In 1979, I was “posted” to Itanagar where a new modern hospital was upcoming. I was staying at that time in Belur Math after finalising the relief work. Srimat Swami Gahananandaji Maharaj brought me to Seva Pratishthan from Belur Math along with him in his car. He was on that day, “on round” and he took me with him to the indoor wards of Seva Pratishthan. That was the very first time I had the good opportunity to come in front of Revered Maharaj. That made me stand before him in awe as I was a witness to his loving care and attention to the in-patients. He could go into such details, the accompanying specialists would be taken surprised at his keen observation.
From Itanagar, time to time I was on a visit to Kolkata on Mission work. Generally my stay was centred at Seva Pratishthan. More than the work conveniences, his intense love towards me made me feel attracted and I would feel blessed even if I could get a glimpse of seeing him. In 1982 I was to accompany from Calcatta Revered Krishnarupanandaji Maharaj (the present Head of Mauritius centre) to Itanagar. We both were at Seva Pratishthan. Our flight was in the early morning. The previous night I took leave of Revered Gahananandaji Maharaj, saying that I didn’t want to disturb him next morning. He lovingly enquired about all the arrangements and told me that before leaving in the morning, “go to the pantry; warm up the milk; mix coffee; drink and go”. At about 3.30 am, I took out the key to open the small gate for the downstairs, that I heard Revered Maharaj’s clear voice, “KE” – who’s that? Though I never wanted to disturb him in that hour, yet I had to reply, “ami Sundar. Ashchhi Maharaj.” – I take leave of you. What I did not anticipate was his yesternight’s instruction regarding taking coffee. From his room prompt came his query in his inimitable authoritative voice, “coffee kheyechho?” – Did you take coffee? I replied, “na, Maharaj, ekhon dorkar nei.” – No, Maharaj its not needed now. And I went to my room to bring my luggage. Coming to the gate, what I saw stunned me. Revered Maharaj, to my great surprise, not only got up from his bed, but straight proceeded to the pantry in the meantime. And he has prepared hot coffee and was standing there with the cup in his hand. I felt ashamed. The affectionate smiling face of Revered Maharaj even now looms large before my mental eyes.
Accessible to everyone
He only posted me at Seva Pratishthan when my Arunachal days were over in June, 1988. Next year Revered Maharaj became the General Secretary. He used to visit Seva Pratishthan very often and I, as in-charge of the Premananda ward where sadhus were admitted, used to receive him at the main gate. He would enquire about every sadhu in the ward and he needed thorough answers, never satisfied with superficial facts. So I had to be on my toes, as it were, before giving any answer; sometimes, he would know more about the patient-sadhu than me! During all those visits, he would be meticulous in seeing other householder devotee-patients also. Whether sadhu or grihastha (monk or householder), everyone who was touched by him, felt blessed.
Once, a sadhu passed away. His body was ready for despatch to Belur Math for cremation. Revered Maharaj was at Seva Pratishthan on a visit at that time. There was instruction from Belur Math that the body of the sadhu must reach before 7 pm, otherwise cremation would be held only the next day, not on that night. We had no available vehicle to take the body to Belur Math. When revered Maharaj enquired, I said that due to non-availability of a vehicle we would keep the body in the mortuary and would send it next day. When he heard this, he said, “Place the body right now in the rear seat of the Ambassador car. I will reach the body to Belur Math before 7 pm.” We were stunned to listen to him. The General Secretary of the Ramakrishna Math and Ramakrishna Mission, taking a dead body in the same car! And he and Atmanishthananda, his Secretary – both clubbed together in the front seat…never minding the inconvenience…oh! We can never forget the flowing kindness of his heart.
Qualities that we can emulate
Every organisation has to undergo cycles of progress and regress. The six-year period that I stayed in Seva Pratishthan was a tumultuous one indeed! It was marked by an agitation of employees. Never have I heard from his lips words being uttered in derogatory tone of anybody. From the specialist doctor down to the sweeper, he gave enormous time for everyone. Nobody was “useless”. He would insist that the Ramakrishna family extends and includes everyone. What a sagacious advice he used to give all the monks there. His great patience, talking endearingly, listening with rapt attention – all these qualities shine as model to me. Unable to bear the stress in those times, how many times I had run to him for spiritual solace! Every time I came out wiser because of his wonderful counsel.
