramakrishna calmed the rebellious spirit of Narendranath and led him from doubt to certainty and from anguish of mind to spiritual bliss. More than Sri Ramakrishna’s spiritual guidance and support, it was his love for him that bound Narendranath to him for ever. Narendranath, too, in turn reciprocated in full measure the love and trust of the Master.

An incident which had some bearing on the future work of Narendranath may be mentioned here. Once, Sri Ramakrishna was expatiating on the triple precept of the Vaishnavas, namely, relish for the name of God, compassion for all creatures, and service to the Lord’s devotees. When he came to compassion for all creatures, he said in a semiconscious state, as if speaking to himself: “Thou fool! An insignificant worm crawling on earth, who are thou to show compassion? No, it is not compassion for others, but services to man, seeing in him the veritable manifestation of God.” Narendranath, who was near by, drew from these simple words, which went unnoticed by others present there, a world of meaning, and vowed to proclaim to the whole world the grand truth which he had discovered in them. It was then that he conceived his philosophy of practical Vedanta.

In the middle of 1885. Sri Ramakrishna developed cancer in the throat. For better treatment he was taken to a rented garden house at Cossipore, a northern suburb of Calcutta. The young disciples, under the leadership of Narendranath, took charge of nursing the Master.

At Cossipore also, as earlier at Dakshineswar, Sri Ramakrishna impressed on the other disciples the high plane of spirituality to which Narendranath belonged, and the mission he was born to fulfill. He often talked with Narendranath privately about the orders of monks he was to organise, with the brother disciples as the nucleus. Narendranath was thus chosen and trained as the future leader of a spiritual regeneration.

Having finished his immediate task and being assured of a glorious future for the new movement, Sri Ramakrishna passed away on 16th August 1886.

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

In College

At college Narendranath began to interest himself more seriously in studies. Apart from the usual college curriculum, he avidly studies western logic, the abstruse philosophy of Herbert Spencer, the systems of Kant and Schopenhauer, the mystical and analytical speculation of the Aristotelian school, the positivist philosophy of Comte, and John Stuart Mill’s Three Essays on Religion. He also mastered the ancient and modern history of Europe and the English poets like Shelley and Wordsworth. He even took a course in physiology with a view to understanding the functioning of the nervous system, the brain, and the spinal cord.

But this contact with western thought, which lays particular emphasis on the supremacy of reason, brought about a severe conflict in Narendranath. His inborn tendency towards spirituality and his respect for the ancient traditions and beliefs of his religion which he had imbibed from his mother, on the one side, and his argumentative nature coupled with his sharp intellect which hated superstition and questioned simple faith on the other, were now at war with each other. Under a deep spiritual urge, he was then found observing hard ascetic practices, staying in his grandmother’s house, away from his parents and other relatives, following a strict vegetarian diet, sleeping on the bare ground or on an ordinary quilt, in accordance with the strict rules of brahmacharya. From youth, two visions of life had presented themselves before him. In one, he found himself among the great ones of the earth, possessing riches, power, honour, and glory, and he felt himself capable of renouncing all worldly things, dressed in simple loin- cloth, living on alms, sleeping under a tree, and then he felt that he had the capacity to live thus like the Rishis of ancient India. It was, however, the second vision that prevailed in the end, and he used to sleep with the conviction that by renunciation alone could man attain the highest bliss.

In his eagerness for spiritual illumination he went to Devendranath Tagore, the leader of the Brahmo Samaj, and asked him: “Sir, have you seen God?” The old man was embarrassed by the question, and replied, “My boy, you have to eyes of a Yogi. You should practice meditation.” The youth was disappointed, but he received no better answer from the leaders of other religious sects whom he approached with the same question.

At this critical juncture he remembered the words of his professor, William Hastie, who, while speaking of trances in the course of his lectures, had said, “Such an experience is the result of purity of mind and concentration on some particular object, and is rare indeed, particularly in these days. I have seen only one person who has experienced that blessed state of mind, and he is Ramakrishna Paramahamsa of Dakshineswar. You can understand if you go there and see for yourself.” … now in his trouble, the young seeker decided to have yet one more try to solve his problem.

