Swami Ramakrishnanda of Shashi Maharaj wrote and spoke on a write range of subjects besides penning numerous letters to monks and devotees. The complete work of Swami Ramakrishnananda in three volume brings together all his available writings in English, with translation from Bengali and Sanskrit.
Swami Ramakrishnananda (1863-1911), affectionately known by his pre-monastic name, Shashi Maharaj, was a direct Disciple 'of" Sri Ramakrishna. Swami Ramakrishnananda was a deep thinker, a living embodiment of devotion to his Guru, and a pioneer "in , spreading the message of his Master in South India. At the instance of Swami Vivekananda, he founded the Ramakrishna Math in Madras in 1897 'which led the expansion of Ramakrishna Movement in different parts of South India. A widely travelled person, he was a prolific writer and facile speaker, writing and speaking on various aspects of spiritual life, education, society, lives of saints and sages, and the message of Sri Ramakrishna and Swami Vivekananda.
Shashi Maharaj was the true personification of love and purity. Such purity, both of mind and body, I have yet to see. His love and devotion for Sri Ramakrishna, the ideal and goal of his life, knew no bounds ... With him there was no distinction between high and low, rich and poor. He was solicitous for everyone's welfare. He would receive all with open arms and give them all he had. He sacrificed himself at the altar of duty-which was to worship the Master in every being and to help each to realize the Divine within. He himself would scrupulously observe what he wanted others to follow. . . Swami Vivekananda appropriately named him Swami Ramakrishnananda People will appreciate him more and more, day by day.
The Three Volume Complete Works of Swami Ramakrishnananda constitute a unique literary ensemble which belongs to the fast-growing field of spiritual literature. All over the free world there is now an upsurge of interest in spiritual life. Millions of people have taken to the practice of meditation, Yoga, Zen, Vipassana and other spiritual techniques. Modern spiritual writers like Eckhart Tolle, Wayne Dyer, Deepak Chopra and others are immensely popular and their works are sold in millions. Spirituality has now become an important topic of discussion in business circles and among MBA students, and has even become an object of academic studies and research.
However, in the field of spirituality what gives true value to a literary work is its authenticity. And authenticity comes from direct experience. Unlike conventional religion, which implies conformity to certain belief patterns, codes of conduct and rituals, spirituality is a personal quest for the ultimate meaning of life and its aim is direct, transcendental experience. Spirituality is not a matter of speculation, imagination or logic chopping. It is a matter of direct experience. Referring to religion as spirituality, Swami Vivekananda said: 'Religion is realization, not talk, nor doctrine, nor theories, however, beautiful they may be. It is being and becoming, not hearing or acknowledging; it is the whole soul becoming changed into what it believes.'
A book on spirituality can be regarded as authentic, and hence valuable, only if it is based on the author's direct experience. Here comes the importance of Swami Rama krishnanandaji's literary works. They are all based on his own spiritual realization. He was a man who drank the divine elixir of spirituality at its fount. Bhagawan Sri Rama Krishna taught: man mukh ek karo, 'Make your mind and speech one.' His disciples followed this instruction in letter and in spirit in their lives. Everything that Swami Ramakrishnanandaji wrote and spoke was an expression of his own inner experience.
Swami Ramakrishnanandaji (known in his pre- monastic life as Shashi Bhushan Chakravarty) was a brilliant student of mathematics and Sanskrit before he came into contact with Sri Ramakrishna. The grace of the great Master transformed Shashi Maharaj, as he came to be endearingly called later on, into a God-intoxicated soul, who lived, moved and had his being in God. Purity, Bhakti and jnana constituted the spectrum of divine light that his soul radiated. His inner being was always filled with spiritual fervour of such intensity that it burned itself out in forty- eight short years. Out of the forty-eight years that he lived on earth the first twenty-two were spent in studies and preparing himself for his future work. The remaining twenty-six years were totally dedicated to service-service to God and service to God in man. There was nothing left in him which was devoted to his own body or self.
