The Direct Disciples of Sri Ramakrishna

Swami Brahmananda

Swami Brahmananda

Pre-Monastic Name: Rakhal Chandra Ghosh

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

He met Sri Ramakrishna for the first time sometime in the mid-1881. 5 years later, in January 1886, he received the ochre cloth (monastic robes) and rosaries from the Master (who distribute it to 12 of his other disciples). He took his final monastic vows with other brother disciples in January 1887.

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

The Ramakrishna Mission was formed in May 1897, and he was made the President of the Kolkata Centre. He became the 1st President of Ramakrishna order after its formation.

Swami Brahmananda passed away at Belur Math on 10 April 1922.

Swami Premananda

Swami Premananda

Pre-Monastic Name: Baburam Ghosh

Swami Premananda was born on 10th December to Taraprasanna Ghosh and Matangini Devi – a pious and devoted couple.

He met Sri Ramakrishna for the first time in April 1882, and came to stay permanently with him in March 1885 at Dakshineshwar as the Master needed someone who was pure and had totally renounced ‘woman and gold’ to live with him.

In December 1886 he took the vows of renunciation guided by Swamiji, alongwith seven other brother disciples at Antpur on Christmas eve. In January 1887, he took final monastic vows with other brother disciples by performing the traditional viraja homa in front of the Master’s picture.

From 1887 to 1898, he passed his days in wandering and austerity during which time, he travelled extensively across India. From 1898 onwards, he became the official manager of the Belur Math on Swami Vivekananda’s instructions. As Manager, he served the devotees of Thakur as Thakur himself. He also trained the monks and young novitiates.

1901 onwards he 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.

Swami Premananda passed away at Kolkata on 30 July 1918. His last wish was “Remember, let there be no negligence towards the devotees!”

Swami Yogananda

Swami Yogananda

Pre-Monastic Name: Yogindra Nath Choudhury

Swam Yogananda was born on 30th March 1861 to an aristocratic family from Dakshineshwar. His father spent long periods of time in spiritual pursuits.

Sometime in 1884 he was married against his wishes. Feeling that life was ruined and he would not be able to realize God, he wanted to give up his life. Despite this marriage (which was pure), the Master enabled him to realize the monastic ideal.

After leaving his home, he came to live with the Master. He had already tested whether the Master practiced what he preached, and his renunciation; and only then accepted him as his guru.

After the passing away of the Master, he went on pilgrimages with Holy Mother and her party from 1886 to 1891, and was formally initiated by the Holy Mother.

From 1892 onwards he returned to the monastery and then to Holy Mother’s house in Bosepara Lane, and became Holy Mother’s attendant and caretaker until his death.

Swami Yogananda passed away in 28 March 1899.

His devotion to Holy Mother was exemplary. When he passed away she said, “My Jogin has left me – who will now look after me?” Because Yogananda was the first disciple of the Master to die, Mother remarked with a deep sigh: “A brick has slipped from the structure; now the whole thing will come down.”

Swami Niranjanananda

Swami Niranjanananda

Pre-Monastic Name: Nitya Niranjan Ghosh

Swami NiranjananandaSwami Niranjananda was born a few miles away from Kolkata to Ambika Charan Ghosh in 1862 (probably in August)

In early 1882 he met Sri Ramakrishna for the first time as a part of a group of spiritualists who strove for and enjoyed using psychic powers. He took the vows of renunciation in December 1886 guided by Swami Vivekananda, alongwith seven other brother disciples at Antpur on Christmas eve.

Between 1887 to 1897 he spent his time on pilgrimage throughout the country and practiced austerity. From 1894 onwards, he went to Sri Lanka, Raipur and other places, and preached the life and message of Sri Ramakrishna. Swami Vivekananda was also impressed with his preaching.

In August 1896 he went to Colombo to receive Swami Vivekananda on his return from America in January 1897, and travelled across India with him – from Colombo to Almora.Later, he travelled extensively to Kankhal, Varanasi, and other places.

He was strong, not afraid of anybody, and encouraged people to follow Swami Vivekananda’s idea of serving human beings as manifestations of God.

Swami Niranjananda passed away on 9 May 1904.