At the first meeting:

Approaching him (Sri Ramakrishna at Dakshineswar), Narendranath asked him the question which he had asked others often before: “Sir, have you seen God?” “Yes, answered Sri Ramakrishna, “I see Him just as I see you here, only I see Him in a much intenser sense. God can be realised; one can see and talk to Him as I am doing with you. But who cares to do so? People shed torrents of tears for their wife and children for wealth and property, but who does so for the sake of God? If one weeps sincerely for Him. He surely manifests Himself.”

This startling reply impressed Narendranath at once. For the first time he had found a man who could say that he had seen God, and recognised that religion was a reality to be felt. As he listened, he could not but believe that Sri Ramakrishna spoke from the depths of his own realisations

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

Swami Vivekananda, Early Days

Swami Vivekananda, or Narendranath Datta, or simply Narendra or Naren as was known during his pre-monastic days, was born to Vishwanath Datta and Bhuvaneshwari Devi on Monday, 12th January 1863, at Calcutta.

Naughty and restless though Narendranath was by nature, and given to much fun and frolic, he was greatly attracted towards spiritual life even in childhood. The stories of the Ramayana and the Mahabharata, which his mother told him left on him an indelible impression. Play delighted Narendranath, and one of his pastimes as a child was to worship and meditate on the image of Rama, Sita or Shiva. Every night, before he fell asleep, there appeared to him between his eyes a wonderful spot of light of changing hues. That light would gradually expand until it burst and bathed his whole being in a white radiance. He had full faith in Hindu mythology. Once he went to hear an exposition of the Ramayana in the course of which he heard the pundit describe the great devotion of Hanuman. At the end of the exposition, he approached the pundit and said he would like to know the whereabouts of Hanuman. The pundit said that he might be in some plantain grove. So Narendranath waited at a plantain grove till late at night expecting to meet Hanuman, and his people could find him only after a great search.

Even in his early boyhood, Narendranath demanded intellectually convincing arguments for every proposition. He often used to swing on the branches of a champaka tree in a neighbour’s compound. This irritated the owner, an old man, and he warned Narendranath and his companions that the tree was haunted by a bad ghost who would some day break their necks. This frightened the other boys ; but Narendranath argued that if the old man were right, their necks would have been broken long ago. And he continued to swing on the branches of the tree as before.

Narendranath was gifted with a multiplicity of talents and he cultivated them all. His leonine beauty was matched by his courage ; he had the build of an athlete, a delightful voice, and a brilliant intellect. His interests ranged from fencing, wrestling, rowing, games, physical exercise, cooking and organising dramas to instrumental and vocal music, love of philosophic discussion, and criticism. In all these he was an undisputed leader. These and other traits in his character soon attracted the notice of his teachers and fellow students. The principal of his college, Professor Hastie, once remarked: “Narendra is a real genius. I have travelled far and wide, but have not yet come across a lad of his talents and possibilities even among the philosophical students in the German universities. He is bound to make his mark in life.”

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

2009 Vivekananda Vidyarthi Bhavan

Vivekananda Vidyarthi Bhavan inaugurated

The newly constructed Vivekananda Vidyarthi Bhavan was inaugurated on Saturday the 3rd January 2009 by Srimat Swami Vagishanandaji Maharaj, a senior trustee of the Ramakrishna Math and Ramakrishna Mission, Belur, Howrah and the President, Ramakrishna Math, Mumbai.

The foundation stone had been laid by Srimat Swami Atmasthanandaji Maharaj, then Vice President of Ramakrishna Order on 22nd January 2007.

The new Vivekananda Vidyarthi Bhavan will house 50 deserving students from rural poor section. The hostel has an Assembly Hall, Recreation Hall, Kitchen and Dining Hall and a Library (containing books on philosophy, religion, education, culture, literature, sociology, history, arts, science, biography, agriculture etc. and academic course books in various languages such as Sanskrit, Marathi, Hindi, English, and Bengali etc.) and also a C.D. Library to be used by students of the Vidyarthi Bhavan only.

It also has best of the facilities for computer knowledge lab., sports (indoor and outdoor) gymnasium and exhibition hall emphasising the role of spirituality and human values for all-round personality development of the inmates of the Vivekananda Vidyarthi Bhavan.