His life of service may be seen to have three phases. His personal service to Sri Ramakrishna during the Master's last illness constitutes the first phase. When Sri Ramakrishna was moved to Shyampukur in October 1885, Shashi used to come from his home and serve the Master at night. When the Master was moved to Cossipore in December 1885, Shashi started living with him there, devoting himself full time to the service of the Master.
The second phase of Shashi Maharaj's saga of service began when, after the passing away of Sri Rama Krishna in August 1886, some of his young disciples started living together at a dilapidated house in Baranagore, and formed the nucleus of a new monastic Order. Shashi Maharaj continued his service to Sri Ramakrishna in the new monastery in most trying conditions. Although the focus of his adoration had shifted from the living person to a photo of the Master and atmaramer kauta, the reliquary containing the mortal remains of Sri Ramakrishna, it made no difference to Shashi Maharaj. For he felt the living Presence of the Master in the shrine of the monastery.
Swami Ramakrishnanandaji did not merely do the ritualistic worship at the new monastery. Like a mother in a home, he looked after the food and other needs of his monastic brothers. Speaking about the role he had played in establishing the new monastic order on a firm foundation, Swami Vivekananda said: 'Ramakrishnananda busied himself day and night with the duties pertaining to Sri Ramakrishna's worship and service, and occupied the same position in the Math as the mistress of the house does in a family. It was he who would procure, mostly by begging, the requisite articles for Sri Ramakrishna's worship and our subsistence... Oh! What a wonderful constancy of devotion we have noticed in him!... Know Ramakrishnananda to be the central figure of the Math.'
From the beginning of 1887, the other disciples of Sri Ramakrishna started going out in order to lead an itinerant, mendicant life. But Swami Ramakrishnanandaji never left the monastery and remained steadfast in his worship and other kinds of service. In February 1892 the monastery was moved to a dilapidated house in Alambazar, where also he continued his worship with unswerving devotion. During his stay there he translated select teachings of Sri Ramakrishna from Bengali to Sanskrit verse and got them published serially in 'Vidyodaya', a Sanskrit journal.
Swami Vivekananda's return to India in January 1897 and the series of inspiring speeches that he delivered in several parts of India created a great stir in Indian society and awakened the soul of India. Realizing the importance of opening a new front for Vedanta work and spreading Sri Ramakrishna's message in the South, Swamiji decided to send Swami Ramakrishnanandaji to Madras (nowknown as Chennai) to start a new centre there. Although he had devoted himself heart and soul to the worship of Sri Rama Krishna for eleven years, when Swami Vivekananda told him, 'I have selected you; you are to go to Madras and found a monastery there in the name of our beloved Master,' Swami Ramakrishnanandaji accepted Swamiji's instruction without raising any objection. He did it obviously because he realized that Sri Ramakrishna had chosen him for a larger field of work and that the Master's will found expression through Swamiji's decision and words.
With the arrival of Ramakrishnanandaji in Madras on 17 March 1897 began the third phase of his life of service. Lives of great men are characterized by single- mindedness, unity of purpose, sincerity and intensity. This was true of Ramakrishnanandaji also. With the same sincerity and intensity that he had shown in worshipping the relics of Sri Ramakrishna in Calcutta, he now plunged into the work of spreading the philosophy and practice of Vedanta as interpreted and lived by Sri Ramakrishna and Swami Vivekananda. Ramakrishnanandaji was the living embodiment of Vedanta. He also regarded himself as a living channel for the flow of Sri Ramakrishna's grace to the people of South India.
He had the firm faith that he had been chosen to play a significant part in Sri Ramakrishna's mission on earth. In the course of a talk he had with the American nun, Sister Devamata, Ramakrishnanandaji stated: 'Swamiji was given the big all-round message, but a little message was kept for me.' Making the worship of Sri Ramakrishna an essential part of monastic life and raising it from a mere temple ritual to a direct means of feeling the presence of God was undoubtedly one of the aspects of the 'little' message'. Ramakrishnanandaji also demonstrated through his life how to lead a meaningful life discharging the duties of life by keeping Sri Ramakrishna the centre of one's life. Thirdly, by the 'little message' he must have also meant the living demonstration of 'practical Vedanta'. He showed through his life how the principles of Vedanta can be applied to solve the problems of life.
