Swami Saradananda, Sharat Maharaj
|Born||Sarat Chandra Chakraborty
23 December 1865
Calcutta, Bengal Presidency, British India
|Died||19 August 1927
|Quotation||Through selfless work the mind gets purified. And when the mind becomes pure, there arise knowledge and devotion in it.|
Swami Saradananda (Bengali: স্বামী সারদানন্দ) (23 December 1865 – 19 August 1927), born as Sarat Chandra Chakravarty in 1865, was one of the direct monastic disciples of Sri Ramakrishna and was the first Secretary of the Ramakrishna Math and Ramakrishna Mission, a post which he held till his death in 1927. He established the Udbodhan house in the Bagbazar area of Calcutta, which was built primarily for the stay of Sri Sarada Devi in Calcutta, from where he used to publish the Bengali magazine Udbodhan. There he wrote Sri Sri Ramakrishna Lilaprasanga in Bengali, on the life of Sri Ramakrishna, which was translated into English as Sri Ramakrishna, the Great Master.
- 1 Biography
- 1.1 Early years
- 1.2 Influence of Sri Ramakrishna
- 1.3 Relationship with Swami Vivekananda
- 1.4 Life of a wandering ascetic
- 1.5 Preaching Vedanta in the West
- 1.6 Ramakrishna Mission and his work
- 1.7 Responsibility of Sarada Devi
- 1.8 Afflictions and death
- 1.9 Character and legacy
- 2 References
- 3 External links
Sarat Chandra Chakravarti (b. 23 December 1865) was born in Amherst Street Calcutta to a rich and orthodox Brahmin family. His cousin was Shashi, later known as Swami Ramakrishnananda. His grandfather was a Sanskrit scholar with a religious disposition. Sarat Chandra's father was the co-owner of a pharmacy and was very rich.
Sarat came first in almost all examinations. After his initiation according to the customs of the Hindu Brahmin caste he worshipped regularly in the family shrine. He sometimes would give away his personal belongings to the poor and needy Sarat Chandra helped the ill, even if they had contagious diseases. He nursed a poor maid servant who was left to die by her master as she suffered from cholera, and also performed her last rites when she died. For these reasons he was loved and respected by all and sundry.
As he grew up, he came under the influence of Brahmo leader Keshab Chandra Sen. He began to be actively associated with the Brahmo Samaj. In 1882 he passed the school leaving examination and was admitted to St. Xaviers College.
Influence of Sri Ramakrishna
Standing: (l–r) ) Swami Shivananda, Swami Ramakrishnananda, Swami Vivekananda, Randhuni, Debendranath Majumdar, Mahendranath Gupta (Shri M), Swami Trigunatitananda, H.Mustafi
Sitting: (l–r) Swami Niranjanananda, Swami Saradananda, Hutko Gopal, Swami Abhedananda.
In October 1883 Sarat and Shashi went to Dakshineswar to meet Sri Ramakrishna, who was speaking to a general audience on the subject of marriage and renunciation. Sarat visited Dakshineswar temple to meet Sri Ramakrishna every Thursday and as he got more closely acquainted with him, he began to get directions on spiritual practices. On one occasion the master had asked him, "How would you like to realize God?". The disciple replied, "I would not like to see any particular form of God in meditation. I want to see him manifested in all creatures of the world."
Sarat passed the First Arts examination in 1885. His father wanted him to study medicine. However he gave it up and devoted his time in nursing Sri Ramakrishna, first in Shyampukur and then in Cossipore garden house, when the latter was critically ill. After the death of Sri Ramakrishna, Sarat at first came back to his house but then joined the Baranagar Math along with his other brother disciples, accompanied by his cousin Shashi.
Relationship with Swami Vivekananda
Sarat had met Narendranath Dutta, who later became famous as Swami Vivekananda, and found him conceited, even before he came to Sri Ramakrishna, in one of his friend's house. When Sri Ramakrishna had praised highly a certain Narendranath, Sarat expressed the desire of meeting him and was surprised to identify him as his earlier conceited acquaintance. Their relationship soon matured into a very closed friendship which lasted till death.