Niranjanananda’s devotion to the holy Mother was indeed remarkable. Swami Vivekananda used to say, “Niranjan has a militant disposition, but he has great devotion for Mother so I can easily put up with all his vagaries.”

Swami Saradananda

Swami Saradananda

Pre-Monastic Name: Sharat Chandra Chakravarty

swami saradanandaSwami Saradananda was born on 23rd December 1865 to devout Hindu Brahmins, and well-to-do partners of a large foreign-medicine pharmacy.

In 1883 he joined St. Xavier’s College and was tutored in the Bible and Christianity by the noble principal of the college – Father Laffont. He met Sri Ramakrishna with cousin Shashi (later Swami Ramakrishnananda) in October 1883 for the first time at Dakshineswar. The Master instantly recognized them as his own – and that they had been among the followers of Christ.

In January 1886 he got the ochre cloth (monastic robes) and rosaries distributed by the Master among 12 of his disciples, and took the vows of renunciation guided by Swamiji, alongwith seven other brother disciples at Antpur on Christmas eve in December 1886.

From March 1887 – 1891 he went on pilgrimages to Puri, Himalayas, Varanasi, etc. and spent time in meditation and austerities. These days were filled with thrilling spiritual experiences and first hand encounters with suffering, illness, as well as the spirit of human generosity.

He left for England in March 1896 to assist Swami Vivekananda in his work there. Although he had no previous experience, he started giving lectures on the Gita. He proceeded to America in June 1886, and continued his lecturing there as well. He was called back to India by Swami Vivekananda just when he was at the height of his usefulness in America, to help him organize the Ramakrishna Mission at Belur.

He was made the General Secretary of the Ramakrishna Math and Mission by Swami Vivekananda in 1898 (while Swami Brahmananda the President), and remained the chief organizer for almost 3 decades.

He built the “Udbodhan” house for Holy Mother to live in Kolkata, and a few years later, built a house for Her at Jayrambati (her maternal place where she would go when she was not in Kolkata). He poured his heart and soul into serving Holy Mother in spite of his diverse activities and heavy duties in connection with management of the Ramakrishna Math and Mission.

In 1909, he began to write his monumental work Sri Sri Ramakrishna Lilaprasnanga in Bengal, which has been translated into English as Sri Ramakrishna The Great Master. It is an authentic, interpretive biography of the Master, and a classic in Bengali Literature.

He also wrote a memorandum containing 12 points to Lord Carmichael to clear doubt and misunderstanding in their minds about alleged involvement of the Mission with revolutionaries. (The Mission policy is not to involve itself in politics). On 26th March the Governor withdrew his statement against the Mission after a meeting with Swami Saradananda, – a rare event during the British rule in India.

In 1926, he gave two important and inspiring speeches as chairman of the first convention of the Ramakrishna Math and Mission – “Ramakrishna Mission: Its Past, Present, and Future”, and “The Ideas, Ideals, and Activities of the Ramakrishna Mission”

He breathed his last on the birth anniversary of Sri Krishna on 19 August 1927.

Swami Nikhilananda (the translator of the Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna) wrote in his reminiscences: “Whenever I think if Swami Saradananda I remember the following verse of the Bhagavad Gita: ‘Not the desirer of desires attains peace, but he into whom all desires enter as the waters enter the ocean, which is full to the brim and grounded in stillness’(2.70)”

Swami Shivananda

Swami Shivananda

Pre-Monastic Name: Tarak Nath Ghoshal

Swami Shivananda was born on 16th November 1854 to a devout Brahmin couple, by the blessings of Tarakeshwar Shiva.

Around 1870 or so, he married against his wishes, but took full responsibility of his wife and gave her spiritual advice and guidance. He was constantly fully absorbed in the idea of how to forget the world and attain Samadhi. His wife passed away in Mid 1883.

He met Sri Ramakrishna for the first time at Kolkata in May/ June 1880. In 1884, he went on a pilgrimage to Vrindaban and carried some sacred dust and Prasad from the holy city for the Master.

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

In April 1886 he went to Boudh Gaya with Narendra (Swami Vivekananda) and Kali (Swami Abhedananda) for practicing meditation and austerities. Narendra saw Buddha enter into Tarak’s body.

