AkhandanandaBholanath DidimaGurupriya Didi Paramananda
HaribabaBhaijiGopinath KavirajAtmananda
Swami SwarupanandaSwami ChinmayanandaSwami VirajanandaSwami Vijayananda
Swami BhaskaranandaSwami SivanandaSwami BhajananandaSwami Omkarananda
Br KamalakantaBr YogeshdaBr AtuldaBr Hari Harda
Br TanmayanandaPanudaSwami Keshavananda

Paramananda

Swami Paramananda

When a question was referred to Ma for a decision on any subject, She would declare “Ask Paramananda, he will tell you what to do.”And the strange thing was that there seemed to be a continuous telepathic link or communion from any distance between Swamiji and Ma in such matters. Whatever Swamiji decided on the spot always had the subsequent approval of Ma.

Swami Paramananda was ordained to render indispensable service to Sri Sri Ma Anandamayi in the hiatus created by the passing away in quick succession of Bhaiji (Jyotish Chandra Roy) in 1937, and Baba Bholanath, in 1938.

At that difficult juncture there was paramount need, in Ma’s close circle, of someone with a wholly ascetic disposition, of undaunted courage, unimpeachable character, strong in health, and supremely capable of acting as the go-between with the topmost Mahatmas of India, as well as of executing Sri Ma’s innermost wishes during Her incessant journeys through the length and breadth of India, and during the building of innumerable Ashrams, temples, constructions and installation of images, performance of yagnas, feeding of large gatherings each year at festivals.

In particular, with Didi’s preoccupation over Kashi and her failing health, more and more responsibility, even with regard to the Kanyapeeth, fell on Swamiji’s capable shoulders, and this remarkable sadhu discharged all these tasks with the minimum loss of time and show of authority, which he undoubtedly possessed.

Swamiji was born in October 1900 in village Lakshmipur, Chandpur sub-division, in the undivided Comilla district of E. Bengal, in a devout Brahmin family that had already produced several sadhus. Swamiji was the youngest of three brothers and he had five sisters. His eldest brother died of cholera. He was educated in Chandpur, while staying at his maternal uncle’s house in Bitara village . As ordained by fate, his uncle’s neighbours were the devout family of Brahmajna Ma, a renowned saint of E. Bengal, whose youngest brother Jatin Chakravarti was a classmate of Swamiji.

Swamiji was attracted to the ascetic way of life from boyhood. In this, he found an excellent mentor in the life and teachings of Brahmajna Ma, who exerted a tremendous influence on all she came in contact with. She was a child widow, and developed spontaneously all the highest forms of sadhana from a young age. She was born in 1879, suffered from constant poor health, and must have been in her 30’s when Swamiji first met her. Brahmajna Ma was very fond of Swamiji and whenever she needed something done, she used to send for him.

In due course Swamiji passed his Matriculation from Sachar High School, and by 1921 joined Victoria College, Comilla, studying for his Intermediate. But gradually the innate call towards asceticism and total renunciation won over his other predilections. When during a lecture, his professor of Logic emphasized the fact that “Man is mortal”, Swamiji’s resolution to find out for himself what is the true destiny of man was formed with absolute finality.

After his annual holidays at home from college, he took the train for Howrah, and from there proceeded towards Hardwar. Thus it was no wonder that during later years when Ma was frequently touring Hardwar, Kankhal, Rishikesh etc., Swamiji’s extensive knowledge not only of the local terrain but also of the Mahatmas and Ashrams already existing thereabouts proved to be of such vital help to the Sangha’s activities.

In Hardwar, Swamiji at first stayed in Bholagiri Ashram for some time. He shifted to Rishikesh, where he was initiated into sanyas, and where be lived in a hut. Swamiji moved to Bulandshahar where he started practising homoeopathy, and even though be prescribed medicine from the few books at his disposal, such was his acumen and innate intelligence that he soon acquired a fame well beyond his tastes. As patients began to flock round him in ever increasing numbers, Swamiji ran away to Anupshahr, where he came in contact with Haribabaji.

