Swami Brahmananda was one of the most eminent and-one of the most beloved of the disciples of Sri Ramakrishna the first also to come to Him. Sri Ramakrishna regarded him as His own son and admitted him to the utmost intimacy. In this familiar daily intercourse the disciple caught the glint of the Master's effulgence. It shone through all he said, all he did, all he was. It gave him unlimited power and insight, and an authority no one thought to dispute. This last he used sparingly. He led rather by quiet appeal than by more insistent methods, but so mighty was his spiritual force that his gentlest suggestion was to those who heard it, a word of command.
It was my blessed privilege to be closely associated with the Swami during the six months of his first visit to Madras. When the present book of counsels was put into my hands to revise, edit and prepare for publication, there rose before my mind once again the picture of that majestic, yet child-like, figure moving in the twilight shadow up and down the dim monastery hall at Mylapore; once again his gentle voice sounded in my ears; once again the benediction of his loving presence fell in refreshing shower over my spirit. I have striven to let that voice sound un muted through these pages, to leave unbarred the benediction of that presence.
The spiritual instructions which follow were spoken in largest measure at Benares, Kankhal, Belur, or elsewhere, in informal conversations. Some were written in personal letters. In the earlier days of the Swami's administration as President of the Ramakrishna Mission he remained nearly always in retirement at Puri, or at the Head Monastery of the Order on the Ganges above Calcutta. At that time he was reluctant to assume the place of teacher. At Madras, if anyone asked him a question he would answer: 'Go and ask Sasi Maharaj. He knows everything. I know nothing.'
Later he emerged from his seclusion and became an active and stimulating visitor at the various Centres of the Mission. The teaching set down in the present volume belongs to this second period. It was preserved by devout disciples and published in the 'Vedanta Kesari,' the official magazine of the Mission's work at Madras. Carefully and reverently revised,it appears now in more permanent form. The counsels given are pre-eminently practical. They are the spontaneous expression of the Swami's own wide vision and profound spiritual experience. Their power is irresistible. They transform and redeem. They kindle fresh ardour in the heart. They transmute life into living. Charged with a holy message they go forth now, bearing to world and cloister alike, the promise of spiritual achievement.
This is a revised edition of The Eternal Companion, the popular handbook containing practical and insightful instructions for success in spiritual life The book has undergone some significance changes in its format since its first publication in 1931. Before the highlight: of the present edition are outlined, i would be of interest to have a glimpse into the 60-year-old history of this book
The 'Conversations,' which form the major section in this book, were translated by Swami Yatiswarananda and• appearance serially in the Vedanta Kesari, an English journal of the Ramakrishna Order
Published from Madras. They were brought together and, after editing; were published in 1931 by Sri Ramakrishna Math, Madras in the form of a book under the title Spiritual Teachings of Swami Brahmananda. In 1944 an attractive American edition of the book, titled The Eternal Companion, was published by the Vedanta Press, Hollywood. In the American edition, the 'Conversations' section was considerably abridged, and a short biography of Swami Brahmananda, written by Swami Prabhavananda, was added. The Madras publication, Spiritual Teachings ... , was subsequently withdrawn from circulation, and replaced with an Indian edition of The Eternal Companion. In 1970 an enlarged and revised American edition was released in which several 'Reminiscences' of Swami Brahmananda's monastic and householder disciples were' incorporated. The Indian version of this was out in 1972 and remained in circulation till 1978, when an enlarged edition of the book was made available by reintroducing the unabridged version of the 'Conversations' translated by Swami Yatiswarananda, but retaining the biographical section written by Swami Prabhavananda. In 1970 an enlarged and revised American edition was released in which several 'Reminiscences' of Swami Brahmananda's monastic and householder disciples were' incorporated. The Indian version of this was out in 1972 and remained in circulation till 1978, when an enlarged edition of the book was made available by reintroducing the unabridged version of the 'Conversations' translated by Swami Yatiswarananda, but retaining the biographical section written by Swami Prabhavananda.
Though this edition was appreciated, it was felt that the size of the typeface should be bigger, to hel'P easy reading. Further, more reminiscences have come to light which needed to be included. All this would have made the book unduly voluminous. Therefore it was decided to split it into two volumes, one containing the Life and Conversations and the other containing the Reminiscences, thus making these books more easily accessible to all, and handling too, easy.
In the present edition, the first section on 'Life' remains unchanged, as also the section on 'Letters.' The chapter 'Stray Counsels,' has been shifted to 'Conversations' where it belongs. The material in the section on 'Conversations' has undergone some rearrangement and the chapter-headings have been changed suitably. The dates and places of the 'Conversations,' when they are known, are mentioned and usually come at the begining of a chapter. These are followed by the undated pieces of conversation. Except for minor editing, the translation remains unchanged. A glossary of non-English terms is a new addition and would be found useful. Another special feature is an index which would help readers locate with ease any specific matter in the sections on 'Conversations' and 'Letters
The reader would do well to keep in mind that many of the 'Conversations' in the book took place in the monasteries of the Ramakrishna Order and were addressed particularly to the young monastic novitiates. So every instruction given here will not naturally be applicable to every reader. To derive the maximum benefit from this book, the reader should have a realistic understanding of where he stands, an eager willingness to learn the higher truths of spiritual life, and a firm determination to practise them as much as he can.
We hope that in its present form the book would provide to the reader a much easier access into the invaluable guidelines to spiritual life that it abounds in.
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