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

After having lived with brother disciples and practiced austerities at Baranagore monastery, he felt an urge to lead the free, detached life of an itinerant monk, and went on a pilgrimage to the Himalayas. He was in and out of the monastery and travelling, till Swami Vivekananda came back from America.

In January 1897 he went to Madurai to receive Swamiji on his return from America, and went to Almora with him for rest. From 1897 – 1898. He went to Sri Lanka on Swamiji’s request to preach Vedanta and stayed there for 7-8 months. There he trained Mrs. Picket and sent her to teach Vedanta in Australia.

From 1902 – 1909 he concentrated on establishing a permanent centre in Varanasi. He handed over its management to his assistant in 1909 and returned to Belur Math. After another round of travels to Kashmir, Amarnath, Kankhal (Hardwar), Almora, and Varanasi. Some of these travels were alone, and some with brother disciples, he stayed at Belur Math and trained young monastics.

Was made a trustee of the Ramakrishna Math and Mission by Swami Vivekananda in 1901, and became vice-president in 1910. After the passing away of Swami Brahmananda in 1922, he was elected the President of the Order.

As president, he acted as an instrument in the Master’s hands. During his presidency, the activities of the Math and Mission expanded considerably.

  • 1924 – dedication of Temples, and the Golden era for the Order
  • 28 January 1924 – dedicated the Vivekananda Temple
  • 7 February 1924 – dedicated the Brahmananda Temple

During his presidency, stalwart Swamis – Prabhavananda, Dayananda, Madhavananda, Jnaneswarananda, Ashokananda, Nikhilinanda, Vijayananda, Devamatananda, and others were sent to North and South America, and Europe. It was a golden era for the Order in terms of spreading the message of Sri Ramakrishna throughout the world.

From 1924 onwards, he travelled extensively once again, and had many spiritual experiences. Went to South India in 1926, and inaugurated the building of a new ashrama in Ootacamund.

Nine months after a stroke, and a recent attack of pneumonia, he passed away on 20 February 1934. His face was beaming with joy, and his hair stood on end – both considered as auspicious signs.

One day he humbly said to a monk: “Look, I am my Master’s dog. As a dog protects the precious wealth of its master from robbers, so I am protecting the valuable spiritual treasures [discrimination, renunciation, knowledge, devotion] of the Master in this Monastery. He who stays here like a faithful dog will attain the greatest good.”

Swami Ramakrishnananda

Swami Ramakrishnananda

Pre-Monastic Name: Shashi Bhushan Chakravarty

Swami Ramakrishnananda was born on Monday 18th July 1863, to Ishwar Chandra Chakravarty, a tantric devotee, and, Bhavasundari Devi – a guileless and pious woman.

In October 1883, he met Sri Ramakrishna with cousin Sharat (later Swami Saradananda) for the first time at Dakshineswar. The Master instantly recognized them as his own – and that they had been among the followers of Christ.

In January 1886 he got ochre cloth (monastic robes) and rosaries distributed by the Master among 12 of his disciples, and took the vows of renunciation guided by Swamiji, alongwith seven other brother disciples at Antpur on Christmas eve in 1886.

From 1886 – 1897, he kept constant vigil over the Sri Ramakrishna’s relics after His passing away at the Baranagore Monastery, seldom visiting any holy place or leaving the monastery overnight. All this when all his brother disciples went off on pilgrimages as it inerrant monks, to the Himalayas and other parts of the country. He served the Master as one serves a living human being, with an uncompromising attitude of service to Him. He also looked after all the needs of the brother disciples when they were at the monastery.

In 1897, at Swami Vivekananda’s command, went to Chennai to set up a Math there. He set up a Math, conducted various lectures and classes, and trained monastics at this Math, always knowing that he was spreading the message of His Master at the command of Swami Vivekananda.

He dedicated a new temple to the Master at Chennai, on 17th November 1907, the foundation stone for which has been laid by Swami Abhedananda. He travelled all over South India and preaching the Hindu religion and philosophy as well as the message of Sri Ramakrishna.

After 14 years of working hard to spread the message of Sri Ramakrishna and Swami Vivekananda in South India, he became seriously ill with diabetes and tuberculosis and on the command of Swamis Brahmananda and Saradananda, he moved to Calcutta in June 1911 for recuperating.