13 thoughts on “My Memories of a Mahatma”
What an interesting article. Writing the memoirs of such a Great Personality must have defintely brought tears to the eyes! To serve this Wonderful and Holy Sadhu is indeed a great blessing to you, Revered Maharaj, and the moments that Maharaj shared with the Late President Maharaj, will be chersihed forever.
These are wonderful. I am sure you have many more such wonderful memories. Please keep writing them Maharaj. If more are already available, can you please let us know where they are?
Just now I’ve come to know some memories of our Revered Gurudev. I can’t explain how much obliged I am. Please let us know some more if it is possible.
Nice to know more about my revered Guru ji.
Please keep sharing more.
Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina Area, USA
||Sri Ramakrishna sharanam||
Thanks for your visit and interest in knowing more about your Guruji.
There are of course more reminiscences that are too personal and may not be useful for others.
Recently Advaita Ashrama has brought out a full book in Bengali on Revered Maharaj.
I do not know whether you can read Bengali. I am sending the details by email to you.
May guru’s grace be with you ever!
The description is so vivid Maharaj! You have highlighted two important aspects of my Guruji’s character – love and total dependence on Thakur. I experienced love even during the brief interactions I had. To me it seems that the reason one never saw Guruji getting upset or worried is because of total dependence on Thakur.
I do not know how to express my gratitude towards you for the write up.
||Sri Ramakrishna sharanam||
Thanks for your kind words! Oh No! No gratitude is needed!
I was so moved by Guruji’s loving behavior, that every action in reference to me, was laced with that pure, unselfish love wholly intended for my spiritual welfare. That was something treasurable and ever memorable.
May you be endowed with such qualities!
So, nice to know about my Gurudev. I am thankful to you that you shared such a good experience to know my Gurudev much more.
||Sri Ramakrishna sharanam||
Thanks for your visit to this site!
Happy to have met you at Delhi ashram recently. Your interest in knowing about your Revered Gurudev amazed me. You have deep devotion at his lotus feet. Thats what is required. Guru’s grace is important in our spiritual life. That begins to flow so long we, as disciples carry out his instructions with abiding faith in his words.
May Gurudev’s blessings be with you ever!
Srimat Swami Gahananandaji was a great Maharaj!
I obtained my Disksha from him in the year 2002 when Swami Gahananandaji visited Malaysia Ashram.
It was my pleasure and blessings from Thakur to get Diksha from him.
Jai Sri Ramakrishna!
||Aum Sri Ramakrishna sharanam||
Thanks for your visit to this blog and going through my Post on a Mahatma Monk.
Indeed it is definitely a blessing from Thakur to get diksha from Most Revered Gahananandaji Maharaj.
His instructions to devotees were crystal clear and as a young monk, coming into contact with him, was a great experience for me that solidified my spiritual aspiration.
May His grace be upon you!
It gave me immense happiness to read more about my Gurudev Srimat Swami Gahananandaji Maharaj! I took my initiation from him in 2001 in Singapore and I met him few times after that whenever I visited India. He indeed was full of kindness and devotion to Thakur.
With your amazing writing skills, you always bring all Revered Swamis alive in front of devotees’ eyes. I am so very grateful to you for such excellent Posts so we can learn so much more about the family of Sri Guru Maharaj, Maa, Swamiji!
I always look forward to your writings.
||Aum Sri Ramakrishna sharanam||
Thanks for your kind words! If you have been enjoying my articles on the past Swamis of our Order, know it is by His grace only that they are appealing to you. I considered Swami Gahanananda Ji Maharaj, due to his love and affection towards me, as my Upaguru to whom I used to run for getting solutions for my spiritual problems. He used to lovingly and patiently guide me.
May Sri Ramakrishna bestow His grace!