Born in the village of Trikkur Kerala on 15 December 1908 Swami Ranganathananda joined the Ramakrishna order the international spiritual and cultural movement founded by Swami Vivekananda. He was formally initiated into Sanyasa by Swami Shivananda one of the eminent disciples of Sri Ramakrishna and the second president of the order. Swami Ranganathananda was the 13th president of the Ramakrishna Math and Ramakrishna mission. He was an internationally acclaimed speaker whose stirring eloquence captivated thousands of people in India and abroad. In 1986 he was awarded the first Indira Gandhi Award for national integration.
Way back in 1952 the day I met revered Swami Ranganathanandji for the first time I was impressed by his charming personality and simple lifestyle. It gradually grew into deep loving regard. Whenever I visited him I felt that he always radiated joy and kindled spiritual values. The sterling qualities of his head and heart won him the lasting friendship qualities of his head and heart won him the lasting friendship of people belonging to all walks of life which led him finally to the topmost echelon of the Ramakrishna order. Beginning his monastic life in a humble way he rose to become the thirteenth president of the order. His in his speeches and writings made him a nationally and internationally known spiritual personality. He used to say that he had specially been blessed by Swami Akhandanandaji Maharaj a direct disciple of Sri Ramakrishna and the attributed the success he attained in life as an order to this blessing
This compilation from his many speeches and writings provides only a glimpse of the great spiritual personality that Swami Ranganathanandji was and also a coup dioeil of the critical appreciation and understanding of the Swami by Sri Rajiv Mehrotra the selector and editor of this book. I believe this selection will he well received by innumerable admirers of Swami Ranganathanandji as well as by the general public.
Swami Ranganathanandji embodied the highest aspirations of scholarship from India’s great civilizational heritage. He was a worthy heir to the traditions revitalized by Swami Vivekananda and his master Sri Ramakrishna. He was a man with deep insights into the human condition an explorer of both the personal and the social predicaments of our time. He wrote as he spoke with passion and conviction bred of lived experience and empathy with the suffering of others.
He was born Shankaran Kutty on 15 December 1908 in a tiny bamlet Trikkur in District Thrissur of Kerala. The portents of his future life as one of the pre-eminent monastic of out times were many. The seeds of his future striving were planted at age fourteen when he read a borrowed copy of the gospel of Sri Ramakrishna. This was soon followed by reading the works of Swami Vivekananda. Four years later he joined the Mysore branch of the Ramakrishna Mission. The young aspirant monk received his final vows form the legendary Swami Shivananda. The first twelve years of monasticism in Mysore and Bangalore were spent largely as a cook and personal attendant to Swami Siddheswarananda. He served with distinction as secretary and Librarian of the Rangoon Branch of the Ramakrishna Mission from 1939 to 1942 followed by a stint in Karachi. Swami Ranganthananda was the head of mission in Delhi form 1949 to 1962. He was secretary of the Ramakrishna Mission Institute of Culture in Calcutta form 1962 to 1967 where he was also the director of the School of Culture & Humanistic studies and editor of the monthly magazine. This was followed by a long tenure as head of the mission in Hyderabad. He was elected vice-president of the order in 1989 and president in 1998. He died seven years later on 25 April 2005. He Reached out and touched hundreds of thousands of people in more than fifty countries serving as India’s spiritual ambassador.
No accounting of the official positions and offices Swami Ranganathananda held or the honors heaped upon him as he lived and served others with compassion and indefatigable energy or the tributes paid to him when he left his worn out physical form can capture the real spirit of the man the infections joy power and simplicity with which he transmitted profound wisdom to others. The written word is but a poor substitute for the many layers at which a true master communicates.
He declined the Padma Vibhushan conferred on him by the Government of India unwilling and unable to accept an individual honor but was persuaded to accept the prestigious international Gandhi Peace Prize and the Indira Gandhi Award for National Integration on behalf of the Ramakrishna Mission.
I was blessed to receive my first lessons in spirituality at his feet in Kolkata in the 1960s when I accompanied my parents to Swamiji’s Lectures. A slow learner barely ten years old I remember listening mesmerized by the magic of his presence and the emotional impact of his oratory. I was touched and drawn then by the warmth and love he radiated. I was touched and drawn then by the warmth and love he radiated rather then the rich intellectual content that circumscribed his lectures. I was to discover the latter much later when I returned to explorations of the spirit after long years of youthful abandon. It was a great honor and a seminal moment when I received deeksha form him.
This selection from Swami Ranganathananda’s voluminous and divers writings is a humble celebration by an unworthy student of his as he commemorates his teacher’s birth centenary. Give the depth and vastness of Swamiji’s erudition and intellectual rigor no selection can do him justice. It can offer no more than a flavor for a real taste the reader will have to delve into the writings themselves.
Those of us amongst the hundreds of thousands who flocked to listen to him over some seven decades mesmerized as we were touched by his deep insights bred of live experienced and vast knowledge will find a selection even less worthy of him. Yet despite the hesitation and trepidation with which this volume is offered I am encouraged by the opportunity this presents for my own learning by going back to thousands of pages of printed text and the hope that in this new age of instant gratification a distillation of the writings of a great master might sere some small purpose and if it encourages even a handful of people to turn to the original writings themselves then an important purpose would have been served.
As a Gyan Yogi Swami Ranganathananda’s spiritual and intellectual quest knew no boundaries. While immersed in an exploration of the inner journey to human perfection and self knowledge that liberates in the highest traditions of the Vedanta he was equally at home exploring the predicaments of the contemporary householder the education of children or the qualities of a good manager as he was in the latest discoveries in modern science and the teachings of other religions. He consistently advocated a moving away from our obsessive pursuit of our narrow self interest to a commitment to serving others.
I am deeply grateful for the enormous privilege blessing and honor working on this book has been. I must thank the Ramakrishna Mission in particular the general Secretary Swami Prabhananda for his unwavering support and encouragement to my efforts with this book and my other dreams and projects. He has provided quiet gentle inspiration and decisive support. I celebrate Swami Sarvabhutananda Secretary of the Ramakrishna Mission Institute of culture in Kolkata, Swami Bodhasarnanda who administers the Advaita Ashram the lead published for the Ramakrishna Mission Swami Asimatmananda (Sudarshan Maharaj) who served as an aide to Swami Ranganathananda for many years Swami Atmashraddhananda, Swami Gautamanandaji and the many monks and fellow devotees who have supported me on the path and kept me from straying too far and less often then I might otherwise have from my not very successful engaging in sansara.
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