He left his body while in Samadhi on 21st August 1911.

Swami Vivekananda on Swami Ramakrishnananda (about how he looked after the brother disciples at the Baranagore Monastery, after the passing away of Sri Ramakrishna) – “Oh, what a steadfastness to the ideal did we ever find in Shashi! He was a mother to us. It was he who managed about our food. We used to get up at three o’clock in the morning. Then all of us, some after bathing, would go to the worship room and be lost in Japa and meditation. There were times when the meditation lasted to four or five o’clock in the afternoon. Shashi would be waiting with our dinner; if necessary, he would by sheer force drag us out of our meditation.”

Swami Turiyananda

Swami Turiyananda

Pre-Monastic Name: Harinath Chattopadhya

Swami TuriyanandaSwami Turiyananda was born on 3rd January 1863 to Chandranath Chattopadhya an orthodox Brahmin who worked for a British firm in Kolkata, and had the power to foretell the future.

He met Sri Ramakrishna for the first time some time in 1876-77, at the age of 13 or 14 at Dinanath Basu’s house in Kolkata.

Around 1880, he went to Dakshineswar and visited the Master again, and gradually became familiar with Sri Ramakrishna.

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

A few years later, he left the Baranagore Monastery and went to Rishikesh, Gangotri, and other places in the Himalayas, and settled in Rajpur on the Mussoorie hills to practise Sadhana. He also travelled with his brother disciples to various places in the country.

In June 1899, he left for England and America with Swami Vivekananda and Sister Nivedita. He gave lectures on Vedanta on Swamiji’s command. He was a living example of Vedanta to all. In July 1900, on the train from New York to California, just before Swamiji got off the train at Detroit, he asked Swamiji about his future work, and was told “Go and establish the ashrama in California. Hoist the flag of Vedanta there. From this moment, destroy even the memory of India. Mother will do the rest”. He then established the “Shanti Ashrama”

At the ‘Shanti Ashrama’, he freely distributed the greatest spiritual treasures of Vedanta to the American students. He lived a life and trained enabled others to live the life as well.

In late 1901, due to ill health, left for India in May 1902 (after a period of 2 years 9 months stay in the US). He handed the Ashrama to one of his disciples – Gurudas. His only desire at this time was to see Swamiji (Swami Vivekananda). During his voyage, he learnt from a passenger’s newspaper that Swamiji had passed away, and changed all plans for work. Now he wanted to immerse his life in meditation and austerity.
The then went to live at Vrindavan like a traditional monk. He travelled to many place, and practised severe austerities neglecting his body completely, and thus also suffering tremendous ill health.

In February 1919, he went to Varanasi and lived there till the end of his life for 3½ years. He passed away at 6.45 pm on 21 July 1922, at Varanasi.

Swami Turiyananda was indeed an awakener of souls. His fiery words to his students were: “Clench your fists and say: I will conquer! Now or never – make this your motto, even in this life I must see God. That is the only way. Never postpone.”

Swami Akhandananda

Swami Akhandananda

Pre-Monastic Name: Gangadhar Gangopadhyay (Ghatak)

Swami AkhandanandaSwami Akhandananda was born on 30th September 1864 in western Kolkata to a priest and Sanskrit teacher who also practised yoga and Tantra. His mother was a devout woman who prayed to God for a son (after having 3 daughters), and thus Gangadhar was born.

Sometime in 1876 – 77, he met Sri Ramakrishna for the first time at Dinanath Basu’s house in Kolkata along with his friend Harinath (later Swami Turiyananda)

At the age of 12, he had met a monk, and left home with him without informing his parents. The monk later suggested that he return home as he was too young for monastic life, and his parents were overjoyed to have him back. Now in May 1883, he visited Sri Ramakrishna at Dakshineswar and was initiated into a mantram by the Master.

In January 1886, Sri Ramakrishna distributed ochre cloth (monastic robes) and rosaries to 12 of his disciples. Gangadhar and Harinath got them from the Master on another day.

