Swami Gokulananda



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Fast Facts
Swami Gokulananda.jpg
Other Names and Nicknames: 
Govinda Maharaj, Brahmachari Murarichaitatya, Swamiji Maharaj
Function: 
Monk
Traditions: 
Ramakrishna Mission, Vedanta, Devotion, Meditation
Main Countries of Activity: 
India
Date of Birth: 
January 5, 1929
Place of Birth: 
Srirampore, District Hoogly, West Bengal, India
In His/Her Body ("alive"): 
No
Date Left His/Her Body: 
March 31, 2007
Other Related Gurus: 
Swami Virajajnandaji, Swami Gambhirananda, Swami Bhuteshananda,Swami Vishuddhananda

Biography

Shri Ram Chandra Mukherjee, a lawyer by profession in Srirampur and his wife Shrimati Vimala Devi from Barishal were pious souls deeply devoted to worship. A child was born to them in Srirampore, District Hooghly, West Bengal (India), on 5th January 1929, and was named Govinda as the parents considered him a gift of Lord Krishna himself whom they worshipped.

Govinda inherited deep religious impressions from his devoted mother and grandmothers, maternal and paternal. Govinda had only one elder brother and no sister. Little Govinda lost his mother when he was still quite young, hardly 5 or 6 years old.

During his childhood days young Govinda would go to Mogulpore near Haripal in West Bengal, during Durga Puja festival where all relatives used to gather. On one occasion, a thought came to Govinda’s mind as to whether there is any truth behind image worship. Sitting on the banks of Ganges near his house, he would meditate on that thought and used to observe numerous people bathe in the Ganges with utter devotion. Though Govida’s father took loving care of his sons, the motherless boy, Govinda would constantly think about the uncertainty of human life. Days passed thus.

Govinda finished his schooling and went to Srirampore College run by Baptist Missionaries. He studied Philosophy Honours there. Being active and dynamic Govinda was the General Secretary of the College Union and would invite eminent speakers to come to his College and address the students on various topics every Friday. One day young Govinda came across a newspaper item stating that Swami Siddheswarananda, Head of the Vedanta Centre (of the Ramakrishna Mission) in Gretz (Paris), was visiting India and was staying in Belur Math. Though not intimate with any monk, Govinda would visit Belur Math on occasions.

By an unknown inspiration, as though prompted by the Divine, Govinda went to Belur Math and met the Revered Monk Swami Siddeswaranandaji without any prior introduction. Govinda’s brother Rabindra Nath willingly accompanied him. At that moment the Swami was in conversation with Revered Swami Saswatananda, a Trustee and Assistant Secretary of the Ramakrishna Math and Ramakrishna Mission. Both brothers made the Swami agree to give a talk on “The influence of Ramakrishna and Vivekananda on modern France” at the College where Govinda was studying.

On the appointed day both Swami Siddheswaranandaji and Swami Saswatanandaji came to the College, Swami Siddheswaranandaji spoke on the subject brilliantly and after the lecture was over, some students of the Theological Department wanted to heckle the speaker by putting some awkward and inconvenient questions. In fact, one student stood up and said: “Swami, we have heard you all right, but we have nothing to learn from Hindu monks like you because you people believe in idol worship. You are idolaters.” The Swami did not get perturbed on hearing this rather impertinent question and Govinda still remembers the calm and serene countenance of Swami Siddheswaranandaji at that time. In reply, the Swami stood up with a smiling countenance without any sense of irritation whatsoever and said: “Yes, we are all accused as idol worshippers, but we are not; we are in fact ideal worshippers.” There was instantaneous and thunderous applause from the audience. Then Swami Siddheswaranandaji explained the significance and efficacy of image worship. Highly inspired by his lecture, Rabindra and Govinda invited both the monks to grace their house and the Swamis readily accepted the invitation of these boys. Little did young Govinda realise that this would be his moment of destiny and his future was in the making.

A few days after this incident Swami Siddheswaranandaji was given a rousing reception at the University of Calcutta (now Kolkata) and Sarat Chandra Bose, the brother of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose presided. That function was widely reported in the press and on seeing that report the Srirampore College authorities very much appreciated Govinda’s initiative to invite such a distinguished monk as Swami Siddheswaranandaji of the Ramakrishna Order to speak at their College.

The momentous day arrived when the Swamis stepped into Govinda’s house, a simple and somewhat dilapidated one. The brothers mentioned that though they were not initiated disciples of Belur Math, they were worshipping Sri Ramakrishna through his photo which Rabindra Nath had purchased. Climbing the stairs and looking at the rose adorned photo, Swami Siddheswaranandaji remarked, “Oh! You are worshipping him, you are indeed fortunate.” And the Swami did arati before Sri Ramakrishna’s photo and chanted the verse “Om Hrim Ritam twam achalo...” . It took quite some time for Govinda to realise the significance of this statement. When Govinda became a monk bearing the name of Swami Gokulananda, he would often recall that his own Gurudev Revered Swami Virajanandaji Maharaj (the sixth President of the Order) used to say: “One may have deep devotion and faith in different gods and goddesses, but to have devotion to Avatara Varishthaya Sri Ramakrishna is indeed a good fortune.”

After a few days, when Govinda went to Belur Math one day, Swami Siddheswaranandaji said, “You should organise such lectures in your College from time to time and you should be in contact with Swami Saswatananda. You should occasionally go to Dakshineswar and sit in Panchavati praying and meditating.” After a few days Swami Siddheswaranandaji returned to Paris via Karachi where Swami Ranganathanandaji (who became the President of the Math in later years) was the Head of the Karachi centre of the Ramakrishna Mission. Govinda was advised to be in contact with Swami Siddheswaranandaji but his contact with him had been only for a short time when he came to his college on his invitation as General Secretary of the College Union and on another occasion when Govinda had visited Belur Math for attending the public celebrations of the birthday of Sri Ramakrishna. Nevertheless this dictat from a great soul was destined to change his whole life.