Here was another friendship between two Mahatmas which was to endure under Ma’s benign sovereignty until the death of Sri Hari Babaji in the presence of Ma at our Kashi Ashram in Jan. 1970. From Anupshahr Swamiji gradually moved on foot as a wandering sadhu to Khurja, Agra, Mathura and Vrindaban, where he used to live in a rude hut on the banks of the Jamuna, and beg for alms.

1927 found him in Belur Math for 6 month from where the R. K. Mission sent him to Deoghar Vidyapith in 1928. At this stage Swamiji must have arranged to bring Brahmajna Ma to Deoghar, as the latter’s poor health obliged her to pay frequent visits to Pun and Deoghar, both renowned as sanatoriums. Having organised the nucleus of an Ashram for Brahmajna Ma at Deoghar. Swamiji wandered away in his quest for the unknown to Uttarkashi, Gangotri and even beyond, where he sat at the feet of such highly learned Mahatmas as Tapovan Mabaraj at Gomukh, and Devi Giri Maharaj at Ujeli, a couple of miles north of Uttarkashi.

Here again his intimate knowledge of Ujeli enabled Swamiji to organise Ma’s Birthday Celebrations there in 1973. During his wanderings over the northern Himalayas, Swamiji walked across to Tibet, Manasarovar and Kailash more than once. In 1934 Brahmajna Ma fell seriously ill in Deoghar, and although word was sent to Swamiji in the remote mountains, he eventually reached Deoghar only to find that his boyhood preceptor had breathed her last a day or two previously. Swamiji spent some time in building and organising Nirvana Math at Deoghar in memory of Brahmajna Ma, and then returned again to his beloved Himalayas.But Swamiji never lost his love for Nirvana Math or its occupants, with whom he used to correspond regularly, and later accompanied Sri Ma to the Math whenever Ma visited Deoghar.

While in the hills round Uttarkashi, Swamiji must have met Bholanath before 1937 during the latter’s sojourn and sadhana at Uttarkashi, where an Ashram was founded. When Ma was returning from Kailash in 1937 with Bhaiji, Didi and Bholanath, and had reached a spot called Dhaul China, a few miles from Almora, Ma had a vision of Bhaiji departing from his mortal body, and being replaced by Swami Paramananda.

A little later, when Ma was resting quietly at Kishenpur Ashram in Dehradun after Bhaiji’s demise in Almora, Swamiji, who had been working in the Ramakrishna Mission in Kashmir, happened by chance to be visiting the R. K. Mission at Dehradun, almost next door to our Ashram at Kishenpur, when Bholanath accosted Swamiji and brought him along to meet Ma. Ma was then seated in the hall at Kishenpur Ashram. At the sight of Swamiji, Ma spontaneously exclaimed, “Oh you have arrived; then you must have your meal with us here today”. Swamiji replied, “I have not come here to eat. My food will be waiting for me at the R. K. Mission Ashram where I am staying”. Ma repeated, “Very well, then you must have your midday meal with us here tomorrow. Didima cooks very well. She will be offering the bhoga and you can partake of it”. Swamiji said that next day, Ma went so far as to cook the bhoga and serve Swamiji with Her own hands at meal time. Thus commenced Swamiji’s connection with the Ashram, but it was not until Dec. 1938 that he actually joined the Sangha at Vindhyachal. The story of Ma’s first foresight of Swamiji in a vision was related by Ma to Swamiji at Dhaul China in 1941. Ma had, in 1937, actually seen Swamiji arriving at our Ashram. In July 1942 occurred the well-known incident of Swamiji’s life being saved by Ma from the bite of a virulent poisonous snake while he was sleeping at night in the Raipur Ashram. Ma’s affection and constant care seemed to surround Swamiji at all times. Much later at Bhimpura Ashram, Ma miraculously saved Swamiji from falling to his death from the cliffs towering above the Ashram site over the Narmada basin. And of course, in recent years She saved him time and again from attacks of coma as his diabetes took a firm hold of his strong body even though fortified by years of yoga and self-discipline. To Swamiji always fell the brunt of the work of disposing of the mortal remains of Ashram Sadhus and Brahmacharinis. Swamiji played a leading role during Ma’s attendance at Kumbh Melas, because of his intimate knowledge of the Sadhu Akharas, their rules and their way of bathing at the confluence of Ganga, Jamuna and Saraswati.