In December 1886, he took the vows of renunciation guided by Swamiji, alongwith seven other brother disciples at Antpur on Christmas eve and soon afterwards, took the monastic robes given to him by the Master, and left the monastery without telling anyone. Only his noble father came to the station to see him off with the blessing “Go, my son. Fulfill your mission in life. This world is unreal. I bless you: May you attain unflinching devotion to God.”

From 1887 onwards, he travelled to Gaya, Varanasi Hardwar, Rishikes, Gangotri, Kedarnath, Badrinath and such other places. He depended wholeheartedly on Sri Ramakrishna, and boldly travelled on routes where others would fear to go. He served people however he could along the way.

He visited Tibet three times – the last visit being in 1889. He learnt the language in 15 days, and spoke on behalf of the poor to the luxury loving lamas. For this he loved by the poor and kept captive, and tortured by the lamas. During his last visit, since he was familiar with the Tibetan people, their language, customs etc., the British Govt. offered him a consul’s post which he refused.

After being away for 3½ years, came back to Baranagore Monastery where his other brother disciples were extremely happy to have him back. In the first week of July, on Swami Vivekananda’s advice, he took the final monastic vows before Sri Ramakrishna’s picture and then became Swami Akhandananda (undivided bliss).

In 1893, he started his mission in Khetri – the service of God in man. He wrote a letter to Swamiji in America asking him for guidance for his mission. Swamiji replied -

“Go from door to door amongst the poor and lower classes of the town of Khetri and teach them religion. Also, let them have oral lessons on geography and such other subjects. No good will come of sitting idle and having princely dishes, and saying ‘Ramakrishna, O Lord!’ unless you can do some good to the poor …. It is preferable to live on grass for the sake of doing good to others. The ochre robe is not for enjoyment. It is the banner of heroic work…. The poor, the illiterate, the ignorant, the afflicted – let these be your God. Know that service to these alone is the highest religion.”

Akhandananda’s activities are so vast and far-ranging that it is almost impossible to record all of them. He worked for the famine afflicted, for the poor, during earthquakes, etc., in all parts of the country. He also continued his preaching and distributed the Teachings of Sri Ramakrishna among the villagers.

He started a permanent orphanage in 1897 and stayed there almost all the time till the end of his life.

In 1934, he became President of the order after the passing away of Swami Shivananda, but lived at Sargachi most of the time.

He passed away at Belur Math at the age of 72.

A few years before his passing away, he told a monk his life’s philosophy: “The Master has still kept me alive for his work. Distribute your Self among others and bring other souls within yourself. You will see how much joy you will get from it. On the other hand if you are always busy about yourself, you will be entangled within yourself, you will kill your Self, and you will die. The more you disseminate yourself among the people, the more you will attain bliss and that will lead you to Self-realization.”

Swami Abhedananda

Swami Abhedananda

Pre-Monastic Name: Kali Prasad Chandra

Swami AbhedanandaSwami Abhedananda was born on 2nd ctober 1866 to Rasiklal Chandra, an English teacher and Nayantara Devi, a gentle and spiritual lady

He met Sri Ramakrishna for the first time in June 1884

In January 1886, he got ochre cloth (monastic robes) and rosaries distributed by the Master among 12 of his disciples, and took final monastic vows with other brother disciples by performing the traditional viraja homa in front of the Master’s picture in January 1887.

From March 1887 – 1892 he travelled and went on pilgrimages and with brother disciples, Holy Mother, and others. Also spent a lot of time practising meditation and studying Vedanta.

In August 1896, he went to America on Swami Vivekananda’s call to keep the Vedanta Movement there alive, and spent almost the rest of his life there. In October 1896, he gave his maiden speech before a learned audience in America. After this he was unstoppable, and inspired thousands of Americans. Travelled all over the world – including Paris, London France, Switzerland, etc., spreading Vedanta and the mission of his Master.

He passed away on 8 September 1939.

Towards the end he told his disciples “Tapasya or austerity enhances willpower. Have self-confidence. Have faith in yourself. Think: I am a child of Immortal Bliss. The infinite power is playing within me. If you have this conviction, you will conquer the world.”