Meanwhile these events also had a deep impact on Rabindra Nath who wanted to get initiated by taking mantra diksha. The benevolent Swami Siddheswaranandaji introduced him to Swami Virajanandaji. Rabindra Nath was thus fortunate to take initiation from him. Before he returned to Paris, Swami Siddheswaranandaji had advised Govinda to continue to keep contact with him and Govinda did so. True spirituality is contagious and Govinda’s whole life took an entirely different turn after coming in contact with Swami Siddheswaranandaji.

After some time Govinda went to Kurseong in Darjeeling District and there he met Swami Siddhananda, who had served as a sevak of Latu Maharaj (Swami Adbhutanandaji, a direct disciple of Sri Ramakrishna). In Kurseong, Govinda was staying with a relative and he was told there that a Monk of the Ramakrishna Order was visiting that place. He went there, met Swami Siddhanandaji and paid obeisance to him. Swami Siddhanandaji asked him at first, “Have you taken diksha?” Pat came the reply from Govinda, “No”. Then the Swami said: “Go back and take diksha from Virajanandaji immediately. He is quite old. After his passing away, you will not get a Monk like him who had Sannyas from Vivekananda”.

This seemed like a divine command and Govinda sought diksha from Most revered Swami Virajanandaji who was gracious to give diksha to him at Belur Math on 29th January 1948.

Most Revered Swami Virajanandaji Maharaj, the Sixth President of Ramakrishna Math and Ramakrishna Mission initiated him. Govinda continued to stay at Srirampore for a few years, but after some time he wanted to give up his studies in order to join the Order. However, Saswatanandaji advised him not to join the Math by taking the decision on the spur of the moment. So, Govinda decided to wait, continued his studies and completed graduation. Then Saswatanandaji said, “Wait on till you are out. You should do post-graduation.” With that also done, Govinda went to Karimganj to serve as Lecturer in Logic and Philosophy in the Karimganj College.

After having diksha, Govinda came in touch with great Swamis like Swami Sankaranandaji and Swami Vishuddhanandaji. He developed a great desire to visit Shyamala Tal, a place of Retreat started by his Gurudev in the heart of the Himalayas in 1915. So, once he had the opportunity to visit Shyamala Tal along with his brother and sister-in-law who had diksha at Shyamala Tal Ashrama on Kali Puja day in October 1949. During the seven days of his stay there, he was enthralled to see the serenity and holiness of that place. In this way his life was moulded and it gradually took him in that direction. He used to say that unless the inner voice calls, one should not jump into life of such magnitude. So, he prayed and prayed for days together at Shyamala Tal. After a few days, he returned to Srirampore.

In Belur Math there is a verandah adjacent to Swami Vivekananda’s bed-room. There Govinda once heard a Bengali song that was sung on Swami Vivekananda’s birthday tithi, “Vir Sannyasi Vivekananda” The last part of that song runs as follows: “Esho dev esho karuna nidan, kripa kore karo e ashis daan tava kaje jeno jivan jaaye.” – “Oh my Lord, out of mercy bless me so that I can dedicate my life for your cause”. Hearing this song Govinda was deeply moved and weeping profusely he prayed for that mercy with all his heart. Govinda had the conviction that sincere prayer is always answered. He noticed therethat Brahmacharins of the Math were serving breakfast on the table of Swamiji, but as he was not a Brahmacharin at that time, he could not go in there and have the privilege of serving the breakfast. So, he was jealous of the Brahmacharins there and he was wishing to get that privilege one day by himself becoming a Brahmacharin.

Time was slipping away rapidly and still Govinda was not able to take a decision. Then something happened. His father fell ill and Govinda was nursing him. Govinda knew that death was an inevitable end. While seeing his father in the last stages of his earthly life, Govinda took a decision that he would renounce the world soon after his elder brother got married. But he had to stand a critical test first. Someone from an initiated family wanted to get him married and the worried Govinda came to his Guru for advice. The Guru said, “Don’t be afraid. Know that your Guru is behind you.”

One day Govinda came from Srirampore to Belur Math. He was standing in front of Swamiji’s temple and praying intensely, “I cannot decide. Months and years are going by, but no decision.” He was praying like this with folded hands. Then some inner voice came out clearly saying, “Well, I (Swamiji) am with you. Don’t be worried.” And that day he decided finally to renounce the world. Then the inner voice came out and spelt out Swamiji’s words: “Abhihi” (be fearless). Then Govinda wrote to Swami Siddheswaranandaji that he would join the Order on 16th June 1954 (the auspicious birthday of his Guru Swami Virajanandaji). Siddheswaranandaji was so gracious that he remembered this resolve and the day Govinda would put his resolve into practice and sent a cable to Govinda which reached Belur Math exactly on the day Govinda went there for joining the Order. The cable from Swami Siddheswaranandaji read as follows:-

“May Sri Guru Maharaj and your Guru ever bless your dedicated life.” - Siddheswarananda

Thus young Govinda joined the Ramakrishna Order on his Guruji’s Birthday on 16th June 1954 at Belur Math, and became popular as Br. Govinda or Govinda Maharaj, as he was affectionately called.

Govinda’s Guru (Swami Virajanandaji) had passed away on 30th May 1951, and Govinda came in close contact with two senior Swamis of the Order -- Swami Sankaranandaji and Swami Vishuddhanandaji, besides Swami Saswatanandaji. In between he went to the Ramakrishna Mission T.B. Sanatorium at Ranchi and met a very senior Monk, Swami Shantanandaji, disciple of the Holy Mother. Afterwards, when somebody suggested that he should go to Sargachhi Ashram and meet Swami Premeshanandaji, Govinda went there and met him.