Vivekananda Vidyarthi Bhavan inaugurated

 

 

2006 Universal Temple

Nagpur Math Universal Temple Opening

Newly constructed Universal Temple of Sri Ramakrishna was consecrated on 10th February 2006 by Srimat Swami Gahananandaji Maharaj, the then President Ramakrishna Math and Ramakrishna Mission Belur Math Howrah.

The foundation stone of the new temple was laid by Srimat Swami Atmasthanandaji Maharaj, the then Vice President, Ramakrishna Math and Ramakrishna Mission Belur Math Howrah on 5th December 2002.

In order to commence the construction of the new Universal Temple, the Old Temple had been shifted to temporary location of Library Reading Hall by Srimat Swami Gahananandaji Maharaj on 3rd March 2004. Rakshoghna Homa and Vastu Puja was performed on 24th April 2004.

 

2004 March Platinum Jubilee

 

Platinum Jubilee

In March 2004, the Math celebrated its Platinum Jubilee year and the 150th Birth Anniversary of Sri Ma Sarada Devi under the stewardship of Srimat Swami Gahananandaji Maharaj the then Vice President, Ramakrishna Math and Ramakrishna Mission, Belur Math.

Spiritual discourses were delivered by Srimat Swamis Gautamanandaji Maharaj, Satyarupanandaji Maharaj, Nikhilatmanandaji Maharaj and Vishnupadanandaji Maharaj.

1996 National Youth day

Swami Vivekananda’s birthday is celebrated on 12th January as National Youth Day (declared by Government of India) by the students of Vivekananda Vidyarthi Bhavan.

Since 1996, the Math conducts various programmes in rural areas of Nagpur in about 60 schools covering around 80 villages. The programmes include Recitation Competition, Essay Competition, Extempore Speech and Rallies. The Math also distributes school material such as Note Books, Pens, Compass and School Uniforms to the poor needy students every year along with high protein diet.

1988 Physiotherapy Unit

 

           Physiotherapy Unit

The Math constructed a separate building for charitable Physiotherapy Unit which is equipped with all modern physiotherapy instruments and consists of qualified physiotherapist, assistants and dedicated volunteers. It serves the citizens who suffer from accidents, arthritis, spondylitis, slip disks etc.

 

 

1986 Mobile Dispensary

 

Mobile Dispensary

The charitable Mobile Dispensary started in the year 1986 with doctors, paramedical staff and dedicated volunteers serving the patients with allopathic medicines. The vehicle travels about 70 kms on Bhandara, Umrer and Koradi routes alternatively and covers more than 60 villages in a week.

Golden Jubilee 1979

Half a century with Sri Ramakrishna’s blessings on Nagpur and Central India saw the Ashrama well established and well-reputed, having been the training ground of illustriously dynamic and brilliant monks managing not only Nagpur Centre, but many more ashramas run by the devotees in Yavatmal, Amravati etc. acquitting themselves creditably, all respectfully be holden to Swami Bhaskareshwarananda who passed away in January 1976. Activities, material facilities and buildings were properly set up at optimum level. Golden Jubilee function was enthusiastically organized from 18th March to 26th March 1979 under the saintly Presidentship of Srimad Swami Vyomarupananda.

Many a head of other centres, were alumni of Nagpur Ashrama. They reverentially participated as a token of their gratitude. They were Swami Bhashyananda (Chicago), Akamananda (Ranchi), Vyomananda (Rajkot), Atmananda (Raipur), Balaramananda (Mauritius). The then President of the Ramakrishna Sangha Srimad Swami Vireshwaranandaji Maharaj graced the occasion. Rev. Swami Abhayanandaji (Bharat Maharaj) was a guest of honour.

Swami Budhananda (New Delhi), Rev. Swami Ranganathanandaji (Hyderabad) were the important speakers.

Besides these, several monastic brothers attended and witnessed the functions. The entire nine days’ function was a grand divine festival with spiritual feast of learned discourses of Shri Ramakrishna, Holy Mother, Swami Vivekananda, Vedanta, etc. as also melodious Bhajans and Kirtan by eminent experts. Illumination of all the buildings for all the nine days added grandeur to the spiritual fair as the discourses inspired inner illumination.

January 1976: Swami Bhaskareshwaranandaji leaving mortal coils.