Swami Adbhutananda

Swami Adbhutananda

Pre-Monastic Name: Rakhturam (Latu)

Swami AdbhutanandaThe actual date of birth of Swami Adbhutananda is unknown. He was born sometime in the middle of the nineteenth century.

In late 1879 or early 1880, he met Sri Ramakrishna for the first time, and came to stay with him permanently at Dakshineshwar June 1881 – much before other disciples

In January 1886, he got ochre cloth (monastic robes) and rosaries distributed by the Master among 12 of his disciples and took monastic vows in February 1887, one month after his brother disciples, as he had was away at the time, on some work instructed by Holy Mother.

From 1886 – 1912 he lived almost entirely in Kolkata, at the residences of various devotees of Sri Ramakrishna as a wandering monk, unattached to people or places. In 1893/ 94 he left the monastery and began living on the bank of the Ganges like a true mystic who loves to live alone. He also made various pilgrimages to Jagannath Puri, Kashmir and the like.

Swami Adbhutananda passed away in the holy city of Varanasi on 24 April 1920.

At the threshold of Latu Maharaj’s life, the Master had said to him (pointing to Himself): “Here God alone exists. Do not forget this.” “How can I forget someone who loves me so much?” answered Latu Maharaj. He did not forget. Throughout his life, his mind was filled with thoughts of Sri Ramakrishna, and he would sometimes reveal to others the substance of these thoughts.

Swami Advaitananda

Swami Advaitananda

Pre-Monastic Name: Gopal Ghosh

Swami AdvaitanandaIn 1828, Swami Advaitananda was born in Rajpur – 25 miles north of Kolkata.

Sometime in 1883, he lost his wife (at the age of 55), and was broken hearted and depressed. He met Sri Ramakrishna for the first time in March/ April 1884

On the 12th of January 1886, he got ochre cloth (monastic robes) and rosaries distributed by the Master among 12 of his disciples, and took final monastic vows in 1887. Left the monastery at the end of the year and went to Varanasi, lived on alms and practiced austerities.

Form 1892 onwards, he lived at the Belur Monastery and made strenuous efforts to mould his life according to the spiritual ideas of the Master. He was made a trustee of the Ramakrishna Math and Mission by Swamiji, and later became Vice-President

On 28 December 1909, Swami Advaitananda passed away. Until the end he was fully conscious, chanting the name of Sri Ramakrishna.

Sri Ramakrishna made Swami Advaitananda a role model for elderly seekers of God. He will be remembered for his cheerful manner and methodical ways, his self-reliance, his untiring zeal in every work he undertook, his implicit devotion to the Master and his cause.

Swami Trigunatitananda

Swami Trigunatitananda

Pre-Monastic Name: Sarada Prasanna

Swami TrigunatitanandaSwami Trigunatitananda was born on 30th January 1865, his parents believed that he was born to them through the grace of the Divine Mother Durga.

In 1884 he met Sri Ramakrishna for the first time at Dakshineswar. He was studying in M.’s school, and was depressed for the loss of his gold watch. Therefore M. brought him to meet the Master. In January 1886, he heard that his parents had arranged his marriage, and ran away from home, took the Masters blessings as Cossipore (the Master didn’t know he had run away), and left for Puri on foot.

From 1886 onwards, he started living at Baranagore Monastery after the passing away of the Master against his parents’ wishes. His family tried numerous Homas and sacrifices to try and deter him from the spiritual path, but to no avail. In December 1886, he took the vows of renunciation guided by Swamiji, alongwith seven other brother disciples at Antpur on Christmas eve.

Tired of his parents and relatives attempts to pull him back to a worldly life, he tried running away to Vrindavan on foot, but came back. Swami Vivekananda asked him to live in the holy company of his brother disciples. From 1891 onwards, he went on various pilgrimages to Varanasi, Dwaraka, Mathura, and the Himalayas. He undertook practices and challenges that no one else would have dared, and also destroyed misconceptions of villagers where he went with his analytical mind.

He was Holy Mother’s attendant at Nilambar Babu’s garden house from 1894 to 95 and was extremely thoughtful and resourceful in every action.

After the passing away of Swami Yogananda, he took charge of Holy Mother’s physical needs, in addition to editing the Udbodhan – the monthly magazine of the Order. His zeal to serve was almost an obsession.

