21 May: Remembering Swami Atmasthananda on day of his Birth Anniversary
Swami Atmasthananda (21 May 1919 – 18 June 2017) was an Indian Hindu monk, who was the fifteenth president of the Ramakrishna Math and the Ramakrishna Mission.
Swami Atmasthananda was born on Buddha Purnima, the day Buddha was born, attained enlightenment, and entered Nirvana. Born in Kshetripara, now in Bangladesh, he came from Dinajpur. In May 1919, he was born in Sabajpur, his maternal house near Dhaka. Satyakrishna was his pre-monastic name. After he passed the entrance exam from Dinajpur Zilla High School, he studied IA at Guwahati Cotton College. He visited the Ramakrishna Ashrama at Dinajpur and got to know Swami Gadadharananda, Swami Shivananda’s disciple and head of the ashrama. Under Swami Gadadharananda’s loving guidance, Satyakrishna was attracted to Sri Ramakrishna and Swami Vivekananda‘s lives and teachings. Their bonding was so full of love and trust that Gadadharananda instructed Satyakrishna—a boy belonging to a Brahmin family with a tradition of worship at home—to perform regular puja and arati in the ashrama temple even before he had spiritual initiation.
When he was a college student, Swami Vijnanananda, a direct disciple of Sri Ramakrishna, gave him mantra Diksha, spiritual initiation. On every Buddha Purnima day, Swami Atmasthananda would joyfully recount to the sadhus and devotees present the details of his initiation by Swami Vijnanananda. Reminiscing, he said: “As he chanted the mantra and recited God’s name, it appeared that he was intoxicated.”. The atmosphere was indescribable.’ Among the other direct disciples of Sri Ramakrishna, he also met Swami Akhandananda in his boyhood days in Dinajpur and Swami Abhedananda at Ramakrishna Vedanta Math, Kolkata, in his student life.
Satyakrishna joined the Ramakrishna Order at Belur Math on 3 January 1941 when he was 22 years old. He went to Deoghar Vidyapith and then Mayavati Advaita Ashrama after joining. As an assistant to the editor of Prabuddha Bharata, he worked at Mayavati. His wonderful reminiscences about life at Mayavati were published in the March 1999 issue of the journal. Throughout his life, he extolled the spiritual significance of Advaita Ashrama, Mayavati.
He also had the opportunity to serve Swami Virajananda, the former President of the Order, for a long time, a very rare opportunity! Thus, he spent his life in the holy company of Swami Virajananda in the solitude of Shyamla Tal for many years. It was Swami Virajananda who initiated him into brahmacharya vows in 1945, giving him the name Shantichaitanya, and Swami Atmasthananda in 1949, giving him the name Swami Atmasthananda. In the months following sannyasa, he took leave and performed spiritual practices in a lonely location. In 1951, Swami Virajananda entered Mahasamadhi and again got leave to spend time in Japa and meditation. He also studied Vedantic scriptures at Kishanpur Ashrama under Swami Jagadananda, a scholar and disciple of Sri Sarada Devi.
He was sent to Rangoon Sevashrama in Burma, now Myanmar, as secretary in 1958 and he developed it into a modern hospital, which was the best in Burma at that time. He returned to India in 1965 when the military took over Rangoon Sevashrama. He was posted to Rajkot as the head in 1966. He learned Gujarati language and spread the message of Sri Ramakrishna, Holy Mother, and Swami Vivekananda in the whole of Gujarat and influenced the intellectuals, descendants of the local kings, and common people. He took the initiative to build the beautiful temple of Sri Ramakrishna in Rajkot.
Swami Atmasthananda entered Mahasamadhi on 18 June 2017 at about 5.30 p.m. at Ramakrishna Mission Seva Pratishthan hospital, Kolkata. He was 98.