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Swami Trigunatitananda portrait.jpg
Born Sarada Prasanna Mitra
(1865-01-30)30 January 1865
Naora, 24 Parganas, Bengal, British India
Died 10 January 1915(1915-01-10) (aged 49)
San Francisco, California, United States
Guru Ramakrishna Paramahansa
Philosophy Vedanta
Quotation "Work hard. Discipline yourself. Build your character. Endure to the end. Realize your Self. And be free."
Group photo taken on 30 January 1887 In Baranagar Math, Kolkata.
Standing: (l–r) Shivananda, Ramakrishnananda, Vivekananda, Randhuni, Debendranath Majumdar, Mahendranath Gupta (Shri M), Trigunatitananda, H.Mustafi
Sitting: (l–r) Niranjanananda, Saradananda, Hutko Gopal, Abhedananda

Trigunatitananda (30 January 1865 – 10 January 1915), premonastic name Sarada Prasanna Mitra, was a direct disciple of Ramakrishna, the 19th-century Indian Hindu mystic and sant. He established the monthly Bengali magazine Udbodhan of Ramakrishna Math and later, at the behest of Vivekananda, went to America in 1902 and took charge of the San Francisco centre. One of his contributions was the construction of a new building in San Francisco which came to be known as the Hindu Temple. He was mortally injured by a bomb thrown at him by a former student, and died in January 1915.


Early life[edit]

Trigunatitananda was born as Sarada Prasanna Mitra, on 30 January 1865. He was born to an aristocratic family in the village of Naora in 24 Paraganas near Calcutta.[1] For education Sarada was sent to Calcutta and was enrolled in Metropolitan Institution in Shyampukur, which was a school of Iswar Chandra Vidyasagar, a social reformer, educator and scholar of 19th century India. In this school the headmaster was Mahendranath Gupta, better known as M, the author of The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna or "Sri Ramakrishna Kathamrita" in Bengali. Sarada did not do well in the Entrance (school leaving) examination.[2] "M" took young Sarada to Dakshineswar temple to meet Sri Ramakrishna Paramhansa on 27 December 1884. At a very young age Sarada showed religious disposition and this was reinforced with his coming in contact with Sri Ramakrishna, whom he visited very frequently after he joined the Metropolitan college. When his parents decided to arrange a marriage for him according to Indian customs, he left his house for Puri in January 1886, but was brought back by his parents. He appeared for and passed his First Arts examination.[3] He dedicated himself to the service of Sri Ramakrishna when the latter was terminally ill in Cossipore Garden House. After Ramakrishna died, Sarada began to stay with Narendranath Dutta (later Vivekananda) and a group of dedicated direct disciples of Ramakrishna, who renounced worldly life, in "Baranagar Math".

Monastic life[edit]

In January 1887 Sarada took the vows of complete renunciation or Sannyas along with his brother disciples, and came to be known as Trigunatitananda (one who has surpassed the three Gunas or attributes and have attained supreme bliss, an enlightened one. Triguna: the three Gunas or attributes of Sattva (contemplation), Rajas (activity) and Tamas (darkness or passivity)). In 1891 Trigunatita started on pilgrimage for Vrindaban, Mathura, Jaipur, Ajmere, Kathiawar. At Porbandar he met Swami Vivekananda. After that he returned to Baranagar Math. In 1895 he set out on foot for Kailas Manas Saravar.[4] He came back to Calcutta and stayed in the house of a devotee and led a contemplative life for some time. He underwent surgery without anaesthetic.[5] After some time he went to stay in the newly formed Alambazar Math of the Ramakrishna order. He was also greatly influenced by Vivekananda's ideal of service and philanthropic activities. In 1897 when the district of Dinajpur in Bengal was in the grip of a terrible famine, the Swami went there and organised relief work. Vivekananda had planned a magazine to spread the message of Vedanta. For this purpose a press was bought and Trigunatita was put in charge of publishing the magazine, 'Udbodhan'.[6] He also helped the sick. After Yogananda's death, ?Tigunatitananda became a personal attendant to Sarada Devi for a time. His brother Ashutosh Mitra, later a monk of the Ramakrishna Order, also served the her for a considerable time.