On the 22nd April 1954 at Almora, occurred a very strange and significant event concerning Swamiji’s life as narrated by Ma to Didi. I quote:

Ma: Do you know what I saw? Paramananda’s head and face were disjointed from his body. The head was split into bits like a piece of fractured cement block. But there was no blood. He seemed very disturbed, and was walking to and fro in his agitation. He was asked to lie down quietly, and this Self proceeded to massage his head, chest and abdomen. Paramananda spoke with considerable difficulty and said, “Ma, nobody seems to understand my pitiful condition”. This Self replied, “Even you do not understand as well as this body does, all about yourself.” Paramananda pointed to his hands and said, “An astrologer has predicted that I will have the opportunity of attaining liberation.” Then this body admonished him, saying “Oh, but when you have found a proper refuge to live in, why do you still have to bother about how to fill your stomach ? Didi has very correctly interpreted this weird vision of Ma as meaning that Swamiji was at that time passing through some sort of terrible crisis away from Ma, where his normal instincts based on previous experience rebelled against where his present duty pointed. So Ma proved to him in other words that once somebody has taken shelter with a Sadguru, he does not have to worry about reaching his ultimate Goal. The Guru himself arranges all the steps necessary for his disciple to reach his supreme Destination. Ma ended by adding, “Paramananda understood what I meant, and his face became illumined with an inner light”. Swamiji was the main architect and builder of most of our Ashrams, assisted in subsequent years by Swami Swarupananda and Panuda when necessary. Inevitably Ma tended more and more to delegate authority to Swamiji to take decisions and subsequent action to meet the problems that continually cropped up in Ashram affairs. When an important visitor was announced, Ma would say, “take him to Swamiji”. When a question was referred to Ma for a decision on any subject, She would declare “Ask Paramananda, he will tell you what to do.”And the strange thing was that there seemed to be a continuous telepathic link or communion from any distance between Swamiji and Ma in such matters. Whatever Swamiji decided on the spot always had the subsequent approval of Ma.

The most crucial test of Swamiji’s superhuman powers of endurance, his construction ability, and supreme trust in Ma was his wonderful preparation of the Naimisharanya site for Samyam Vrata in 1960. The whole of the ground selected for the function was swallowed by the waters of the Gomti’s unprecedented flood until a few days before the start of the gathering. Yet, aided and abetted by the U. P. Forest Department labour, Swamiji, by dint of personal example, accomplished the impossible by draining the site, covering the whole of it with a fresh layer of clean sand, and of erecting tents and pandals for housing the entire assembly in the middle of a jungle away from civilisation. For this unique and heroic feat he came to be worshipped by the local population as an Avatar of Hanumanji, whose temple dominated the highest point of the hillock under which the Ashram now nestles. Swamiji was closely associated with the commissioning and construction of most of the vigrahas (images) installed by Ma at Her various Ashrams. He was a wonderful cook and could produce delicious food even for a large assembly in no time. He was equally fond of eating when the occasion demanded and his health permitted.