Swami Ramakrishnanandaji was fully aware of the spiritual power and universal significance of the new monastic order brought into existence by his Master him- self, and identified himself fully with it. His love and reverence for Holy Mother Sri Sarada Devi was in no way less than what he had for Sri Ramakrishna. When Holy Mother visited the South, he accompanied her everywhere, and personally attended to every detail of her comfortable stay and travel everywhere. Equally great was his love and reverence for Swami Vivekananda. In the hymn he com- posed on Swamiji, he speaks of Swamiji as the king of ascetics (yatiraja), whose real nature is blissful Brahman, who assumed the human form for the good of the world and to remove the threefold sufferings of human beings.
This little books, comprising the four lectures delivered by me during the last Christmas, is intended for all humanity. It contains the gospel of the ancient sages of India, who declare, in the most unequivocal language, the eternal, all-knowing and all-blissful nature of man. According to them, man is rooted not in food and drink, not in climate and soil, not in body and mind, not in space and time,-but in Sat or Spirit which is absolutely one without a second. This good news they have brought to us, after having realised their own eternal, all-blissful and all-knowing nature, so that we also may be saved from the false fear of death and countless other miseries. These realisations constitute the ancient science of the Veda, consisting of two parts, the first of which is called the Veda proper or Karmakanda and the second, the Vedanta or Jnanakanda. From the latter part we learn that true happiness, true knowledge and true life should be sought inside one's own self and not outside. But alas! almost all the men in the world are doing exactly the opposite. They cannot even imagine themselves to be immortal and consider such a claim to be but a madman's dream. They are perfectly sure about the limited nature of their body and mind and as such, regard the world to be their home wherefrom alone they expect to get knowledge and happiness, which they so much long for. By self, they understand nothing more than this little T bounded on both sides by birth and death and the more the darkness of ignorance thickens around them, the more they make much of this poor little thing of an ego. Thus we see that ignorance, which is 371 the cause of all miseries, has been troubling all men from the very beginning of time in the form of ego, making the eternal appear as non-eternal, the all-blissful appear as miserable, the all-knowing appear as ignorant, the all- powerful appear as weak, the infinite appear as finite, the master appear as slave. Hence the cine duty of every man should be to eradicate this ego rooted in ignorance, with the axe of wisdom which teaches that man is infinite by his nature.
But the man of the world has been loving this ego so very fondly, not for one but for countless lives, that it is almost impossible for him to separate himself from its fell clutches. Some may intellectually comprehend its baneful nature and thus may have a mind to get rid of it but when they make an attempt in that direction, they come away baffled, owing to its almost irresistible charm. For is it not a fact that on this ego alone is based man's, imaginary heaven, which he blindly regards to be permanent and in which he finds his wife, children, friends, neighbours, name, fame and countless other things that make even this precarious life so sweet and dear to him?
Almost all the men in the world being so, how can this little book which preaches the renunciation of the ego, following the footsteps of the hoary sages of India, be of any use to humanity which is not going to profit by its impracticable advice? In answer we say, man may not have a heart to follow the path described herein, but certainly he is eternally restless for the goal that has been held out to him by the sages and if nothing short of that goal can bring complete satisfaction to him and if there is no other path leading to it, he must be made to go through it somehow or other. He may not have a heart at present to take up the path, but in this or some other future Incarnation of his, when his imaginary heaven will appear to him in its true colours, the knowledge of the path leading to salvation will be a great boon to him. And so, although this book can help only a few directly, it can certainly help everyone indirectly. With this hope, it has been made to see the light and to make it more acceptable to the modem readers, the truths of the ancient science have been garbed in the language of modem science, as far as it has proved practicable. So without further preface, let this little book speak for itself.
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