By Vaidehi Nathan
Swami Ranganathananda, the head of the Ramakrishna Mission and spiritual guru to millions all over the world, attained samadhi on April 25, 2005. His body was cremated on April 26, at the banks of Hoogly at Belur.
Born on December 15, 1908 to a Hindu family in Trishur, in Kerala, he was known as Shankaran in his pre-monastic days. He joined the Ramakrishna Order in 1926, at Mysore. He received the blessings of Swami Shivananda, a direct disciple of Ramakrishna Paramahamsa at Ootakamandalam. His first task in the Mission involved the care of the cows in the Mysore centre. He spent the next 12 years?nine in Mysore and three in Bangalore under the guidance of Swami Siddheswarananda.
In 1929, he was initiated into brahmacharya by Swami Shivananda, who gave him the name Yatichaitanya. In January 1933, he was initiated into sanyasa by Swami Shivananda and conferred the name Swami Rang-anathananda.
Throughout his life, Swami Ranga-nathananda had been involved with students and youth. In his last days in Mysore, he was the warden in the Mysore Mission College. In Banga-lore too, he worked among the school and college students. He then was in Rangoon for three years and then at Karachi. He left Karachi in 1948. Between 1949 and 1962, Swami Ranganathananda was the secretary at the Mission'soffice in New Delhi. His Sunday morning discourses in the Delhi University and the evening talks in the Mission premises attracted millions of people. His lucid style, his superior intellect and his deep understanding of the scriptures made him a speaker par excellence. Each individual felt the sense of direction he gave, while speaking to an audience of thousands.
At the request of the Ministry of Education, he travelled to several foreign universities in both the East and West. While he was the first recipient of the Indira Gandhi Award for National Integration, he declined to accept the Padma awards.
He became the president of the Ramakrishna Mission in 1998. It was during his time that the house of Swami Vivekananda was renovated and restored. The 150th birth anniversary of Sri Sarada Devi was celebrated under his guidance and he built two temples of the Mission in Chennai and Dhaka.
He has authored many books. Some of these are: The Message of the Upanisads, A Pilgrim Looks at the World (Vols. I and II); Four Volumes of Eternal Values for a Changing Society (Vol. 1: Philosophy and Spirituality, Vol. 2: Great Spiritual Teachers, Vol. 3: Education for Human Excellence, Vol. 4: Democracy for Total Human Fulfilment; and Science and Spirituality (Bhavan'sPublications):Our Cultural Heritage and Its Modern Orientation; Sardar Patel Memorial Lectures: 1986; Women in the Modern Age; Social Responsibilities of Public Administrators; The Science of Human Energy Resources; Science and Religion; Vedanta and the Future of Mankind; Divine Grace; his acceptance speech when he was awarded the first Indira Gandhi Award for National Integration on October 31, 1986. There are seven L.P. records expounding, verse by verse, the second and third chapters of the Gita; six pre-recorded cassettes expounding on the greatest book on bhakti, the Srimad Bhagavatam; and 12 pre-recorded cassettes expounding on the Vedanta treatise; Vivekachudamani by Sankaracharya.