Swami Bhaskareshwaranandaji

Swami Bhaskareshwarananda worked silently and he gradually built up the Ashrama and its various activities. He inspired many young men to join the Ramakrishna Order. Through his inspiration about 25 young men joined the order. He left this world on the 16th January 1976 at about 4.30 a.m.

Silver Jubilee 1954

By 1954, the Ashrama completed twenty five years of glorious achievements both in terms of spiritual gains and material development. Spiritually, Swami Bhaskareshwarananandaji’s life of meditation and service inspired many a youth to embrace life of renunciation and service to become monks of Ramakrishna order. Swami Nikheleshwarananda, Vyomarupananda, Bhashyananda and Shivatatwananda were amongst the important creations of Swami Bhaskareshwarananda.

Silver Jubilee 1954

Activities like Shrine Worship and Prayer, Discourses, Library and Reading Room, Homeopathic Dispensary, Publication of books and their sale, coming of number of devotees, volunteers and initiated devotees grew significantly to demand bigger and better buildings than the original GIC sheet shade. Hard work by the monks and public support gradually brought about construction of these buildings by 1954:
(a) Double Storey building, including Shrine building (1930-1934)
(b) Double Storey building (Present book sale – 1942)
(c) Kitchen and Dining building – 1944
(d) Vidyarthi Bhavan and Sabhagriha – 1948
(e) Monks quarter – 1952. Land for Library building and some construction in 1955 are the milestones in progress.

A hearty jubilation was thus organized for Silver Jubilee celebration which held for eight days from 19th April 1954 along with Sri Ramakrishna Anniversary public function. Lectures on Bhagwan Ramakrishna, Vivekananda, Vedanta, Bhagwat Geeta and spiritual themes discussing various religions, Kirten’s Bhajans by eminent personalities were the highlights of function along with delightful illumination. Buddha Bhikshu Sheelabhadra of Mahabodhi Society of India Calcutta was the Chief Guest. He spoke on Buddha and Buddhism. Srimad Swami Ojasanandaji, Head, Ramakrishna Ashrama, Ootacamand (Ooty) and the local leaders of the society were among the other illustrious guest speakers.

1945-1965: Consolidation of the Nagpur Ashrama.

The Ashrama also opened Charitable Dispensaries in the villages of Khamla and Somalwada. Due to some difficulties both these dispensaries had to be closed after a few years. Then Dispensaries were opened in the villages of Ajni and Babulkheda. But these also were closed in 1946 due to some difficulties.

             The Dispensary at Khamla

     The Dispensary at Indora (1963)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dispensary Building (1942) in Ashrama Premises

In 1942, a building was constructed for Dispensary, Library and Reading Room, Publication Department and Student’s Hostel. After this construction, the number of students in the hostel was increased.

 

In 1948 a large building of Vivekananda Vidyarathi Bhavan was constructed in front of the old building and the accommodation of the hostel was increased to 19 students. Besides this, 6 students stayed in the old building. A spacious lecture hall was constructed on the first floor of Vivekananda Vidyarthi Bhavan and it has been named as ‘Shivananda Sabha Griha’. The weekly discourses as well as other functions of the Ashrama are held in this hall.

 

         Student’s Home Building (1948)

As the number of the inmates of the Ashrama increased, some more land was obtained and towards the end of 1952, the monastic quarters with 12 rooms were constructed.

In 1954, the Ashrama celebrated its Silver Jubilee at the time of the Birth Anniversary of Shri Ramakrishna with a variety of programmes such Kirtan, Bhajan, Lectures and feeding of the poor. On the 5th January 1959, on the auspicious occasion of the Birthday Anniversary of Shri Mahapursh Maharaj, the Library and the Reading Room were shifted to a spacious two storied building constructed on a new plot of land.

             The Reading Room

 

   The new Library & Publication Building

In 1963 the Birth Centenary of Swami Vivekananda was celebrated for 7 days for a variety of programmes such as Kirtan, Bhajan, Lectures and feeding of the poor. In December 1965, a separate building was constructed for the Publication Department and the office of the Marathi Monthly “Jeevan-Vikas”.

Publication Department & Jivan Vikas Office (1965)

1937-1944: New Brahmacharya / Sadhus join the Nagpur Math.

One student entered monastic life in 1937 after the completion of his education. Between 1937 and 1944, five or six more young men became Sadhus. The activities of the Ashram gradually increased with the help of these Brahmacharis and other intimate devotees.