A few days before Govinda joined the Order as a Brahmacharin, he met Swami Vishuddhanandaji and told him about his decision to join the Order on 16th June 1954. This Revered Swamiji was then the Vice-President of the Order staying in the house which is now the residence of the present President Maharaj. The first floor of this house in those days was where Miss Macleod (Swami Vivekananda’s disciple) used to stay when she was at the Math. Swami Vishuddhanandaji said, “All right, you have decided to join the Ramakrishna Mission. But remember, one important truth regarding the words ‘Ramakrishna Mission’; the first word is ‘Ramakrishna’, then comes ‘Mission’. If you do not firmly hold on to Ramakrishna, you will get lost in the missionary work and not get God-realization.” When he met Swami Premeshanandaji at Sargachhi, he cautioned Govinda saying, “It is easy to dress like a Monk, but it is difficult to be a Monk.” The first time when Govinda met Swami Vishuddhanandaji, the latter asked him: “Have you read Kathamrita? It never becomes old. I am reading it for the 50th time. Read Kathamrita daily.”

A day before Govinda was to leave Calcutta to join the Ramakrishna Order on 16th June,1954 Swami Shraddhanandaji, who was earlier the Secretary of his Gurudev, Swami Virajanandaji, and later the editor of “Udbodhan”, a Bengali monthly magazine brought out by the Ramakrishna Mission in Calcutta, came to Govinda’s house at Hazra Road in Calcutta and showed an 8-mm film on his Guruji. After the film show was over, Rabindra Nath told him that he would take his brother Govinda to Belur Math in the car the next day as Govinda had decided to leave his home once for all to join the great Order. He ordered for four Rajnigandha garlands to be carried to Belur Math by Govinda the next day, one each for Sri Sri Thakur, Holy Mother’s Temple, Swamiji’s Temple and the fourth for Raja Maharaj’s (Swami Brahmanandaji’s) Temple. Govinda, however, said that as he had chosen the path of renunciation, he would like to begin that path with the right step by going to Belur Math by bus. The garlands could be sent in the car the next day. To cover the bus fare Govinda requested his brother to give him only a rupee. In deference to his wishes, Govinda’s brother gave him one rupee and accordingly Govinda travelled by bus all the way to Belur Math and after paying the bus fare out of the rupee given by his brother, he distributed the balance to the poor people there to fulfill his urge for complete renunciation even before joining the Order. He only took a pair of clothes, a dhoti, a copy of ‘Paramartha Prasanga’ written by his Gurudev and a string of rosary beads.

At last Govinda reached Belur Math early in the morning. Soon after reaching Belur Math, Swami Saswatanandaji handed over the cable sent by Swami Siddheswaranandaji for Govinda, as mentioned above. That day at noon Govinda served food to all in Belur Math as a volunteer.

Govinda was indeed fortunate to join the Order in that year because it happened to be the Centenary Year of Bhavatarini Temple since exactly 100 years ago that Temple was dedicated to Divine Mother Bhavatarini. Govinda told Swami Saswatanandaji, “Maharaj, it is indeed a great day today. In the afternoon I would like to go to Dakshineswar.” Then Saswatanandaji enquired whether he had any money for going to Dakshineswar. When Govinda replied in the negative, Saswatanandaji gave him a 5-rupee note and asked a devotee to accompany him to Dakshineswar as a guide. That money given by him, however, was pick-pocketed on the way. Then the volunteer devotee who was accompanying him said: ‘I have some money, don’t worry’. So, Govinda could go to Dakshineswar that day and had the darshan of the Divine Mother Bhavatarini and returned to Belur Math that evening. After attending the evening Arati at the Sri Ramakrishna Temple and taking prasad at night, he came to Vidyamandira and found that already the gates of that institution were closed by that time. However, with his indomitable zeal and will, Govinda scaled the compound wall and jumped inside. Almost everybody was sleeping. There was only one Swami awake and eagerly waiting for him and that was Swami Ajatananda (Nityananda Maharaj). He took a lot of care of Govinda and put all his things in a room. He told Govinda, “Brother, you are a qualified person. You have come here to join after your post-graduation. Every day you should go to Belur Math, do pranam in all the temples and then only begin your routine. Here you will find that there are many brothers of ours who waste time in idle gossip, but you have a bright future. You should not waste time like that.” It was indeed the best advice that he got at that time from Ajatanandaji on the very first night of his joining the Order.

It is interesting to note that when Govinda joined the Order as a novitiate, he was accepted as a probationer even from the day of his joining, which is not usually the case with other novitiates even today. That was the blessing which Govinda had and so he joined the Order straightaway as a probationer. The Belur Math authorities also decided where to post him or where his place of work should be after his joining the Order. So, he was immediately sent to work in Belur Vidyamandira. He was now Govinda Maharaj!

One month before his joining the Order, Govinda had been sent by Swami Saswatanandaji to the Principal of Vidyamandira, Swami Tejesanandaji. During this meeting, Tejesanandaji asked him whether he considered his decision to join the Order was all right. In reply Govinda requested Tejesanandaji, “Please bless me so that I can stick to my decision”. So both Saswatanandaji and Tejesanandaji knew that Govinda would surely be coming to Belur Math to join the Order on 16th June 1954, which he did. This was indeed a great plunge from the mundane to the spiritual.

In Vidyamandira there were different hostels and on being posted there to work, Govinda Maharaj was put up in East Hostel and he at first worked under Gunamani Maharaj (later to become Swami Tirthanandaji).

Thus Govinda Maharaj spent 14 long years in Belur Vidyamandira and served there in various capacities -- as Hostel Superintendent of East Hostel, Lecturer, Vice-Principal and Principal. During all these years, as advised by Swami Ajatanandaji, young Govinda used to follow a strict routine every day. He would get up very early in the morning and after finishing his oblations, he would go to Belur Math every day and do pranams in all Temples there and also do some Thakur seva in the garbha mandir (sanctum sanctorum) of the Temple, preparing hubble-bubble etc. for Sri Sri Thakur for the after-lunch service to Him. He followed this routine through all the 14 years of his stay in Vidyamandira.