On Narendranath's recommendation Sarat joined Calcutta Medical College to study medicine. He gave it up on hearing about Sri Ramakrishna's illness and joined Narendra and a group of young devotees to nurse him.
When he started the Ramakrishna Mission, Swami Vivekananda made Sarat or Swami Saradananda, its first secretary. After the death of Swami Brahmananda, the first president of Ramakrishna Math and Mission, when it was proposed to make Swami Saradananda the next president he declined on the ground that he had been made secretary by Swami Vivekananda and would continue in that post.
Life of a wandering ascetic
In Baranagar Math, the young monastic disciples had to go through a strenuous life of ascetism and penance, sometimes going without food and other necessities of life. Sarat Chandra would often go to meditate in Dakshineswar, sometimes, alone, at other times with Narendranath. Sarat would volunteer for jobs which needed strong labour, like sweeping, cleaning and washing, as well as nursing any indisposed brother disciple.
After the young disciples took formal Sannyas or renunciation, Sarat was given the name Swami Saradananda.
Swami Saradananda travelled to Puri and then to Northern India, including Benares, Ayodhya and Rishikesh. He also travelled to Gangotri, Kedarnath and Badrinath, the three sacred places of pilgrimage on the Himalayas. In the course of this pilgrimage he had to sometimes go without food and even without shelter, often finding himself in perilous situation.
After visiting Kedarnath, Tunganath and Badrinath, in 1890 Swami Saradananda came to Almora and took up residence in the house of a devotee, Lala Badrinath Shah. He met Swami Vivekananda there and together they started for Garhwal. From there he came to Rajpur near Mussouri and met Swami Turiyananda, another brother disciple with whom he had gone to Kedarnath. He then went to Rishikesh and there at Kankhal met Swami Brahmananda, or Rakhal Maharaj, another brother disciple. After that he first went to Meerut to meet Swami Vivekananda and then to Delhi along with him where the later separated from his brother disciples. Only after six years Swami Saradananda met Swami Vivekananda again; on his bidding Saradananda went to London to preach Vedanta.
From Delhi he went to Benaras and stayed there for some time, met Swami Abhedananda, another brother disciple, and also initiated a young monk, who was later named as Swami Sacchidananda. He fell ill with blood dysentery in Benares and came back to the Baranagar monastery in 1891. Subsequently after recovering he traveled to Jayrambati, the birthplace of Sri Sarada Devi, where she was staying. Later he came back to Calcutta and the monastery of Ramakrishna shifted to Alambazar, a place near Dakshineswar in 1892.
In 1893 the news reached the brothers of the success of Swami Vivekananda in the Parliament of the World's Religions, in Chicago. Swami Vivekananda then called for the participation of his brother disciples in his mission of preaching Vedanta to West and raising money for welfare activities in India. Swami Saradananda responded to his call and traveled for London in 1896.
Preaching Vedanta in the West
Swami Saradananda delivered a few lectures in London but was soon sent to New York where the Vedanta Society was established. He was invited to be a teacher at the Greenacre Conference of Comparative Religions where he began his work with a lecture on the Vedanta and classes on Yoga. Towards the end of the conference he was invited to speak in Brooklyn, New York and Boston. At Brooklyn Ethical Association he lectured on ethical ideals of Hindus. He settled in New York to carry out the Vedanta movement in an organised way. He sailed back for India on 12 January 1898 and visited London, Paris and Rome on the way.
Ramakrishna Mission and his work
When Ramakrishna Mission was first established by Swami Vivekananda, he made Swami Saradananda the secretary of the Math and Mission, a post which the later held for thirty years till his death. On his return from West, Swami Saradananda gave a series of lectures in Albert Hall in Calcutta on Vedanta. During the early days of the organisation he came under suspicion for harbouring freedom fighters, some of whom took refuge with the organisation. Under the effective guidance of the Sri Sarada Devi, Swami Saradananda approached the then viceroy and presented his case. Thereafter the Government relented.
In 1899, plague broke out in Calcutta and Ramakrishna Mission organised relief. Swami Saradananda was involved in relief work with the help of Sister Nivedita and other brother monks of the order.