In 1903, he took over the work at America (San Francisco), after Swami Turiyananda came back, having worked there for 3 years already. He gave lectures on the Gita and the Upanishads. The crowds were so huge that they had to soon shift to a larger location.

On the 25th of August 1905, he laid the cornerstone for a Temple at San Francisco. This was the first Hindu Temple in the Western world, and the first services were held here on Sunday 15 January 1906. Trigunatitananda had planned the temple himself, combining ideas from a Hindu temple, Christian church, Muslim mosque and an American residence.

From 1905 – 1915, he trained monastics, teaching by way of forceful maxims like “Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty’, ‘Do it now’, and through personal example – living a life of an uncompromising ascetic. Went to Shanti Ashrama for one month a year. He enforced a strict disciplinarian lifestyle, and those who had the privilege of attending the classes could hardly forget their unique experiences. They were surcharged with the spirituality of Trigunatitananda.

On the 27th of December 1914, Swami Trigunatita was lecturing from the podium of the temple in San Francisco when a young man in the front row – (Louis) a former student of Trigunatita, threw a bomb, and was killed. The Swami was injured. (Louis has been in an unbalanced condition and the Swami had advised him to go to the country where the surroundings would be soothing.) Even though he was in an injured condition, the Swami’s mind was filled with pity for his mentally student, and he kept asking whether he was alright.

As predicted by him on the 9th of January (previous day), he left his body on 10 January 1915. In 1916, his relics were installed on the top of the highest hill, Siddha Giri, the “Hill of Realization” at Shanti Ashrama.

His immortal message that lives on after him is “Work hard. Discipline yourself. Build your character. Endure to the end. Realize your Self. And be free.”

Swami Subodhananda

Swami Subodhananda

Pre-Monastic Name: Subodh Chandra Ghosh

Swami SubodhanandaSwami Subodhananda was born on 8 November 1867 to a devout Hindu couple. His family owned the Siddheswari Kali Temple of Thanthania. (When Sri Ramakrishna first came to Kolkata in 1852, he often visited this temple as he stayed nearby)

In August 1885, he heard of Sri Ramakrishna from his father, who promised to take the entire family to Dakshineswar on some holiday. However, he could wait no longer, and went off with a friend to visit him, even without knowing where Dakshineswar (where Sri Ramakrishna lived) was located. The Master told Subodh that he knew he would come.

He was extremely devoted to Sri Sarada Devi (Holy Mother), and would visit her every day when she was in Kolkata. Went to Jayrambati and Kamarpukur (birth places of Holy Mother and Sri Ramakrishna) when Holy Mother was there, and then went on pilgrimages, spending his days in austerity and travelling. Travelled to Varanasi, Omkarnath, Dwaraka, Pushkar, Himalayas, Gaya, and many other places.

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

According to Swami Vivekananda’s (Swamiji) instructions, all brother disciples gave weekly lectures at the Alambazar Monastery. On 12 June 1897, Swami Subodhananda was persuaded with great coaxing, but before he could speak a word, the building began to vibrate and rock and trees crashed down outside: this was the devastating earthquake of 1897! Later Swamiji humorously said “Well. … you have made an earth-shaking speech!”

From 1899 onwards, he lived at the Belur Monastery except for a few travels to East Bengal, Almota, Mayavati, and other places in the Himalayas, Assam etc. At Belur he worked, trained and initiated. He was among the first group of trustees of Belur Math appointed by Swami Vivekananda in 1901.

He served the afflicted in the plague epidemic in Kolkata with money, food, and medicines, and later the famine-stricken people in Chilka – Orissa by collecting and distributing food and materials for them. After great reluctance, began to initiate people on Holy Mother and Master’s instructions.

Swami Subodhananda passed away on Friday, 2 December 1932, with a smile on his face.

The night before he passed away he said, “My last prayer is that the blessings of the Master be always on the Order.”

Swami Vijnananda

Swami Vijnananda

Pre-Monastic Name: Hari Prasanna Chatopadhyay

Swami VijnananandaSwami Vijnananda was born on 30 October 1868 in Etawah, Uttar Pradesh. His father worked for the British government and had a transferable job. Therefore he and his 5 siblings lived with their mother at Varanasi. In 1879, they moved to their ancestral home at Belgharia near Dakshineswar.