Govinda always considered himself fortunate that he could spend 14 long years in Belur Vidyamandira. In the first instance Swami Saswatanandaji to whom Govinda was introduced by Swami Siddheswaranandaji, had initially suggested to Swami Madhavanandaji, the then General Secretary of the Ramakrishna Math and Ramakrishna Mission, that Govinda may be posted at Ramakrishna Mission Sarada Pith, also near Belur Math, and he should work with Swami Tejesanandaji. However, it was eventually decided that on joining the Order Govinda should go to Vidyamandira to work. This turned out to be a good decision for Govinda because by remaining in the Vidyamandira he could participate in almost all the festivals of Belur Math. As a young Brahmacharin he loved to work in the garbha mandir of Sri Thakur’s Temple in Belur Math on all important tithi puja days from early morning till night. Further, he could come in close contact with very senior Swamis like Swami Sankaranandaji, Swami Vishuddhanandaji, Swami Yatiswaranandaji, Swami Vireswaranandaji, Swami Shantanandaji and others. In their holy company, a strong spiritual vibration was created for Govinda during those early years of his joining the Math. Towards the end of his life, Swami Shantanandaji came back to Belur Math from Ranchi T.B. Sanatorium where he had been living for a number of years. In Belur Math he stayed in one corner on the ground floor room opposite Swamiji’s Temple. So, Govinda could go daily to meet him and have his holy company.

Govinda always remembered Swami Vivekananda’s clarion call that young boys should respond and lead a life of renunciation and service. When he was posted at Vidyamandira straightaway after his joining the Order, Govinda was first asked to work as Assistant in the East Hostel there and later on as Superintendent of that Hostel. More than 100 boys were under his care. Inspired by Swami Vivekananda’s call, he organised a Vivekananda Study Circle there and every night after dinner, some willing boys would come and join this Study Circle. Under the leadership of Govinda, first they used to utter the pranam mantra and then read from Swamiji’s works such as Letters of Vivekananda, Inspired Talks.

Some of these young students of the Vidyamandira who belonged to this Vivekananda Study Circle later joined the Order and became Monks, as for example Swami Shantarupananda (Vishwanath) who is now the Head of the Ramakrishna Mission centre in Portland, USA, and Swami Devarajananda (Harnath), who is now in charge of Brahmacharins’ Training Centre at Belur Math. During those days, whenever Govinda got a chance, he would take a group of students on pilgrimage to Kamarpukur, and Jayarambati and other places. Also during his stay in Vidyamandira, some very senior Swamis of the Order visited Vidyamandira. Among them, Swami Shantanandaji, Swami Prabhavanandaji, Swami Nikhilanandaji, Swami Madhavanandaji, Swami Saswatanandaji, Swami Nirvananandaji and Swami Nirvedanandaji are prominent. Incidentally, many of the ex-students of Belur Vidyamandira who were studying there in those days later held important positions in society.

During this stay at the Vidyamandira Govinda was initiated into Brahmacharya vows by Most Revered Swami Shankaranandaji, the seventh President of the Order, in 1959. Novitiate Govinda became Brahmachari Murarichaitanya.

During his stay in Vidyamandira, Govinda Maharaj took leave for two months from Swami Tejesanandaji in 1961 for going to Himalayas on a pilgrimage and Spiritual Retreat. First he went to Almora which was visited by Swami Vivekananda three times during his life time. Afterwards he went to Shyamala Tal and Mayavati. By this experience he was transported to a higher world.

In the year 1963 Brahmachari Murarichaitanya was initiated into sannyasa and he got his sacred sannyasa vows from Most Revered Swami Madhavanandaji Maharaj and was named Swami Gokulananda. It is interesting to note that the boy considered as a gift of Lord Krishna, retained his association with the name of Lord Krishna, as we see his first name was Govinda, his Brahmacharya name was Br. Murarichaitanya and the Sannyasa name was Swami Gokulananda and even Sannyasa vows were administered by Most Revered Swami Madhavanandaji, (the name Madahava is also the name of Lord Sri Krishna).

Swami Gokulananda was transferred to Sargachhi Ashram in 1967 for a brief period. Then from there he went on pilgrimage to Kedar-Badri and also visited all holy places in South India up to Kanyakumari. When he was in Kedar-Badari, the then General Secretary of the Ramakrishna Math and Ramakrishna Mission, Swami Gambhiranandaji sent him a letter stating that they would like to post him as Editor of ‘Udbodhan’ a Bengali monthly from Calcutta, but Swami Gokulananda politely declined. Sargachhi was a tranquil place charged with spirituality. From this, Govinda had concluded that if one wants to live a deeply spiritual life, one has to live the life of a recluse, in meditation. A deeply spiritual life is not compatible with the active life at work. This is how he then thought; but then what about work as worship? What about the motto of the Order he had joined, “Atmano Mokshartham Jagadhitayacha”? Some discussion is required here.