Group Photo

With the help of these Brahmacharis Swami Bhaskareshwarananda began to preach Vedic religion and the teachings of Shri Ramakrishna-Vivekananda through lectures and with the help of magic lantern in adjoining villages like Khamla, Somalvada, Babulkheda, Ajni, Pachpaoli, Indora etc. Swami Bhaskareshwarananda also used to take these Brahmcharis with him when he went for lectures to various places in Vidarbha like Akola, Amaravati, Akot, Khamgaon, Paratwada, Buldana, Yavatmal, Chimur, etc. and also Betul, Chhinadwada, Mandla, Jabalpur. Durg, Rajnandgaon, Raipur, Bilaspur, etc. in the present Madhya Pradesh. Besides the above places the Sadhus and Brahmacharis from the Ashrama delivered lectures at other places on the occasion of Shri Ramakrishna-Vivekananda Birth Anniversary, Gita Jayanti, Shri Jnaneshwara Anniversary, Dasanavmi, Ganesh Festival, etc.

Inmates & Students (1942)

1936: Birth Centenary year of Bhagwan Sri Ramakrishna is celebrated with great enthusiasm. A conference of all Religions is the highlight.

1936 was the Birth Centenary year of Bhagawan Shri Ramakrishna. This Birth Centenary was celebrated all over the world. The Nagpur Ashrama also celebrated this Centenary. Various programmes like Kirtan, Bhajan and religious discourses were held for about two weeks. The chief attraction of the Centenary Celebrations was the conference of all Religions. The following speakers belonging to various religions were invited from different parts of India.

Prof. G.R. Malkani delivered one more speech on “Relation of Self to Knowledge” (In the light of the philosophy of Shri Shankaracharya). This Conference was held on the 1st, 2nd and 3rd March 1936, and Jagadguru Shri Shankaracharya of Karavir Peeth (Dr. Kurtakkoti, M.A. Ph.D.) presided over the Conference on all those three days.

1. “Hindusim” – Prof. G.R. Malkarni, MA (Indian Institute of Philosophy, Amalner)
2. “Buddhism” – Prof. N.K. Bhagwat, MA (Fellow, Bombay University)
3. “Jainism” – Prof. Hiralal Jain, MA, L.L.B., (Amaraoti)
4. “Sikhism” – Prof. Tej Singh, MA (Khalsa College, Amritsar, – Prof. Dilip Singh Virdi, MA City College, Nagpur)
5. “Islam” – Shri L.A. Haidary (Madrasat-ul-Baiizin, Lucknow)
6. “Christianity” – Rev. T.W. Gardiner, MA O.B.E. (Nagpur)
7. “Zoroastrianism” – Shri F.J. Jinwala (Bombay)
8. “Theosophy” – Shri W.L. Chiplunkar, Advocate (Akola)
9. “Vaishnavism of Shri Chaitanyadev” – Shri Kumudabandhu Sen, Puri

Swami Bhaskareshwarananda

On the last day, Swami Bhaskareshwarananda gave a speech on “Shri Ramakrishna and Universal Religion”. He explained to the audience the significance of the harmony of religions preached by Shri Ramakrishna. His speech was greatly appreciated by the audience. The President of the Conference Jagadguru Shri Shankaracharya also was impressed by this speech. The celebrations were attended by Shri Vinayakbuva Masurkar of Masurashram, Bombay, along with his disciples. He delivered two lectures. There were Bhajans of Shri Tukdoji Maharaj, a renowned saint from Vidarbha, on two days.

A special programme of one day was held for women only. It was presided over by Smt. Parvatibai Patwardhan, wife of Shri Shivajirao Patwardhan of Amaravati.

One more feature of the Centenary Celebrations was the beginning of Publication of books under the title “Shri Ramakrishna – Shivananda – Smriti – Grantha-Mala”, ‘Shri Ramakrishna Vaksudha’ (Marathi) was the first book in this series. Two more books, “Short biography of Shri Ramakrishna Paramahansa Deva’ (Marathi) and ‘Premyoga’ (Hindi), were published in the same year. The Ashrama also got the publication rights and all copies of the Marathi book, ‘Biography of Shri Ramakrishna’ by Late Shri N.R. Paranjape.

November 1934: First initiation by a direct disciples.

