Life of Ramakrishna | 13. Monastic disciples
13. Monastic disciples
The vision of Śrī Ramakrishna that a galaxy of pure and earnest souls imbued with the lofty spirit of renunciation and service would receive his message of universal love and harmony and carry it to humanity soon came to be materialized.
One by one these heroic souls who were subsequently transformed into mighty spiritual figures by the magic touch of the Master gathered round him.
This batch of disciples consisted mostly of ardent young men who afterwards left their hearth and home and embraced monastic life.
First among these to come was Latu (Swami Adbhutananda) who belonged to a poor family in the District of Chapra in Bihar:
He had the privilege of serving Śrī Ramakrishna for nearly six years and attained great spiritual heights even during the lifetime of the Master.
Rakhal Chandra Ghosh (Swami Brahmānanda), son of a landlord of Basirhat, first met Śrī Ramakrishna at Dakshineswar in 1881. The Master looked upon him as his ‘Spiritual Child’:
Rakhal was one of the class described by the Master as Nitya-siddha (eternally perfect). Subsequently he became the first President of the Ramakrishna Math and Mission and developed this infant institution into a powerful organization.
Gopal Ghosh (Swami Advaitananda) was rather advanced in years, and Śrī Ramakrishna used to designate him as ‘aged Gopal’. He ultimately renounced the world and joined the Baranagore monastery.
Narendra Nath Dutta (Swami Vivekananda) came of an enlightened aristocratic family of Calcutta:
Even in his boyhood he developed an introspective habit of mind and became adept in meditation. He met the Master first in 1881, and after his graduation from the Calcutta University in 1881 he felt an indomitable urge for spiritual realization.
Under the careful guidance of the Master he attained the highest spiritual illumination, and his heart at the same time was filled to overflowing with love for humanity.
After the passing away of Śrī Ramakrishna it was Swami Vivekananda who organized his brother disciples into a spiritual fraternity and laid the foundation of the institutions which have developed into the present Ramakrishna Math and Ramakrishna Mission.
Swami Vivekananda’s noble vindication of Hinduism in the West as well as in India, his great spiritual attainments, his burning patriotism,
his lifelong service for the uplift of the downtrodden masses of India, and his high-souled efforts to bring about a cultural and spiritual union between the East and the West—
all these have combined to secure for him a pre-eminent position amongst the world’s noblest men.
Tarak Nath Ghoshal (Swami Śivānanda) belonged to the illustrious Ghoshal family of Barasat. From his very boyhood Tarak used to practise meditation.
In his very first meeting with Śrī Ramakrishna in 1880, he was deeply impressed and he made Śrī Ramakrishna the pole-star of his life. Afterwards, in 1922, he became the second President of the Ramakrishna Math and Mission.
Baburam Ghosh (Swami Premananda) first met Śrī Ramakrishna in Calcutta in 1882. The Master spoke very highly of his purity of character and classed him as ‘eternally perfect’.
His unostentatious life of contemplation and service and his unbounded affection for all have enthroned him in the hearts of innumerable devotees and admirers.
Another young devotee of extraordinary spirituality who came to Śrī Ramakrishna was Nitya Niranjan Ghosh (Swami Niranjanananda). He afterwards dedicated himself entirely to the service of the Master.
Yogindra Nath Roy Chowdhury (Swami Yogananda), who came of an aristocratic Brahmin family of Dakshineswar, first came into close contact with Śrī Ramakrishna when he was a mere boy. Śrī Ramakrishna spoke of him as being one of the chosen few of the Divine Mother.
Sharat Chandra Chakravarti (Swami Saradananda) and Shashibhushan Chakravarti (Swami Ramakrishnananda) were cousins, born of a pious Brahmin family of Calcutta. They met Śrī Ramakrishna in 1882 and eventually took refuge at the feet of the Master.
Swami Saradananda became the first Secretary of the Ramakrishna Math and Mission; and in his Bengali book, Śrī Ramakrishna-Lilaprasanga, he has left a monumental exposition of his Master’s sublime life.
Swami Ramakrishnananda’s services during the last illness of Śrī Ramakrishna were unparalleled. The Ramakrishna Math and the Students’ Home at Mylapore, Madras, are a living testimony to the devoted service of this great soul.
Of Shashi and Sharat Śrī Ramakrishna used to say that both of them were followers of Jesus Christ in a former incarnation.
Hari Nath Chatterjee (Swami Turiyananda) of Baghbazar was another great disciple who was attracted by the magnetic personality of the Master:
His great ascetic habit and extraordinary fortitude easily marked him out as a great Yogi. His letters and conversations, as recorded, are an unfailing source of spiritual enlightenment.
Gangadhar Ghatak (Swami Akhandananda) was a friend of Hari Nath, and he also first met Śrī Ramakrishna on the same occasion:
He was the first amongst the monastic disciples of the Master to start philanthropic work in India as early as 1894. He became President of the Ramakrishna Math and Mission in 1934 after the passing away of Swami Śivānanda.
Hari Prasanna Chatterjee (Swami Vijnanananda) of Belgharia was introduced to Śrī Ramakrishna in 1883 by his friends Sharat and Shashi while he was a college student:
After holding important government posts as an engineer, he renounced the world and subsequently became President of the Ramakrishna Math and Mission after the passing away of Swami Akhandananda in 1937.
Kālī Prasad Chandra (Swami Abhedananda) first came to see Śrī Ramakrishna about the end of the year 1883:
He was a great scholar in Vedanta, and on account of his constant spiritual practices he was known in his early monastic days as ‘Kālī Tapaswi’. He did much to spread the message of Vedanta in America.
Subodh Chandra Ghosh (Swami Subodhananda) was a High School student of seventeen when he first met the Master in 1885. On his second visit, Subodh had, at the mystic touch of the Master, a deep spiritual experience. He belonged to the family of Shankar Ghosh, the proprietor of the famous Kālī Temple of Thanthania, Calcutta.
Sarada Prasanna Mitra (Swami Trigunatitananda) was quite a boy when he met Śrī Ramakrishna for the first time in 1885. He came of a landlord family of Naora.
Under the instructions of Swami Vivekananda he started the Udbodhan, the Bengali organ of the Ramakrishna Order, and edited it till his departure for San Francisco, U.S.A., in 1902, where he successfully preached Vedanta and laid down his life in 1914.
These were some of the most earnest disciples who dedicated themselves to the service of the Master and moulded their lives according to the lofty ideal of renunciation which Śrī Ramakrishna set before them.
Having thus gathered together his chosen few, Śrī Ramakrishna made them his closest companions and, with the tender affection of a mother, guided them step by step to the supreme realization of God.