Swami Gokulananda was a student of Philosophy and Logic and so he had imbibed great ideas from outstanding thinkers. He had read ‘The Life of Swami Vivekananda by his Eastern and Western Disciples” during the off periods in the College when other students were whiling away their time in idle gossip and he was fully absorbed in that book. Though he was a student of Srirampore College, he would also go to the Scottish Church College and sit in the Philosophy class as he was fond of going there because in this College Swami Vivekananda, Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose and other great personalities had studied. When he took up his post-graduation in Philosophy, this thought came to him that one must read philosophy as there is specialty in Indian philosophy. Indian philosophy is ‘Darshana’ whereas the western philosophy is essentially theoretical. Hamilton has written that learned ignorance is the end of philosophy and the beginning of religion. It is recorded in Kathamrita that Thakur (Sri Ramakrishna) asked Master Mahashay (Mahendranath Gupta) the meaning of this remark and Master Mahashay replied that one becomes a learned fool by reading philosophy. Then Sri Ramakrishna commented by saying, “Thank you, thank you”. Another book which profoundly influenced Govinda is “My Master” by Swami Vivekananda. In his extempore address on Sri Ramakrishna, Swami Vivekananda said, “Life is but momentary, whether you have the best of health or the worst. Life is but momentary, whether you have the most poetical temperament or the most cruel. There is but one solution of life, says the Hindu, and that solution is what they call God and Religion. If these be true, life becomes explained, life becomes bearable, becomes enjoyable. Otherwise, life is but a useless burden......”

“There are exceptional minds which are not turned away so easily, which once attracted can never be turned back, whatever may be the temptation in the way, which want to see the Truth, knowing that life must go. They say, let it go in a noble conquest, and what conquest is nobler than the conquest of the lower man, than this solution of the problem of life and death, of good and evil?”

In fact this idea was uppermost in the mind of young Govinda and as a student of philosophy, he also used to meditate on the idea that after all everything is temporary in this world, but that was his conception as a young student with an evolving mind. Now, however, at Sargachhi he was different. He had entered monastic life and seen the way life had presented another dimension to him. Govinda had also got tremendous inspiration from “Letters of Swami Vivekananda”, “Lectures from Colombo to Almora” and Swamiji’s “Swami Sishya samwad”. There was a stage when Govinda thought that he would try to become an IAS officer and all that. But then the powerful thought also came that after all everything is temporary. So what is the use of running after these ‘vanishing shadows’? He also reflected on what Sankaracharya said, ‘Three things are necessary -- Human birth, desire for liberation and the grace of a sadguru. He found a good guru in Virajanandaji and he thought that now he must make an attempt to realise Truth in life. He was particularly struck by Swamiji’s utterance: “Let life go in a noble conquest.” The thought that haunted him again and again is – “The goal of human life is realization of God, nothing other than that.”

Thus Govinda resolved to dedicate his life for a “noble conquest”. He had thus far seen environments, holy company and situations that had not challenged the conceptions he had. They had not posed him the real questions about work as worship. That test was to come soon when he found that his workload was getting heavy. It was during his visit to Revered Swami Atulanandaji Maharaj in Barlowganj, (an incident mentioned in his book “Some Guidelines to Inner Life”), that this conflict between work and worship was resolved. And that is why throughout his life Swami Gokulananda could remain intensely active and deeply immersed in work. In fact before the day he was hospitalized he went all the way to Meerut to attend the annual function there and immediately after coming back he had to attend the function at India International Centre with Chief Minister, Delhi, Smt. Shiela Dikshit. It may be mentioned that his first lecture after taking over the charge of the Delhi Ashrama was the resolution of this conflict as revealed by the title of the lecture “Meditation with eyes open”

Swami Gokulanandaji has often been exhorting the devotees to practice this attitude to work i.e. work is meditation with eyes open by the following five-fold spiritual disciplines in daily routine, which he had himself found as very efficacious:-

1. Early morning and when alone, reminding ourselves of our divinity.

2. During work and interaction, reminding ourselves of the divinity of the people and situations that we deal with.

3. Frequently reminding ourselves of our divinity and that of others.

4. Frequently reminding ourselves that to love others is the highest discipline.

5. Frequently remembering that all women are the manifestation of the Divine Mother.

After he came back from his pilgrimage to Kedar-Badari and other places, he was posted to Cherrapunjee Ashram. He worked as Assistant Secretary-cum-Headmaster of the Ramakrishna Mission School there. Before he went to Cherrapunjee Ashram, Swami Gokulananda went to meet Swami Gahananandaji, the then Secretary of Ramakrishna Mission Sevaprathisthan at Calcutta. One of the uncles of Swami Gahananandaji (Ketaki Maharaj) had donepioneering work in the Khasi hills and so he advised Swami Gokulananda that if he were to go to Khasi hills and work there, he must learn and master the Khasi language.

When Gokulananda reached Cherra Bazar, he found one Christian Catholic Father – Father Peter as he was called -- speaking fluentlyin Khasi language. That gave him a lot of inspiration and motivation to learn Khasi without wasting any more time. Gokulananda thought, ‘If the Catholic Father can speak in Khasi language, I can also do it by learning this language by putting myheart and soul into it.’ Thus, with much effort he mastered the Khasi language soon. In fact, he brought out some books in Khasi language. He learnt Khasi mainly by talking with his students in Cherrapunjee.

While assigned to the school run by the Ramakrishna Mission there as an administrator, an interesting phenomenon attracted Swami Gokulananda. He noticed that when students applied for admission, in the application form, against the column “Religion” Christians would write ‘Christianity’ and Hindus would write ‘Hinduism’ but students who came from orthodox Khasi families who still held on to their religious faith would think poorly of themselves and write “We have no religion”. He wondered what the reason could be. He called Philon Singh, one of the High school teachers and a Khasi by birth and sought to know whether there was any book on Khasi faith at all. Philon Singh brought him a book ‘Ka Niam Tip-briew Tip blei” in Khasi language. The Swami had by now picked up sufficient acquaintance with the Khasi language and he read the book. He also made a special study of Khasi religion and found a striking resemblance and affinity of Khasi religion with Sankara’s Vedanta. According to Khasi religion. God pervades the entire universe like pure consciousness: “U blei u don kylleng kum ka mynsiem”. And “namar ba u blei u don ha man la u briew ban sakri ia u blei kalong ban shakri u blei hi”. Because God dwells in the heart of everybody, the Khasi religion teaches that to serve man is to serve God. Since God is everywhere, there is no provision in Khasi religion for building a temple. Khasis also believe that instead of worshipping God once in a while, we should pray to god every moment.