                Inmates and Students

After Shri Mahapurush Maharaj left the mortal body, Srimat Swami Akhandanandaji Maharaj, a direct disciple of Bhagwan Shri Ramakrishna and the beloved brother-disciple of Swami Vivekananda became the President of the Ramakrishna Math and Mission. After becoming President he went to Bombay in the month of November 1934 and while returning to Belur Math, he halted at Nagpur for two days. One day he initiated a lady devotee in the temple. Thus the first initiation in the temple was given by a direct disciple of Bhagawan Shri Ramakrishna. Therefore, on one side in the temple the photograph of Swami Akhandanandaji Maharaj has been kept near that of Shri Mahapurush Maharaj.

1929-1934: The Ashrama takes shape.

Main building is constructed in 1929-30.
Library is opened in 1932.
Temple is constructed in 1933-34.
Regular worship begins in February 1934.

Temple Building (1932)

Towards the end of 1929 the construction of the main building was complete in May 1930. The Library was opened in a small room on the ground floor in 1932. It contained books on religion, culture, philosophy, etc. donated by some generous persons. Swamiji now stayed in the shrine room. That year a Hostel of two students was started in the adjacent hall. Later, when the number of students increased, regular religious classes were held for them. The room above the Library was now used as the shrine and the adjacent hall was used as the prayer hall. When Swami Bhaskareshwarananda showed the photograph of the building, under construction to Shri Mahapurush Maharaj, he was extremely pleased and said – “Hindi and Marathi books will be published from this Ashrama.”

Temple Building (1932): Under Construction

The construction of the temple of Bhagwan Shri Ramakrishna began in 1933 and was completed in May 1934 Shri Ramakrishna had practiced all the main religions of the world. He realized that different religions ultimately lead to the same God who is given different names in different religions. He declared this great truth and thus established harmony among different religions.

 

The Shrine

To indicate this harmony, symbols of eight chief religions including Hinduism, Buddhism, Zoroastrianism. Islam and Christianity were fixed on the dome of the temple. (This dome was later covered by the roof of tiles due to leakage.) It was the desire of everyone that the installation of the photographs of Bhagawan Shri Ramakrishna, Shri Saradadevi and Swami Vivekananda should be done at the hands of Shri Mahapurush Maharaj. But as Shri Mahapurushji passed away on the 20th February 1934, according to his instructions, Swami Bhaskareshwarananda installed the photographs of Bhagawan Shri Ramakrishna, Shri Saradadevi and Swami Vivekananda on the altar with proper religious rites. Shri Mahapurush Maharaj had told Swami Bhaskareshwarananda – “You install Thakur there.: From that day the regular worship was started in the new temple.

September 1928: Swami Bhaskareshwarananda begins the Ashram – a shrine, a kitchen, and a Homeopathic Dispensary in that hut.

The hut where all three – a shrine, a kitchen, and a homeopathic dispensary were housed
Swami Bhaskareshwarananda purchased a box of Homeopathic medicines with the two rupees given by his spiritual Master and came to Nagpur via Varanasi-Jabalpur in September 1928. The activities of Shri Ramakrishna Ashrama at Nagpur began in the hut mentioned above. Two Brahmacharis from Belur Math had accompanied Swamiji to assist him. They left after a few days. There was a shrine, a Kitchen and a Homeopathic Dispensary in that hut.

The Homeopathic DispensaryThe work of collecting funds for the construction of the building of the Ashrama was started. Swamiji occasionally wrote articles about Shri Ramakrishna-Vivekananda in the local papers like ‘Hitavada’ and ‘Maharashtra’. He took weekly moral classes in the local Patwardhan High School and Sule High School. Swamiji was occasionally invited to participate in the symposia organised by the Students’ Union of Nagpur University. There was no bus-service of Rickshaws in Nagpur at that time. Tonga was the only available conveyance. But Swamiji had no money to pay for the fare. So sometimes he used to go on foot to distant areas like Mahal, Itwari, Civil Lines, Sadar etc. Sometimes he even had to personally distribute the handbills of the programmes held in the Ashrama. His noble personality, his love and sympathy for others, his command over English and his oratory attracted many people to the Ashrama. The young lawyer helping the swami renounced the world at about this time and entered monastic life. Swamiji got great help from him.