In 1899 he traveled to Gujarat along with Swami Turiyananda to collect funds for the Mission and extensively toured various parts including Ahmedabad, Junagarh, Bhavnagar etc. He gave lectures in Hindi.
After Swami Vivekananda's second departure to West he also started training young monks.
In December 1899 he went to Dacca, Barisal and Narayangunj on an invitation and there stayed in the house of Ashwini Kumar Dutta. He also gave many lectures.
After his return to Calcutta he became interested in the Tantrika form of worship under the guidance of his uncle Ishwar Chandra Chakravarty. After this experience he wrote a book "Bharate Shakti Puja" or "the worship of divine mother in India".
In 1902, after the death of Swami Vivekananda, Swami Saradananda took up the job of managing day to day affairs of Belur Math and also that of editing and publishing Udbodhan, a Bengali magazine started by the former. He wrote articles, arranged for funding and supervised operations. Gradually the financial health of the magazine was restored. He constructed a house for the holy mother by taking a loan and to repay the loan started writing his magnum opus "Sri Sri Ramakrishna Lilaprasanga" or " Ramakrishna, the Great Master", a biography and life of Sri Ramakrishna. The Udbodhan office started in the new building towards 1908.
In 1909 two co-accused in Maniktola Bomb Case, Devavrata Bose and Sachindranath Sen, came to join Ramakrishna order giving up their political activities. Despite opposition from the senior monks and the risk of affronting the British Government, Swami Saradananda took full responsibility and accepted both of them into the order and met highly placed Government officials for explaining his position.
In 1913 under him Ramakrishna Mission started relief operations when a major flood broke out in Burdwan district of Bengal, collecting funds and organizing relief work.
In 1916 he went for a pilgrimage to Gaya, Benares, Vrindaban and returned after 2 months.
After the death of Sri Sarada Devi in 1920 and Swami Brahmananda in 1922, Swami Saradananda gradually withdrew from active work. His primary engagement at this time was the construction of a temple for Sarada Devi in Jayrambati, and another one in Belur Math, on the place where she was cremated. The temple in Belur Math was constructed in 1921 and that in Jairambati was commissioned in April 1923.
The Ramakrishna Mission Convention at Belur Math was held in 1926, a meeting of the monks of Ramakrishna Math and Mission Centres from all over the world. Swami Saradananda gave the welcome address in which he put up a warning note of the dangers of complacency and exhorted the monks to stick to the ideals of the founding members. At the end of the convention he appointed a committee to deal with the day to day work of the mission. After the convention he almost retired from an active life, devoting more and more time to meditation.
Responsibility of Sarada Devi
While in the course of managing Udbodhan, Sarat Maharaj felt the need of constructing a house for Sri Sarada Devi who had to stay in the house of lay devotees in Calcutta. He bought a house in Bagbazar area and used its downstairs for publishing and running the operation of the magazine and the upstairs as the abode of Sarada Devi and her devotees, and her shrine. At that time this was known as the "mother's house" and currently it is known as the "Udbodhan house". Sarada Devi came to this house for the first time in 23 May 1909. Swami Saradananda was very devoted to her and called himself her "doorkeeper". He not only looked after her, but also after her family: brothers and nieces as well as the devotees, including many women. He bore the financial as well as other responsibilities willingly. Sarada Devi had great trust on him as she herself said that "It is not easy to bear my burden, only Sarat can do it."  If she suffered from illness while staying in Jairambati, her native place, Swami Saradananda would come down along with the doctor for her medical treatment. When she was terminally ill in Jairambati, he made arrangements to bring her to Calcutta where she underwent treatment for five months. He also took up all responsibilities for building her temple and shrine in Jairambati after she died. He continued to take up the responsibility of her family members till his death.
Afflictions and death
Swami Saradananda suffered from kidney trouble in 1914. He suffered from various other ailments and after his retirement from an active life in 1926 his afflictions got more serious. On 6 August 1927, he suffered an attack which the doctors diagnosed as apoplexy. He never recovered consciousness, and died on 19 August.