So, Swami Gokulananda could realise why the Khasi people stuck to their indigenous faith. As a result of his hard work, the Khasis got tremendous strength to stick to their original faith. The Khasi religion also lays emphasis on the fact that this world is our temporary abode. Today we are here, tomorrow we may not be here, so we should live righteously.

So Swami Gokulananda found a striking resemblance between Khasi religion and Shankara’s Vedanta. He tried to defend their faith in themselves.

After he spent nearly three years in Meghalaya, he could author a book entitled, “Shi kyntien Ar kyntien shaphang ka Niam Khasi” After completing the manuscript of this book, he went to Dr. Maham Singh with it and secured a very valuable Foreword from him for the book. As a result of the publication of this book, he could get invitations from different parts of Khasi Hills to talk to them about Khasi religion. True to the non-sectarian teachings of Bhagawan Sri Ramakrishna who said that all religions are true, it became an absorbing passion with him to tell the orthodox Khasis that they should also feel proud of their religion while having equal regard for other religions such as Christianity, etc.
The scenic beauty of the Khasi Hills is indeed unique. The lovely and beautiful surroundings enabled him to stay happily in Meghalaya and as he stayed there for nearly 14 years, he developed so much love and affection for the people of Meghalaya that he continued to have the same till the end.

The Ramakrishna Mission at Cherrapunjee runs a number of schools in Meghalaya. Gokulanandaji had the satisfaction that he could visit all the schools even though some of them are situated at remote and inaccessible places. One day when he was climbing up on foot from a deep gorge, he was thirsty and asked for water, but there was no water. It was only God who saved his life at that time.

During the long period of 14 years of his stay there, Gokulanandaji received tremendous love and affection from one and all. He had a number of Christian friends also there. Dr. Wahlong, who was the President of the Managing Committee of the Cherrapunjee Ashram, would always stand by him as a pillar of strength. The qualities he admired in most of the Khasis are their simplicity, unassuming nature and dignity of labour. They are always very cordial and courteous.

Swami Gokulananda’s dogged tenacity to help Khasis to preserve their religious faith brought him all encomiums and he earned a lot of admiration and respect from them. During this process, many people became the devotees of Sri Ramakrishna and as many as 2000 devotees were initiated by Swami Vireswaranandaji, the then President of the Order. During the period of his stay there, a number of books in Khasi language were brought out, including the Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna. During that time, the then President, Srimat Swami Vireswaranandaji Maharaj visited the Cherrapunjee Ashram. Swami Gokulanandaji could also bring him to Shella when the Ashram celebrated its Golden Jubilee of the Ashrama there. Incidentally, in 1974, Srimat Swami Vireswaranandaji Maharaj was the only President of the Ramakrishna Order who could visit Shella as President and he stayed there for four nights and thus made history. In fact, a few days before he visited Shella when Gokulanandaji told the devotees of Shella that Revered President Maharaj had agreed to come to Shella, they could not believe that the veritable representative of Sri Ramakrishna as the President of the Order was, would come to Shella. He told them, ‘Yes, Thakur willing, he will come”, and he did come to Shella!

“Yes, Thakur willing, he will come” and Most Revered President Maharaj comes to Shella!

The devotees of Shella made all arrangements to make the stay of Revered President Maharaj quite comfortable. A Special Supplement covering his visit to Shella on the occasion of the Golden Jubilee celebrations was published in the Prabuddha Bharata magazine. Srimat Swami Vireswaranandaji Maharaj told in a Public Meeting at Shella that when he wanted to come to Shella, the members of the Governing Body of the Ramakrishna Mission at Belur Math dissuaded him from going there, but he took the correct decision. He further said, ‘I feel that I am in a place like Rishikesh. The salubrious surroundings of Shella situated on the banks of River Shella remind one of the scenic beauty of Rishikesh’. This he told the devotees at Shella on the occasion of the Golden Jubilee celebrations. On Durga Puja days also the devotees would participate in the celebrations in large numbers and on the day of immersion of the image of Goddess Durga, the children would literally weep and it was a sight for the gods to see.

All this was too much for the Christian missionaries and they looked at him as an obstacle to their evangelical approach for conversion into Christianity. He was to be eliminated by them. So, many attempts were made to kill him, but in vain. The Christian fundamentalists were eagerly waiting for an opportunity to remove him from there by killing him. One day after coming back from Delhi he saw that water connection to his quarters was disconnected. A dialogue with the Meghalaya Government took place in this matter and at last things got settled and he continued without any physical harm to him for some time. Later though they put a time bomb which exploded in his room at night, but fortunately he did not sleep in his room that night. They also hurled some poisonous arrows at him once, but they did not strike him. Sri Sri Thakur saved Gokulanandaji’s life.The Meghalaya Government said that Gokulanandaji was a controversial monk and he should be transferred from there. Otherwise somebody might kill him one day.

So the Headquarters at Belur Math was concerned and they had to intervene and find a solution. Swami Vireswaranandaji told Swami Gokulananda: “You choose a place where you can go and stay and for the time being if any authorities talk to you about your posting, you should politely say, ‘I am on leave’.”

Gokulanandaji chose Sargachhi Ashram again because Swami Premeshanandaji, a disciple of the Holy Mother, stayed there in 1953. Harnath was also there and Swami Gahananandaji was the Head of that Ashram during that time. This was the first Mission Centre started by Swami Akhandanandaji and it would remind one of the Tapovan of the rishis.

As destiny had beckoned him, Gokulanandaji went to Sargachhi again and happily spent 14 months there. During that time Swami Tapasyanandaji wrote to him that since the Swami who was the Head of Tokyo Centre had died, he would suggest Swami Gokulanandaji’s name for posting to Tokyo Centre as its Head. But Swami Gokulanandaji replied to him that he was on leave. This reply was in accordance with the instructions of Most Revered Swami Vireswaranandaji.

