Swami Brahmananda (Kannada: ಸ್ವಾಮಿ ಬ್ರಹ್ಮಾನಂದ) (January 21, 1863 – April 10, 1922) was born in Sikra Kulingram near Basirhat, Kolkata. His pre-monastic name was Rakhal Chandra Ghosh. Shri Ramakrishna recognised him as his ‘spiritual son’. He became the first president of the Ramakrishna Mission. Known as “Raja Maharaj”, he was largely responsible for the initial development of the Ramakrishna Mission, which was remiss due to the death of Swami Vivekananda.
Birth and childhood :
Rakhal Chandra Ghosh(Swami Brahmananda) was born on 21st January 1863 at Sikra, a village near Calcutta. His father Ananda Mohan Gosh was a zamindar. His mother Kailas Kamini was a pious lady and a devotee of Shri Krishna who gave her son the name Rakhal (meaning the boy-companion of Shri Krishna). Unfortunately the mother died when Rakhal was only five years old. Soon after, his father married a second wife who brought up Rakhal. Rakhal’s education began in the village school which was started by Ananda Mohan chiefly for the sake of his son. As a student Rakhal was remarkable for his intelligence. But even as a boy he had varied interests in life. Physically he was much stronger than the average boy of his age. Nearby was a temple dedicated to the Goddess Kali. Often enough Rakhal would be found seated still and calm witnessing the ceremony, or at the hour of darkness, when the service was being performed Rakhal would be seen standing before the Deity in great devotion.
College and meeting Swami Vivekananda
After Rakhal had finished the primary education, he was sent to Calcutta in 1875 and admitted into an English High School. In Calcutta he came in contact with Narendra Nath, afterwards known as Swami Vivekananda, who was then leader of the boys of the locality. Narendra, with his dynamic spirit and born leadership, cast his influence over others and carried them along the path he thought right. Rakhal, meek, quiet and soft-natured as he was, easily came under his spell, and there grew a close friendship between the two which culminated in a common discipleship at Dakshineswar and bore far-reaching results.
With Sri Ramakrishna
Rakhal’s indifference to studies and worldly things made his father to get him married. Such, however, was the irony of fate that his marriage itself brought Rakhal in contact with Sri Ramakrishna who at once recognized in him his ‘spiritual Son’ as per the vision vouchsafed to him by the Divine Mother. Thus started a course of spiritual intimacy and intensive training under the loving care of the Guru, which resulted in several exalted mystic moods and spiritual experiences.
After master’s death :
After the death of Sri Ramakrishna, Rakhal, along with Narendra and other brother-disciples, embraced monastic life under the name ‘Swami Brahmananda.’ He spent several years as a wandering monk, visiting places of pilgrimage and practicing severe austerities. A little before the return of Swami Vivekananda from the West, he came back to the Baranagore Math and started living there.
As the President of Order
After Swami Vivekananda’s return from West when Ramakrishna Mission was formed as an Association on 1 May 1897, at Baghbazar in Calcutta (now Kolkata) Swami Vivekananda was elected its General President and Swami Brahmananda was elected the first and only ever Calcutta President. After establishing Belur Math monastery when Swami Vivekananda got Ramakrishna Math registered as a Trust, Swami Brahmananda became its President. He held this post till the end of his life. Swamiji gave over the responsibility of running the organization, to Swami Brahmananda, remembering that Sri Ramakrishna had once remarked that Rakhal had the capacity to rule a kingdom. Thus, Swami Brahmananda, the ‘Spiritual Son’ of Sri Ramakrishna is generally said to be the first President of the Ramakrishna Order though in truth Swami Vivekananda was the first President. Swami Brahmananda’s uncanny sense in solving even knotty problems and spiritual eminence of Himalayan heights took the organization to new levels of glory and development. It was a long stewardship Swami Brahmananda (1901–1922) marked by work and worship remarkably blended together. During his tenure as President, the Ramakrishna Order underwent great expansion, and several new branch centres were opened in India and abroad. The Ramakrishna Mission, which had been founded by Swami Vivekananda as an Association, was revived and registered during his time. His stress on contemplative life served to counterbalance the activities undertaken by the monks. During those difficult formative years he gave great stability to the Sangha. During his tenure as the Head, he also guided many earnest spiritual seekers by taking them under his protection, thus fulfilling Swami Vivekananda’s prophetic remark that Swami Brahmananda was veritably a spiritual dynamo.
Raja Maharaj died on 10 April 1922. Swami Vivekananda had said Swami Brahmananda is a “treasure-house of spirituality”. His life and teachings have been compiled by Swami Prabhavananda in the book The Eternal Companion.
Practise a little Japa and meditation every day. Never stop for a single day. The mind is like a restless child, it wants to run away. You must bring it back again and again and apply it to the meditation on the Lord. Go on this way for two or three years, and then an inexpressible joy will fill your mind. Meditation and Japa appear dry in the beginning. But still you must engage the mind in the contemplation of the Deity, like swallowing a bitter medicine. Slowly spiritual joy will grow in you. People work so hard to pass an examination! To realise God is even easier than that. Only let them call on Him with a calm, cheerful heart.
Initiation into a Mantra helps concentration of mind, otherwise your mind will change and fluctuate; today you will like Kali-form, tomorrow the Hari-form, and the next day perhaps the formless aspect of God. And thus your mind will not be concentrated on any one.
Pranayama and other Yogic practices are not suitable to the present times and conditions. One must observe complete Brahmacharya in order to practice them. One’s food must be absolutely pure, Sattvika, and one must be guided by an expert teacher.
Practice is the means of concentrating the mind. Pranayama, breath-control, is also one of the means. But it is not safe for a householder; if one is not continent, one falls ill. Moreover, one must have nutritious food, a fine place, and pure air. In order to have meditation and concentration, you must practice in solitude. The more you will try, the more you will achieve. Wherever you find conditions favorable, say if there is a fine serenity, sit down and meditate.
God is with form and is also formless and He is also above form and formlessness. What does Vedanta mean by saying that “Brahman is true and the world is false”? That, the world as we see it now is false. The world vanishes in Samadhi, but you feel that you are experiencing a great joy.
There is a spiritual eye of wisdom between the two eyebrows. When its vision opens, a fountain of joy is released. The whole universe is seen to be merged in bliss.
This apparent universe, which you see, is within the domain of the mind. The mind is the author, the mind has conjured it up. It cannot go beyond its own domain. Behind the mind, of which we are aware, is a subtle spiritual mind, existing in a seed form. Through contemplation, prayer, and Japa this mind develops, and with its unfoldment a new vision opens. This subtle mind also cannot reach God, the supreme Atman. But it leads you near to Him. At this stage, the world loses all its charm for the aspirant. He remains absorbed n the consciousness of God. Next comes Samadhi. The experience of Samadhi is indescribable-beyond is and is not. In this blessed experience there is neither happiness nor misery, neither light nor darkness. All is infinite Being, inexpressible.
The mind is susceptible to suggestions. It learns whatever you teach it. If through discrimination you can impress upon it the joy and fullness of life in the spirit and the folly of worldly attachments, then your mind will devotee itself more and more to God. Everyone must have an ideal firmly established in his life. This ideal must never be lowered. The supreme ideal of human life is to know God.