A Japanese Monk
That is Partha Maharaj, Swami Satyalokananda, a Japanese monk of the Ramakrishna Order — now based at the Singapore Centre of the Math and Mission.
He was for a very long time the personal assistant to Swami Ranganathanda, the 13th President of the order. He moved to Singapore a few years before Swami-ji left his temporal body, as they say for saints (For a brief biography of Swami Ranganathanda Click here)
Partha Maharaj was visiting Belur Math after 8 years and I was lucky to meet him last evening (and, as a Bonus, managed to catch the Saraswati Puja Aarti at the Main Temple of the Math).
Naturally, at some point we got talking about Swami Ranganathanda. Here are a couple of nuggets Partha Mj shared about the Swami.
Ranganathananda used to joke that, ordinary persons have two types of corpuscles in their blood — red and white. In his case, he would say there was a third — Vivekananda corpuscles. Such was his love and devotion for Swami Vivekananda.
For Vivekananda’s work — Swami Ranganathananda was willing to go to any length and grovel before anyone if necessary. Partha Mj recalled two instances.
The first was the inauguration of the Vivekananda Memorial in Kanyakumari. It seems Indira Gandhi, the then Prime Minister, was unwilling to attend the function, as the prime mover of the project was Eknath Ranade of the RSS (Rashtriya Sevak Sangha). Swami Ranganathanada — managed to convince Mrs Gandhi arguing Swami Vivekananda was an Indian first and belonged to neither any sect or organisation.
The second time was for the Centenary of Swamiji’s address at the Parliament of World’s Religions in 1893. On this occasion too — the Vivekananda Centre wanted the Prime Minister to flag off the commemorative Chariot that was to go round the country to mark the occasion.
P V Narasimha Rao was the Prime Minister then. Maharaj knew PVNR well as he was a regular visitor to the Hyderabad Centre of Ramakrishna Mission, of which Swami Ranganathananda was the President.
He travelled to Delhi after confirming a time and date with the Prime Minister’s office through the Head of the Delhi centre of the Ramakrishna Mission, Swami Gokulananda (Gobinda Maharaj). The appointment was set for 9.00 PM but PVNR kept him waiting till late into the until about 10.30 pm. Anyone else in his place would not stayed on — but because it was Vivekananda’s work, Swamiji did not leave till he got to meet Narasimha Rao. It is another matter that, PVNR subsequently declined the invitation probably because of the same reason for which Indira Gandhi was hesitant to go to Kanyakumari. But, it just goes to show Swami Ranganathananda’s dedication — that no effort or humiliation was too much for him to bear if it was for the service Vivekananda’s cause.
The main purpose of Ranganathanandaji speaking to Indira Gandhi and Narasimha Rao was to publicise the events all over India to spread Swamiji’s message. Swamiji knew the Prime Minister’s presence would get high media coverage and it was his conviction that everyone will be benefited from it.
In his youth and even as a young Monk, Swami Ranganathanda was a voracious eater. He would climb jackfruit trees and eat a whole giant jackfruit (known to be hard on digestion) all by himself. As a noviciate at the Belur Math, , Maharaj could not bear the sight of food being wasted. So, he would sometime drink up a whole bucket of Daal with left over rice and vegetables.
Somewhere, along the way the “law of averages” caught up with him. His digestive system was damaged ,when he went to Buddhagaya after his Brahmacharya ceremony. Since then his eating habit turned very frugal.
When he was the Head at the Ramakrishna Mission Institute of Culture in Golpark, Calcutta — a Bengali doctor (probably, from the school of Tropical Medicine) advised him to have just cow’s milk with little lactic acid added to it. He followed that diet strictly for two years and it seemed to work for him well.
On one of his trips to the US — he was seriously sick in Chicago and had to be hospitalised for a long period in Boston. Since then he lived on a restricted diet of boiled vegetables portioned in measuring cups and curd for the rest of his life.
But, such was his will-power he never deviated from this regime till the very end. Yet, he was full of energy and used to say “the word ‘tired’ is not in my dictionary”. I have taken birth to do Swami Vivekananda’s work and I do not have a moment to rest.
Swami Ranganathananda used to say, ‘I do not have any Mission; only Thakur and Swamiji have the Mission and I am their instrument.’
What a beautiful thought to live life by.