Antaranga: Swami Ramakrishnananda

In this presentation on the life of Swami Ramakrishnananda, two sources have been used extensively:  

God Lived With Them,  by Swami Chetanananda
Swami Ramakrishnananda: The Apostle of Sri Ramakrishna, by Swami Tapasyananda

We encourage everyone to read these full accounts of this dedicated disciple of Sri Ramakrishna to whom we owe a tremendous debt of gratitude for undeviating service to the well-being of his brother disciples, lost to the world in deep austerities, unmindful of food, health, and their bodies.  Swami Ramakrishnananda is the only one of the brothers who never left the ashram to wander.  Instead, he faithfully tended to the Master’s worship and the needs of his brother monks, until he was called to open the Ramakrishna center in Madras (Chennai). <>


Sw. RamakrishnanandaSwami Ramakrishnananda

Swami Vivekananda once said, “Sri Ramakrishna was a wonderful gardener, therefore he has made a bouquet of different flowers and formed his Order. All different types and ideas have come into it, and many more will come. Sri Ramakrishna used to say, ‘whoever has prayed to God sincerely for one day must come here.’ Know each one of those who are here to be of great spiritual power. When they go out, they will be the cause of the awakening of spirituality in people.” About his brother disciples, Swamiji asserted that “they are each a center of religious power, and in time that power will manifest.”


Among these spiritual giants referred to by Swami Vivekananda, we are fortunate to have biographical information and recorded reminiscences of Swami Ramakrishnananda, one of the direct disciples of the Master. He was a great devotee who felt the presence of God everywhere and devoted every moment of his life to the service of God, and the Guru. He was a perfect Sannyasin who practiced the ideal of renunciation. He was a humanitarian who shared the sufferings of the poor and did his best to relieve them. Finally, he was a realized soul who dedicated himself to preaching the Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna wherever he went, and brought the Master into the lives of countless devotees in various parts of India.


Referred to in the Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna as Sashi, he was born in July 1863 as the eldest son of a saintly Brahmin priest and his devoted wife. The household was permeated with an atmosphere of genuine piety. Sashi started his life on earth with such rare hereditary and environmental advantages which culminated in his later association with Sri Ramakrishna and his inner circle. His birth circumstance is an example of the truth stated in the Bhagavad-Gita, that those who have labored in their previous lives for spiritual perfection are born with such advantages. As stated in the sixth chapter of the Bhagavad-Gita,“Having attained to the worlds of the righteous and dwelling there for everlasting years, he incarnates in the homes of the pure and the prosperous. Or else he is born into the family of a wise Yogi himself. Verily a birth such as that is very rare to obtain in this world. There he is united with the intelligence acquired in his former body and strives more than before for perfection.”


Sashi’s father was an expert in ritualistic worship, and Sashi imbibed this love for ritualistic worship from him. After passing out of the village school, he went to Kolkata to attend college. There he stayed in the home of his cousin, Sarat, who later became known as Swami Saradananda. It was at this time that he and Sarat became involved with the Brahmo Samaj movement led by Keshab Sen. It was through Keshab that Sashi was introduced to Sri Ramakrishna.


In October of 1883, Sashi and Sarat went to Dakshineshwar and met Sri Ramakrishna, who told them several stories from the Christian Bible. It was later that the Master said that both Sashi and Sarat were the followers of Jesus Christ in a former incarnation. Of this first meeting Sashi later said: “I talked a great deal that first day, but never again. After I had listened to Ramakrishna, I had nothing more to say. I did not have to talk. Often I would go to him with my mind full of doubts which I wished him to clear away. But when I reached the temple I would find his room full of people and would feel very much disappointed. As soon as he saw me he would say, ‘Come in, sit down. Are you doing well?’ Then he would return to his subject, but invariably he would take up the very doubt that was troubling my mind and clear it away completely.”


Sashi was a brilliant student. However, he cut short his studies in order to devote himself to the service of Sri Ramakrishna, and became his constant attendant. This discipline of personal service to his guru became the dominant note of his life. During the Master’s final days, Sashi took up the bedside service of the Master with a zeal that overlooked all personal considerations for himself. Through this service he received the Master’s unbounded grace, and through that, devotion and knowledge of the highest order. One of Sri Ramakrishna’s householder disciples once said “Sashi’s service is incomparable and inimitable. If a selfless service in the proper sense be there in the world, Sashi knew it fully well. If there be any untiring attendants worth the name, Sashi should be termed the foremost of them all. If anyone wants to see motiveless love, then Sashi is the model. Sashi had only merits, no faults. He served the Master heart and soul without any question, without any murmur and without any consideration of personal inconvenience. That is why he has been the object of the Master’s special grace. By his grace, he stands at the head of the circle of his attendants. He is his chosen son and servant and second to none in service of him.”


With the passing of Sri Ramakrishna in 1886, one chapter of Sashi’s life closed and another began as Swami Ramakrishnananda.


The inner circle of Sri Ramakrishna’s direct disciples severed their ties with the world and gathered together at the newly founded monastery at Baranagore. Sashi played a pivotal role in holding the group together, and regulated the routine of life to be followed. Facing hunger, pain, and poverty, the group devoted themselves to spiritual practices. Sashi took care of his brother disciples like a loving mother, shouldering all the responsibilities in maintaining the Math so that spiritual practices could continue without hindrance. He maintained a regular, unfailing ritual worship of the Master with daily Puja. On hot days he could often be found fanning a picture of the Master for several hours. His primary practice and devotion before all others was this ritual worship of the Master and the monastic community.