Swami Gokulananda would often reminisce about his life in Cherrapunjee. So let us go back a bit and see a few more incidents. While at Cherrapunjee, when the President of the Order, Swami Vireswaranandaji came there on Guru Purnima day in 1979, a letter from Swami Shraddhanandaji, who had been the sevak of Virajanandaji and the then Head of the Sacramento (USA) Centre, came. Swami Shraddhanandaji wanted Swami Gokulananda at Sacramento as his Assistant. Consequently, a lot of correspondence with Belur Math and all that went by and ultimately the matter was referred to the President, Swami Vireswaranandaji.

In one of his visits, Swami Vireswaranandaji showed Gokulanandaji the letter that Swami Shraddhanandaji wrote to him and sought his opinion. Gokulanandaji replied that wherever the Headquarters would post him, he would go there and work. Pleased with the stance of Gokulanandaji, Swami Vireswaranandaji wrote back to Swami Shraddhanandaji stating that he would not like to disturb Gokulanandaji from Cherrapunjee as he was doing good work there by mastering the Khasi language and turning out books in Khasi. That was how Swami Shraddhanandaji could not get him to the United States at that time.

Again when there was trouble in Cherrapunjee fermented by orthodox Christian Missionaries, it was decided to give Gokulanandaji another posting. Even at that time Swami Shraddhanandaji wanted him to be posted to Sacramento Centre. Then Gokulanandaji wrote to President Swami Vireswaranandaji on this matter. Then Swami Vireswaranandaji wrote back saying, ‘Why do you want to go there? Why are you prefering ‘preya’ to ‘sreya’ (present benefit to the ultimate good)?’ Thus, the offer to go to Sacramento Centre came twice and rejected both times. In fact, Swami Shraddhanandaji wanted him very badly as his assistant in the Sacramento Centre, but Thakur willed otherwise and Gokulanandaji was posted as Secretary to Narottam Nagar.

Narottam Nagar is located in a deep jungle. AHigh School was run by the Ramakrishna Mission at Narottam Nagar and after taking charge of that centre, Swami Gokulanandaji thought that it would be good if the School was upgraded to Higher Secondary School. So, he took the initiative and wrote to the Headquarters and in the meeting of the Governing Body they agreed to his proposal and decided that since there was forest money at their disposal, it could be spent for upgradation of the School there. So, Swami Gokulananda had to draw up a scheme regarding the building for the Higher Secondary School and also a hostel there. Swami Gahananandaji and Swami Prabhanandaji came there and selected the spot for the building. Thus a big building came up.

During the period of his stay there, Gokulanandaji used to visit nearby places in Assam like Duliajan, Digboi etc. for lecturing to devotees.

In Narottam Nagar, there was no dispensary attached to the Residential School. So, Swami Gokulananda took the right step to set up a Dispensary there and the then Lt. Governor Dube was invited for inauguration ofthe same, which he did attend. For the inauguration of the High School building, Gokulanandaji invited the then President of the Order, Swami Gambhiranandaji. He very kindly responded to the invitation and inaugurated the School building. When the question came as to what should be the medium of instruction in the school, Swami Gambhiranandaji said that the medium should be the “Language of Love”. That being done, Gokulanandaji sought a transfer from that place. Having lived in Cherrapunjee for 14 years and in Narottam Nagar for 4 years from 1982 to 1986, he really longed for a change and he wanted leave for six months, but the authorities did not grant him leave.

On one fine morning Gokulanandaji received a telegram from Headquarters that he should dash to Belur Math immediately. There, the General Secretary of the Math, Swami Hiranmayanandaji told him, ‘We need you to take charge of a Centre which is next in importance to Belur Math’. He wondered what could be that centre because he knew for certain that there was no vacancy in any city centre of the Ramakrishna Mission in India at that time. Swami Swanandaji had just taken over charge at Delhi and in the normal circumstances there was no question of his transfer to Delhi. Similarly Swami Tapasyanandaji was in Madras and Swami Vagishanandaji was in Bombay and so the question of going to those two cities did not arise. But Swami Hiranmayanandaji, told him that he was going to take charge of Delhi Centre. Swami Gokulananda pleaded that Delhi was a very difficult centre and instead he would like to go to the Himalayas for tapasya. However, with the persuasion ofthe Headquarters he agreed. That means, from the jungles of Khasi hills he had to come to the capital city of Delhi. Gokulanandaji asked Swami Gambhiranandaji, the then President of the Math: ‘Do I have to rush to the Delhi centre?’ He said, ‘Yes, you are to go because you are quite capable and we have selected you.’

That is how Swami Gokulanandaji went and took charge of the Delhi Centre in September 1986. Gokulanandaji gave his first Sunday lecture in the Mission Auditorium on the subject, “Meditation with open eyes” when Revered Gambhiranandaji, who was in Delhi Ashram at that time came to the Auditorium and listened to him.

Delhi found Swami Gokulanandaji in an altogether different dimension. The Delhi Centre is one of the very crucial centers of the order. This is a center that has seen giants like Swami Sharvananda, Swami Satprakashananda, Swami Kailashananda, Swami Gangeshananda, Swami Ranganathananda, Swami Budhananda, Swami Swahananda and many other illustrious monks who had served as Secretaries. Heading a spiritual organization whose main activity is work and worship in the political capital of any country is riddled with its own complexities. Each monk when given charge brings his own special characteristic to the institution and adds to the strength and character of the Centre, which builds its own traditions. The Delhi Centre had established many traditions. Swami Ranganathananda’s erudition had brought a deep touch of scholarship, which had attracted to him every section of society from the Presidents, Prime Ministers right down to the common man, all of whom derived enormous spiritual solace. His weekly lectures at the Mission, the library for University students, weekly classes of Gita at the Delhi University meant for students were great traditions. Swami Budhananda had that incisiveness and enormous sharpness of perceptions that had attracted great scholars. Swami Swahananda had brought his own charm to the Centre. Every other Swami who functioned as Secretary at Delhi some time or the other had also his notable contribution to make.