Work in America[edit]

In 1902 when Turiyananda returned from America prematurely due to ill health, Trigunatitananda was sent to replace him. On 2 January 1903, he reached San Francisco and was taken to the house of T.H. Logan, president of the San Francisco Vedanta society. A few weeks later he went to the home of Mr. and Mrs C.F. Peterson where he was to make his headquarters. Classes and lectures were held regularly.[7] Before long the flat became too small for the Society's operations, and they moved to another flat at 40 Steiner Street.[8] In 1904, because of the work involved, Trigunatitananda felt that a new building for Vedanta Society of San Francisco was needed. Funds were raised, and in January 1906 the building in Webster Street, which came to be known as the first Hindu Temple in the western world, was established and opened to the public. The Swami published a pamphlet explaining each tower and detail of the structure. "This temple," the pamphlet began, "may be considered as a combination of a Hindu temple, a Christian church, a Mohammedan mosque, a Hindu math or monastery, and an American residence." Then it goes on to explain the symbolism built into the temple.[9]

About this temple Trigunatitananda had said, Believe me, believe me, if there is last tinge of selfishness in building this temple, it will fall, but if it is the Master's work, it will stand.[10] It survived unscathed the major 1906 San Francisco earthquake. Soon after this a monastery was set up with about ten monks, and a convent. In 1909 the Swami started a monthly magazine called the Voice of Freedom, which was produced for seven years, based on the ideals of Vedanta.

Every year the Swami led a selected group of students to Shanti Ashrama, in the San Antone valley in California, a spiritual retreat which was established by Turiyananda, his predecessor and a brother disciple. The inmates spent their time in meditation and prayer.

Last days[edit]

Trigunatita suffered from chronic rheumatism and Bright's disease, but continued his work. In December 1914, three days after Christmas, he was holding a Sunday service when a live bomb was thrown onto the pulpit by a former student. The student died and the Swami suffered serious injuries. On his way to the hospital he was only concerned about the student. A nurse who had attended on him made a comment: “I have never seen such a calm, uncomplaining, and enduring patient in my life.”[11] He died on 10 January 1915.[12] In 1916 his relics were installed on the top of the highest hill, Siddha Giri, the "Hill of Realization" at Shanti Ashrama.[13]

Character and legacy[edit]


  • Keep on praying to God with your whole heart; if the need arises for you to have a Guru, God will send somebody for you who will be just the man you want[14]
  • People talk of finding out the proper kind of guru. But that is not a reasonable position in all cases. Whoever the guru may be, everything will progress nicely if the disciple is earnest and sincere.
  • People of all castes can be initiated by a good guru who has attained perfection. What caste can a true devotee or the perfect soul have? When the individual soul merges in God (like rivers in the sea), they can no more have any individuality. So how can there be then, the distinction of caste, as Brahmin, Shudra etc., belonging to the body and never to the soul?[15]


  • Trigunatitananda established the first Hindu Temple of the West in San Francisco.
  • He started the monthly Bengali magazine and publishing house Udbodhan which was later shifted to a new house by Saradananda
  • He established the first nunnery in the West for Ramakrishna Order and Vedanta Society
  • Responding to Vivekananda's call for philanthropic activities he started relief operations in Dinajpur in 1897
  • He was one of the earliest and longest serving teachers of Vedanta philosophy in the West


  1. ^ Swami Trigunatita
  2. ^ The Disciples of Sri Ramakrishna, published by Advaita Ashrama, Mayawati, 1943, page 172
  3. ^ Ibid. page 175
  4. ^ Ibid. page 176
  5. ^ Trigunatita RKM Fiji
  6. ^ The Disciples of Sri Ramakrishna, Advaita Ashrama, Mayawati, 1943, page 178
  7. ^ Ibid. page 180
  8. ^ Vedanta Society History
  9. ^ Vedanta Society History
  10. ^ The Disciples of Sri Ramakrishna, published by Advaita Ashrama, Mayawati, 1943, page 182
  11. ^ RKM Fij
  12. ^ The Disciples of Sri Ramakrishna, published by Advaita Ashrama, Mayawati, page 193
  13. ^ RKM Nagpur
  14. ^ Vedanta Society Chicago
  15. ^

External links[edit]