The love that Sashi held for the Master was also extended just as powerfully towards Swami Vivekananda. His love for Swamiji, whom Sri Ramakrishna had ordained as the leader of the whole group, was overwhelming. Any word from Swamiji was more than a command to him. There was no trouble he could not face, no sacrifice that he could not make in deference to the slightest wish of Swami Vivekananda. When some of the citizens in the city of Madras approached Swamiji with the request that he should send one of his brother disciples to stay in Madras and establish a monastery which could become the centre of the religious teachings and philanthropic activities outlined by him, Swamiji replied, “I shall send you one who is more orthodox than your most orthodox men of the South, and who is at the same time unique and unsurpassed in his worship of and meditation on God.” The very next steamer from Calcutta brought to Madras Swami Ramakrishnananda. He at once responded to the call of Swamiji to go to Madras to spread the message and ideals of their Guru. It meant that he would have to give up many habits of long years, and also that he would have to leave the place where he was so steadfastly worshipping the relics of the Master. But these were of no consequence against the wishes of Swamiji.


A combination of deep unflinching devotion and mighty intellect is something very rare. But this very rare type was needed for this work, and it was the good fortune of South India to get such a one. The Ramakrishna Mission work in the South now stands as a noble edifice, giving shelter to thousands of people who seek consolation which true spirituality alone can give. The strong foundation for this was firmly laid by Swami Ramakrishnananda via his austere life, devoted service, immense scholarship, and steadfastness in the face of numerous trials and ordeals.


Swami Ramakrishnananda was a powerful orator, a delightful conversationalist, and a serious writer. As an active, intelligent, independent, dauntless, heroic devotee of the Master, he was a strict disciplinarian and insisted all who came under his influence be perfect and exemplary in every detail of conduct. His own life was extremely disciplined. He was very regular and punctual in his habits, and uncompromising in upholding the highest ideals of spirituality.


Whether he was speaking to two, or to two thousand people, there was equal force and warmth to his words. His inspiration came from within and came abundantly, however many were present. Once he told a disciple that the Master had entrusted to him a certain special message to convey to the world which he did not give even to Swami Vivekananda. “Swamiji was given a big, all around message, but a little message was kept for me.”


When once asked to explain the meaning of worship, he said, “Worship is not at all an external affair. It is almost wholly internal. Ordinary people perform worship either to escape from displeasure of God, or in expectation of fulfilling some desire. All of these are low motives. Real worship is not done till devotion overflows from the heart and tears rolled down from the eyes for a glimpse of God. Worship, austerity, and repetition of the Name performed by the worldly minded are no sooner done than forgotten. Afterwards they do not remember God in the midst of their daily preoccupations. A perfect devotee takes God’s name with every breath, is filled with sincere devotion that offers flowers, leaves, and water to God without any selfish motive, saying: ‘Oh Mother Divine, worship and prayer are nothing but opportune moments to call on you.’”


Swami Ramakrishnananda had an overflowing love, kindness, and abounding sympathy for all, as well as a childlike nature which reflected the inner purity of the soul. His love and esteem towards his brother disciples almost bordered on worship. When any brother disciple came to the South, he would be beside himself with joy. A similar attitude, in a more intense degree, was in evidence, towards Holy Mother, Sri Sarada Devi.


His life was short but eventful. His strenuous life of intense and unceasing activities in the South and lack of proper food burnt his life-energy quickly. When the news of his passing away reached the Holy Mother, she remarked with tearful eyes: “Alas, Sashi is gone. My back is broken.” Sister Devamata, an American disciple of Swamiji, wrote: “What Saint Paul declared in his Epistle to the Galatians, ‘Ye not I, but Christ liveth in me,’ perfectly described Swami Ramakrishnananda’s attitude towards himself and towards that one whom he called guru. He was dead wholly to himself and alive only in Sri Ramakrishna.”


Swami Ramakrishnananda breathed his last in a state of ecstasy on August 21st, 1911. Just before leaving his body, he said,My life is eternal. This little life belongs to God. He created it. Let Him do with it what He will.”



Some Teachings of Swami Ramakrishnananda:


“Now, after several mental repetitions of the Pranava, the oscillations of the mind become less and less, there will be greater and greater tranquility within till at length, if the process is steadily pursued, it reaches the blessed state.”


“You should repeat the process daily to cultivate the habit of calmness against your acquired habit of random activity. In doing so, you will face many difficulties such as carnal appetite, desire for fame, the fear of being useless to society — all of which will try to deter you from your pursuit after truth, and detain you in the mirage of space and time.”


“The balloon tries to ascend to the sky, but finds the rope that binds it to the earth too strong to rend asunder with its limited power. Untie the ropes and the balloon will merrily rise above the world. Such is the way to perfection in Yoga.”


“Self-existent bliss comes from God alone. The little happiness of this world is only a reflection of perennial bliss.”


“When the mind is pure, that is, when it is free from all sorts of debasing desires, then alone is it fit to think of God.”


“Only when a man can go beyond the ordinary perception of the senses and the intellect can he realize what God is; and only he who lives beyond all touches, tastes, and forms, who is absolutely pure, from whom the last taint of impurity has been washed off, can become truly one with Him.”


“True seekers after freedom are not concerned to have their desires satisfied. They want to go straight to the Supreme.”