The inauguration of the New Sadhu Niwas with Most Revered Swami Gambhiranandaji Maharaj, the 11th president of Ramakrishna Math and Ramakrishna Mission was held in New Delhi Mission as per the necessity of the Mission for to provide sufficient space for the living of monks.

When Swami Gokulananda assumed charge this aspect was foremost in his mind. Belur Math had reposed full confidence in him and was as always very supportive. The very first major event was the visit of most Revered Swami Gambhiranandaji, President of the Order, within a fortnight of Swami Gokulananda assuming charge. The visit of this extraordinary personality of great erudition in Shastras went off very well. A new wing of the monks’ quarters “New Sadhu Nivas” was inaugurated by Revered President Maharaj, Srimat Swami Gambhiranandaji.

The next major event was when he organized a mammoth Public Meeting celebrating the 150th Birth Anniversary of Sri Ramakrishna and 100 years of the establishment of the Ramakrishna Math and Ramakrishna Mission at Siri Fort Auditorium, which was presided over by the then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and addressed by Swami Ranganathanandaji Maharaj. Like this, celebration of many other events took place under his guidance and leadership in Delhi.

Swami Gokulanandaji went about patiently and methodically in getting the priorities of the Centre correctly. The Ramakrishna Mission TB Clinic and Medical Centre at Arya Samaj Road, Karol Bagh, in New Delhi is a very important medical institution which has the tradition of being one of the pioneers in evolving path breaking clinical practices in the history of national fight against TB and for its eradication. It had, at the time Swami Gokulanandaji took over, a history of more than half a century of service behind it. This was a part of the Ramakrishna Mission, Delhi and the Clinic always had very competent doctors and very senior monks in full charge of the clinic. Sunday lectures were animportant tradition in Delhi ever since the time of Swami Ranganathanandaji and his successors. Delhi being the national capital and the centre of administrative and financial power, attracted heads or representatives of practically all other centers of the Order to pursue their own cases for grants, etc. in the various Ministries. The Delhi Centre had to be their host and offer as much assistance as it could. A cosmopolitan city like Delhi particularly in the North of India needed a different dimension of consolidation to integrate devotees of different temperaments. Delhi’s cultural and intellectual centers especially centred around the University, and other national institutions had been very vibrant and the Ramakrishna Mission had always been at the forefront of great intellectual traditions. In fact at the time of Swami Ranganathanandaji, the Delhi Mission had set up an exclusive library to facilitate University students with the cooperation and help from Dr. V.K.R.V. Rao, the then Vice-Chancellor of Delhi University. This was besides the General Library of the Mission. The Delhi Mission needed additional space for expanding its activities.

Swami Gokulanandaji went about undertaking all these tasks with great application, patience and perseverance. Several wonderful things came up due to his initiative. A new building for additional monks quarters, a new A.C. Auditorium and a Guest house at its rear side, a new building for the office and renovated Book Store and Book Sales counter, Railway station book stall, Vedanta on wheels -- all these added to the value of activities of the Mission. His Sunday lectures covered many new dimensions and these in turn produced wonderful books. Some notable are “How to Overcome Mental Tension”, “Some Guidelines to Inner Life” (which was translated into different Indian languages as well as Russian, Portuguese, French, Spanish - some others are in the pipeline), both very popular books running into several editions, besides booklets like “Our Holy Trinity”, “Swami Vivekananda – The Ideal of the Youth” (which was translated into Hindi later). A very important Value Education Centre came up and Delhi Government and Union Government funded and supported such important activities. He mobilized an active and enlarged family of devotees which swelled to a very considerable number. He was responsible for a very active Training centre for Computer orientation. He was entirely responsible to build a reunited family of the Alumni of the Ramakrishna-Vivekananda educational institutions who are based at Delhi. He was very active in spreading the messages of Holy Trinity at various local centers in various parts of Delhi. He was well regarded by distinguished persons of notable contribution in every walk of life, be it Administration, Education, Corporate set up, Political set up etc. In fact, the manner in which he went about harmoniously integrating men of diverse opinions on the same platform was unique and he used to organize and also participate in inter-religious dialogues. In the meanwhile, added to all these he was well sought after internationally necessitating his visits to as many as 31 countries including USA, Canada, UK, France, Germany, Switzerland, Singapore, Taiwan, Russia, all around the globe for delivering lectures on religious and philosophical topics.

Swami Gokulanandaji set up a record of longest tenure for any head of the Ramakrishna Mission at Delhi centre. He spent more than 21 years at Delhi -- a unique record. During this period he introduced ‘Guided Meditation’ before the start of his religious talks at different private places. He was able to convince the Headquarters to agree to celebrate Jagaddhatri Puja in the Delhi Centre a couple of years ago and it was celebrated with great success. He told a few devotees that his wish to perform Jagaddhatri Puja again in the current year had been granted by the Headquarters, and thus there would have been a double celebration in November this year when the Golden Jubilee of the consecration of the Temple of Sri Ramakrishna in the Delhi Mission would also be celebrated and preparations for the same were to start soon.

However, as though Sri Guru Maharaj needed Gokulanandaji elsewhere, the curtain finally rung down on March 31, 2007 and he left his mortal coil to go to Ramakrishna Lok. Throughout his life he had battled with diverse and disturbing elements to establish a good platform to spread the messages of the Holy Trinity. But finally he perhaps decided that in this existence he has had enough and something more important was awaiting him in Ramakrishna Lok.

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