Around 1875, he met Sri Ramakrishna for the first time at the age of 7 when he was visiting a devotee’s house in Belgharia. He later saw him in samadhi once at another devotee’s house, and in November 1883 went from college with a friend – Sharat to visit him. This time his mother scolded him for visiting the ‘deranged brahmin’. He visited the master very often after this.

In 1887, he graduated Poona College of Science in civil engineering and took up the job of district engineer at Gazipur in Uttar Pradesh (UP). He worked on various projects in UP, sent Rs.60/- every month to the Ramakrishna Monastery and kept close contact with his brother disciples who would come and stay with him when they were sick, and he served them with loving care.

In 1896, he joined the Ramakrishan Monastery at Alambazar after becoming disgusted with repeated attempts of his uncle to get him married. (He had agreed to work only until his family was financially secure, since his father had expired when he was very young). Here he lived humbly and spent most of his time in japam and meditation.

He went on the western and northern (Indian) travels with Swami Vivekananda (Swamiji) after his return from America. During the travels Swamiji discussed his plans for the Belur Temple with Hari Prasanna, who later drew a sketch of the Ramakrishna Temple using Swamiji’s ideas as a guide, and got them approved by Swamiji.

From February 1898 onwards, single handedly drew up the site plan and building plans for Belur, prepared estimates, as well as supervised the construction. Vivekananda consecrated the Ramakrishna Math on 9th December 1898 at Belur after the construction was completed. (the temple as we see it today, was not yet built)

In 9 May 1899, he took formal sannayasa and monastic vows with the traditional Viraja Homa ceremony, in Sri Ramakrishna’s shrine. Vivekananda told him: “Do as we have done. Take your sanyasa directly from the Master”.

After the construction of the monastery at Belur, Swamiji advised him to start a centre at Allahabad. The Brahmavadin Club there rented two rooms on the upper floor of a two-storey building and he set up the centre there. He spent his time on Japa, meditation, cooking, study in the shrine room. Conducted a vesper service in the evening and he gave classes on the Gita to the club members. In Allahabad, he did not make any effort to preach the teachings of Sri Ramakrishna. In fact, preaching was against his nature. He led a life according to the ideals of Sri Ramakrishna and other learnt from it.

Swami Vijnananda translated Sri Ramakrishna’s Life and Teachings from Bengali into Hindi and published it as Paramahamsa-Charitra. During his 38 year stay at Allahabad he published a number of important books. Towards the end of his life, he was translating Valmiki’s Ramayana from Sanskrit into English, but this was left unfinished. He said about his experience: “When I sit down to translate the Ramayana, I forget the world. I see Rama, Lakshmana, Sita and Mahavirji in front of me.”

1910, he bought a house and vacant plot in Allahabad, turned the house into the Ramakrishna Monastery and built another house for a charitable homeopathic dispensary.

As he was an engineer, he was consulted for the construction of all construction of the Ramakrishna Mission hospitals or temples. For this he travelled to many centres, and also went on pilgrimages to nearby places.

In 1934, he became the Vice-President of the Ramakrishna Ramakrishna Math and Mission worldwide, and the President in 1937 after the passing away of Swami Akhandananda. On Friday, 14 January 1938, he consecrated the Ramakrishna Temple at Belur.

On 25 April 1938, face beaming with joy, he passed away at Allahabad.

On the day of the consecration of the Ramakrishna Temple, he got up early, put on a new ochre cloth, and sitting quietly in his chair waiting for the auspicious moment, he said to his attendant: “When I install the Master in the new temple, I shall say to Swamiji: ‘Your consecrated deity has now been installed in the temple you planned. You said that you would watch from high. Please see now that the Master is seated in the new temple.’”

After the consecration he told his attendant “… I vividly saw Swamiji, Rakhal Maharaj, Mahapurush Maharaj, Sharat Maharaj, Hari Maharaj, Gangadhar Maharaj, and others standing in the southwest corner watching the consecration ceremony.” After a while the swami said: “Now my work is over. Today I am relieved of the responsibility that Swamiji entrusted to me.”