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  Swami Ranganathananda – A Tribute  
 

 

By: Raghbendra Jha
April 30, 2005
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iews expressed here are author’s own and not of this website. Full disclaimer is at the bottom.

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Swami Ranganathananda
Raghbendra Jha

Swami Rangathananda, president of the Ramakrishna Mission passed away on Monday, 25 April. Like an earlier great seer from Kerala – Adiguru Shankaracharya – he traversed the length and breadth of India spreading the true message of Vedanta and Sanatana Dharma. Like all great seers of India his heart was full of compassion and he gave unhesitatingly and most generously of his time and his resources for the upliftment of the masses of India. In fact he devoted almost his entire life to the Ramakrishna Mission. He was born in 1908 in the village of Tikkur in Kerala and joined the Ramakrishna Mission in 1926 at the tender age of 18. At 25 he took the vows of sanyasa and, right upto the end, he worked tirelessly for the poor. He became the president of the Ramakrishna Math and the Ramakrishna Mission in September 1998.

He realised the eternal truth espoused in the Ramayana by Maharishi Valmiki that in Ramrajya the population is not just materially well off but also truly religious. Swami Rangathananda realised that the people’s salvation does not lie in material betterment alone. Without filling their spiritual void human beings – rich and poor – will remain unfulfilled and lonesome even in an overcrowded world. This inspired Swamiji’s work – relief for the poor and suffering in the form of food, schooling, succour at the time of natural and man-made disasters and the healing message of Vedanta.

Swamiji did not have a formal education but one had to listen to him speak or read his many writings to understand the dizzying heights of scholarship he had attained. Many regard him as one of the foremost modern exponents of the esoteric philosophy of the Upanashids. His commentary on the Srimadbhagwat Gita have enthralled and mesmerised audiences across India and the world. I had the good fortune of hearing him on several occasions in 1982-83 when he was working at the Ramakrishna Mission in Hyderabad. Swamiji was then giving weekly commentary on the Gita every Sunday evening. Such was the power and pull of his diction that he attracted large audiences of young and old who sat spellbound for the duration of his talks. Such was his grip on matters spiritual that he would sometimes talk on just one sloka for hours and nothing would be repeated or be stale. Swamiji’s discourse always had the core of true spirituality and manifest immediate appeal and relevance to the contemporary world. He was a true patriot who never tired of extolling the great traditions of Sanatana Dharma and Bharatvarsha. His life and work exemplified the fact that Sanatana Dharma and Hindu philosophy are not just esoteric remnants of days gone by but an indefatigable source of strength ever relevant to the evolving problems and pressures of the modern world. Truly wonderful was his genius.

Swamiji’s efforts at social service and reconstruction are legendary. In addition he built several centres of learning and meditation for the Ramakrishna Mission all over the world. Several people became his disciples and he enthralled and inspired all who came in contact with him.

India is blessed that even in these days of runaway materialism where everything seems to have a price, she has been blessed with progeny like Swami Rangathananda. It is to seers like him to whom the country must repeatedly turn to seek light and direction in the wilderness in which we find ourselves. My prayers to the Almighty to grant His eternal sharan to this great man and a heartfelt plea that He send more of the ilk of Swami Rangathananda to India. We need them desperately.

Raghbendra Jha

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