Daridra Narayan Seva in Ashrama Premises

Initially, any great work has to face difficulties and impediments. However, if all actions are performed with the spirit of service to God with full faith in him, all those difficulties and impediments are surmounted by his grace. Here also some persons in society bitterly opposed the work and created various obstructions and problems. On the other hand some people helped the Ashrama a lot. Among them were people of different communities and of different social strata – young and old, men and women, rich and poor, educated and uneducated, Maharashtrians, Hindustanis, Gujaratis, Panjabis, Bengalis, etc. Sir B.K. Bose, Vice-Chancellor, Nagpur University, Shri P.N. Rudra, Advocate and Shri N.K. Behre, Headmaster, Patwardhan High School, helped the Ashrama in many ways. In the beginning for about six years Shri P.N. Rudra was the Secretary of the Ashrama.

 

February 1927: Mahapurush Maharaj worships Sri Ramakrishna on Ashrama Land and lays corner stone for the Math

In February 1927, Sri Mahapurushji Maharaj visited Nagpur a second time. This time, he desired to stay on the plot of land meant for the Math. Accordingly, tents were erected for Sri Mahapurushji Maharaj and other disciples. On 16th February 1927 Mahapurush Maharaj worshiped Sri Ramakrishna on the spot where there is now the temple of Sri Ramakrishna, and laid the corner stone of the future Ashrama.

While offering worship, Mahapurushji lost himself in divine consciousness. In that high state of consciousness, looking at the land full of trees and shrubs, he exclaimed – “Jangal me mangal ho jayega”. (‘The forest will become a holy place”).

Early 1925:
Mahapurush Maharaj consents to setting up a permanent Ashrama in Nagpur

Swami Shivananda

Srimat Swami Shivanandaji, (Mahapurushji) direct disciples of Sri Ramakrishna’s 2nd President of the order visited Nagpur in early 1925. During this visit he consented to start a permanent centre at Nagpur.

Later in November 1925, a devotee, Ananda Mohan Chaudhari gifted a plot of land to the Ramakrishna Math, Belur for this purpose.

Mid 1927: Mahapurush Maharaj selects Swami Bhaskareshwarananda to spread Ramakrishna-Vivekananda ideas in Nagpur

Mahapurushji left Nagpur and reached Belur Math on the 22nd February 1927. When the thought of starting an Ashrama at Nagpur for spreading the message of Shri Ramakrishna-Vivekananda arose in his mind he saw before his divine vision a person who would achieve this object – his beloved disciple Swami Bhaskareshwarananda.

Swami Bhaskareshwarananda founder and first President

After a few days Swami Bhaskareshwarananda, who was then working at Narayanganj in East Bengal (Bengal Desh of today) went to Belur Math on the instructions of the authorities of the Ramakrishna Math and Mission. He was to go to Rajkot. After coming to Belur Math he went to offer Pranams to Shri Mahapurush Maharaj and told him that he was to go to Rajkot. Mahapurush Maharaj said, “Rajkot! But I have already decided to send you to Nagpur. I was waiting for you to tell you so. You will have to go to Nagpur. I have accepted a gift of land there and laid the corner-stone of the temple of Thakur”. According to the wish of Shri Mahapurush Maharaj, Swami Bhaskareshwarananda’s departure to Rajkot was cancelled.

It was not an easy task to start an Ashrama at a distant place like Nagpur. Therefore Swami Bhaskareshwarananda said to Mahapurush Maharaj, “Maharaj, I do not Hindi or Marathi. What can I do at Nagpur? How shall I work there? Who will help me there?” Mahapurush Maharaj replied, “It is the personality that does the work and not the language. You simply go and stay there. You will not have to do anything – You will not do anything ….. Thakur will Himself do everything. The boys who will help you have come upto Wardha ….. So go there and give love to those who will come to you. Tell them about Thakur. Give your life to the people there. Show your life to them. Take the classes of scriptures as long as possible. I vividly see that Thakur’s Ashrama has taken shape at Nagpur.”

Swami Bhaskareshwarananda holding ‘garden’ classes in accordance to his Master’s wishes -before any construction came up…

Mahapurush Maharaj asked his attendant to give two rupees to Swami Bhaskareshwarananda and said, “Take these two rupees and begin your work.”