|Born||Subodh Chandra Ghosh
8 November 1867
Calcutta, Bengal Presidency, British India
|Died||2 December 1932
Calcutta, British India
|Quotation||"Do you expect anything when you present some gifts to your little brothers and sisters? One should love God like that. Say: “Master, I offer my body and mind, my life, and everything to you. Give me shelter at your blessed feet. I don’t want anything else.”|
Swami Subodhananda (8 November 1867 – 2 December 1932), born as Subodh Chandra Ghosh, was a direct monastic disciple of Sri Ramakrishna, the 19th-century saint and mystic from India. Being youngest of all direct monastic disciples, he was affectionately known by his brother monks, whose leader was Swami Vivekananda, as "Khoka" (Bengali for little boy). He played a pioneering role in establishing the Ramakrishna Math and the Ramakrishna Mission. He was one of the first group of trustees of the Belur Math appointed by Swami Vivekananda in 1901, and was afterwards elected Treasurer of the Ramakrishna Mission
Subodh Chandra Ghosh was born in Calcutta on 8 November 1867 to the family of Shankar Ghosh, who was also the founder of a famous landmark in Calcutta, the Kali temple in Thanthania in the north. He was thus born in a well to do family in a religious environment conducive to the enquiry beyond material realm. As per the prevailing customs he was supposed to get married after passing his class examinations. However, apparently because of a disinclination to marry, he failed in the examination. Subodh was at first a student of the Hare School and was then admitted into the school founded by Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar, a notable social reformer and educationist of Bengal in the 19th century.
While studying there he came across a Bengali book called The Teachings of Sri Ramakrishna, authored by Suresh Chandra Datta. He was impressed and decided to meet Sri Ramakrishna who resided in Dakshineswar temple. He was received very cordially by the saint who asked him to visit him on Tuesdays and Saturdays. Subodh came to him despite obstacles raised by his parents. As part of his practices there under the tutelage of Sri Ramakrishna, he was helped into deep meditation by the latter, which benefited him in his spiritual pursuits.
Sri Ramakrishna advised him to visit Mahendranath Gupta, also known as "M", who later became famous as the author of the original Bengali version of The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna, known as Ramakrishna Kathamrita.
Life of a monk
After the passing away of Sri Ramakrishna in 1886, Subodh left his home and joined the monastery in Baranagar, started by Narendranath Dutta, who later became famous as Swami Vivekananda. Subodh's monastic name was Swami Subodhananda, but he was more popularly called "Khoka" or the child, being the youngest among the brother disciples. Towards the end of 1889, along with Swami Brahmananda, Swami Subodhananda went to Benaras where he practised austerities. In 1890 they together went for a pilgrimage to the Western and Central India including Omkar, Girnar, Bombay, Dwarka and to Vrindaban where they stayed for sometime. He also went to the Himalayas for spiritual quest, went as far as Kedarnath and Badrinath. He also travelled to South India as far as Cape Comorin or Kanya Kumari.
After Swami Vivekananda's return from the West, when the leader exhorted the brother disciples to work for the welfare of the humanity, Swami Subodhananda pledged his service and was put under various capacities for the cause of the newly founded Ramakrishna Math and Ramakrishna Mission. He was initially placed in charge of the management of the monastery in 1899. When the great plague broke out in Calcutta, Swami Subodhananda worked hard for arranging relief and rehabilitation along with Swami Sadananda and Sister Nivedita.
During the famine of 1908 in the Chilka islands of Orissa he worked alongside fellow monks of the Ramakrishna Mission to provide relief to the affected people.
In his later years, even though he was not able to get engaged in active work, he would inspire people to work for the cause of welfare. During the last years he made extensive tours of Bengal and Bihar to spread the message of Sri Ramakrishna and Swami Vivekananda. He initiated a large number of people including children. In making disciples he made no distinction in terms of social position, caste, sex or age.
Character and legacy
One of the hallmarks of Swami Subodhananda's character was frankness. When Sri Ramakrishna had asked him to interact with Mahendranath Gupta or "M", he responded that the latter being a householder would not be able to teach him about God. When young Subodh went to meet "M" he narrated this conversation verbatim to "M" who appreciated his openness.
He also would be found near sick beds nursing people, often at risk to his own health. One of such instances was his nursing of a young student who was suffering from a contagious and malignant type of smallpox He would beg money from others to help poor patients with diet and medicine. He helped many poor families with the money donated by devotees for his personal needs.
He was self-reliant and did not accept personal service from others, even during his illness. He had very few things as personal belongings. In personal conduct as well as in conversation he put much emphasis on self-surrender to God as the means of salvation.
Relationship with monks and brother disciples
Swami Subodhananda was an ardent follower of Swami Vivekananda and the latter loved him as well. He was also childlike in his simplicity and singularly unassuming in his behaviour and for this reason was loved and respected by his brother disciples. On an occasion in 1897 he was persuaded by Swami Vivekananda to deliver a lecture in the Alambazar monastery, despite his inhibitions with public speaking. When he rose to speak tremors were felt on account of an earthquake. Swami Vivekananda then joculously remarked that "Khoka's was an earth-shattering speech" and everybody enjoyed at his expense. Swami Subodhananda was addicted lifelong to his morning cup of tea and when Sri Ramakrishna was ill in Cossipore garden house, the young Subodh prescribed tea as a remedy for the sore throat of the Master. However it was rejected by the attending doctor.
The young ascetics and monks of the Ramakrishna Math found him to be a source of great help as he would enquire about their troubles and difficulties, would be their mouthpiece to the seniors, would mediate for them and shield them when they inadvertently committed something wrong. He would also guide and mentor them in performing their day to activities and in other spiritual matters.
Swami Subodhananda died on 2 December 1932.
||Constructs such as ibid., loc. cit. and idem are discouraged by Wikipedia's style guide for footnotes, as they are easily broken. Please improve this article by replacing them with named references (quick guide), or an abbreviated title. (February 2013)|
- [http://www.sriramakrishna.org/subodhananda.php Ramakrishna Mission Institute of Culture, Swami Subodhananda]
- The disciples of Sri Ramakrishna, published by Advaita Ashrama, Mayawati, 1943, page 276
- Budhhistlibrary.com, Swami Subodhananda
- RKM Chennai, Swami Subodhananda
- The disciples of Sri Ramakrishna, published by Advaita Ashrama, Mayawati, 1943, page 278
- Ibid. page 280
- Ibid. page 281
- Ibid. page 280
- Ibid. page 281
- Ibid. page 287
- Swami Subodhananda's lecture in Madras
- The disciples of Sri Ramakrishna, published by Advaita Ashrama, Mayawati, 1943, page 284
- Ibid. page 285
- Ibid. page 286
- The Disciples of Sri Ramakrishna, published by Advaita Ashrama, Mayawati, 1943
- Swami Subodhananda
- Swami Subodhananda's lecture in Madras
- God Lived with them by Swami Chetanananda