Character and legacy
Compassion and kindness
Swami Saradananda was known for his calm judgement, patience and a loving heart. He had a sweet and gentle personality which won him many admirers and friends in India and in West. It is said that one day Sri Ramakrishna, in a state of ecstasy, had sat on the lap of young Sarat and told that, I was testing how much burden he could bear. He also had great compassion for several mentally handicapped persons whom he provided for. He also took up the responsibility of nursing his brother disciples and many lay persons when they were ill. He listened to everybody with equal concern and gave importance to everybody's opinion. He was also very sensitive to the feelings of the others.
Bravery and indifference
He was also intrepid in nature and in one of the incidents in Kashmir when the horse of the coach in which he was travelling fell into an abyss, he was miraculously saved but he never lost his equanimity and later said that he was a dispassionate observer of the incident. When the ship in which he was travelling to London was caught in a cyclone in Mediterranean he watched the entire episode calmly and in a detached manner even when his copassengers were mortally afraid. He was indifferent to the apparent faults and weaknesses of the people with whom he worked.
Impartiality and detachment
Swami Saradananda was also known for his impartial decisions and hence was required to resolve conflicts. He wrote the famous book "Sri Sri Ramakrishna Lila Prasanga" in a little room in Udbodhan house while managing the operations of the magazine, overseeing the work of Ramakrishna Mission and looking after the holy mother and devotees, in a dispassionate and detached way. After the new administrative body of Ramakrishnia Mission was formed in 1926, Swami Saradananda completely detached himself from all activities of the Mission and took to the life of meditation and contemplation.
He proved his mettle as an organiser. By the time of his death, there were many Ramakrishna Mission centres, throughout India and abroad. In addition to the regular work of the centre, there were relief works and also that of publishing the magazine Udbodhan, writing books and articles, arranging for finances, looking after the spiritual needs of the aspirants, young monks and the devotees, and also looking after the needs of the holy mother's family members. After the passing away of the holy mother, the women devotees found solace in his company. Once an attendant asked him about his spiritual progress, to which he replied, Did we cut grass in Dakshineswar?, referring to the period of his association with Sri Ramakrishna. He himself mentioned that whatever he had written in the book"Sri Ramakrishna, the great master", on spiritual experiences, were through direct realisation and not from hearsay.
- Through selfless work the mind gets purified. And when the mind becomes pure, there arise knowledge and devotion in it.
- Whatever work stands in the way of God-realization and increases discontent is bad work. You should wholly discard it.
- The Ramakrishna Mission does not like to express any opinion, good or bad, about political discussions, for the Master did not instruct us to do anything of the kind, and Swamiji asked the Mission to keep itself aloof from such effort. That is why the Mission has been all along engaging itself in spirituality and service to humanity.
- Now-a-days there are so many religious societies, but people lose all interest in them after a few days. What is the reason for this? The reason is our words are not in accord with our thoughts. The first step in religion is to be sincere to the core.
||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. (August 2012)|
- The Disciple of Sri Ramakrishna, published by Advaita Ashrama, Mayawati, page 49
- Ibid. page 50
- RKM Fiji
- The Disciples of Sri Ramakrishna, published by Advaita Ashrama, Mayawati, 1943, page 55
- Reminiscences of Swami Saradanandaji, by Swami Bhuteshananda, published in Vedanta Keshari
- The Disciples of Sri Ramakrishna, published by Advaita Ashrama, Mayawati, page 67
- Ibid. page 72
- Prabuddha Bharat
- The Disciples of Sri Ramakrishna, published by Advaita Ashrama, Mayawati, page 92
- The Disciples of Sri Ramakrishna, published by Advaita Ashrama, Mayawati, 1943,page 97
- Gospels of Holy Mother, by Udbodhan publishers
- The Disciple of Sri Ramakrishna, published by Advaita Ashrama, Mayawati, page 73
- The Disciple of Sri Ramakrishna, published by Advaita Ashrama, Mayawati, page 75
- The Disciple of Sri Ramakrishna, published by Advaita Ashrama, Mayawati, page 76
- The Disciples of Sri Ramakrishna, published by Advaita Ashrama, Mayawati, 1943, page 104
- Saradananda, RKM Chennai