Antaranga – Swami Subodhananda

subodhanandaThe monastic disciples of Sri Ramakrishna are each a unique spiritual personality, representing the Master and carrying his message throughout India and the world. They all were of exemplary character, vast spiritual depth, and they widely influenced many souls in their own lifetime, as well as those of future generations. After the great light that was Sri Ramakrishna left this mortal plane, each of the apostles became a powerful shining ray in his own right.

No ordinary soul incarnates as the companion of the Avatar of the age. Such was the case with Subodh Chandra Ghosh, who took the monastic name of Swami Subodhananda. He took birth in a family that was both wealthy and spiritually inclined, a highly auspicious birth that is one of the hallmarks of a great soul.

Subodh was born in 1867 in Calcutta. His father was a member of the Brahmo Samaj. Religious books and family readings from the Bhagavad-Gita, the Ramayana, and the Mahabharata infused the household with a spiritual atmosphere. Subodh said, “When I was young, I used to read the biographies of holy people and would observe how their lives were transformed.”

The youngest of all of Sri Ramakrishna’s direct disciples, he was affectionately known as Khoka in his younger days, and later as Khoka Maharaj. Khoka means “child” in Bengali, and this appellation referred not just to his age, but to his ever joyful, open, direct, and optimistic disposition. Swamiji once noted that a cheerful disposition is a sign of spiritual illumination. Subodh’s simplicity and cheerfulness was not childish, but childlike and innocent – utterly without guile or pretense.

Although he had a calm, sweet, and pleasant nature, he could also be outspoken and direct, and he did not mince words with regards to speaking the truth. He spoke frankly to Sri Ramakrishna as well, which pleased the Master greatly.

Subodh had no desire for married life, despite the designs of his parents. His father had planned for him to marry once his studies were successfully completed. In order to get out of this arranged marriage he deliberately got bad grades in school. This had the desired effect. His father relented and he was forever free of this entanglement.

At the age of 18, Subodh’s father introduced him to the teachings of Sri Ramakrishna. The teachings of the Master made a deep impression on him and he became single-minded about going to Dakshineswar to meet Sri Ramakrishna. At their first meeting, Sri Ramakrishna recognized him from visits to the family home and temple. He said to Subodh, “I often visited your home before you were born. I knew you would come. You belong to ‘this place.’ The Divine Mother sends those who will attain spirituality ‘here.’” The Master continued, “You will attain the goal. Mother says so.” Asking how Subodh had come to hear about him, Subodh replied, “I am impressed by reading your teachings. They are really remarkable. You are such a great man so I have come to see you.”

Sri Ramakrishna asked him to continue coming on Tuesdays and Saturdays. Subodh’s family would not have approved of these frequent visits, so he stole away to Dakshineswar in secret. For this reason there is very little mention of Subodh in the Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna, even though he was an integral part of the Master’s inner circle. During these visits Sri Ramakrishna began to transmit teachings and give meditation instruction which began to rapidly awaken Subodh’s latent spirituality.