Swamiji’s character had a unique facet which should now be highlighted. Few people are aware that Swamiji, early in his career as a sannyasi, had made three vows to himself which he faithfully kept throughout his entire life. These were: 1. Never to follow any professional calling. This was after his phenomenal popularity and success as a homoeopathic practitioner at Bulandshahar early in his career. 2. Never to practise Gurugiri. He had seen many failings in this respect during his travels throughout tbe Himalayas. 3. Never to give public discourses or lectures. Swamiji’s knowledge of the Upanishads, Darshans, Gita etc., was profound. He could quote at will from these books, and always carried a copy of “Viveka Chudamani” by Adi Shankaracharya amongst his effects. His standpoint was always based on Adi Shankaracharya’s Advaita Philosophy. He would not be seen to bow down to vigrahas of Gods and Goddesses, though Ma in Her spirit of fun compelled him to perform his obeisance on special occasions. Having saved his life, during several attacks of diabetic coma, Ma made sure he would be alive to carry on in-charge during the difficult days of the Sangha immediately following Her departure from earth. This was the critical time from Aug. ‘82 to Feb. ‘84. Curiously Swamiji, who had been chiefly instrumental in carrying out the entire arrangements for interring Didima’s body in the Samadhi at Kankhal, and later for building a beautiful simple temple over it, made no effort to do likewise after Ma’s demise. In fact be did not leave his room or visit Ma’s Samadhi for days and weeks. The spirit to fight his own disease in order to serve Ma’s cause seemed to be missing. And so, when the Bombay doctors declared they could do nothing more for him in 1983, Swamiji returned to Kankhal Ashram where he intended to pass the remaining days of his life. As long as Ma had been present, his own physical discomforts had been entirely ignored by Swamiji in serving Ma. In the face of frequent ill-health in the last few years, he insisted on accompanying Ma and Her party on all Her arduous journeys, including the last exhausting trip through the whole of North India and back, from Delhi to Agartala, Agarpara and on to Dehra Dun in the spring of 1982, and it seemed that Ma also could not do without him in these tasks. Immediately after Ma had left Her body Swamiji, from his sick-bed at Kankhal, held the Sangha and its supporters together. He would say “Ma’s body is no more. Ma is existent everywhere. Ma has often repeated: “I have no place even to move an inch or even to turn over.” This means She is omnipresent. Many of us have not acted according to Her wishes. Even now it is not too late to follow scrupulously whatever She has instructed different individuals to do ; this is the way to peace.” “Therefore, it is now the duty of us all to follow the path of being equally kindly disposed towards all around us without exception, forgetting our own petty jealousies and ill-tempers, just as Ma showed absolute equality towards one and all. This is the only hope we have of finding lasting peace”. Swamiji removed to Sri Sri Shankaracharya’s comfortable and commodious quarters next to Ma’s cottage. Here Swamiji passed the last days of his life when the coldly ascetic Advaita-Brahma outlook slowly changed towards the warmer emotions and sentiments of affection, and of listening to the Lord’s name. When old associates or devotees visited him, tears would start flowing from his eyes and he could never enjoy enough of their company. Towards the middle of Dec. 1983 Swamiji had dictated detailed instructions and advice for the running of the Sangha and Ashrams, showing a remarkably clear and foresighted functioning of his brain—similar to dying embers bursting into a flame only to be extinguished for ever!

Towards the end of Feb. ‘84, he expressed a keen desire to hear Akhanda Harinama. The entire Delhi Kirtan party, including ladies, visited Kankhal by special bus over the week-end of 3rd-4th March, when Swamiji appeared to be very satisfied by the reverberating kirtan, and arrangements for prasada thereafter. The AdvaitaBrahma in Swamiji’s soul had at last found final solace in the continuous hearing of the Lord’s name being sung for His glory. Thus Swamiji was free to give up his body the next morning, that is, on March 5th, at about 11 a.m. Up to the last moment Swamiji was in possession of his senses and looked fixedly at a picture of Ma, placed conveniently by his bedside. Swamiji had suffered untold agony over the last days without complaint or fears. His lungs were congested with fluid and he could hardly breathe, eat or drink anything. No ordinary human being could ever have withstood such suffering for such a protracted period. After his expiry, all the Ashram Sadhus, Brahmacharis and Brahmacharinis accompanied the body in procession on foot amidst the singing kirtans to the main stream of the Ganga, at Hardwar, and Swamiji’s mortal remains were consigned to the eternal waters of the Ganga at 11-30 a.m. on the 6th March, amidst the chanting of Vedic hymns and singing of the Lord’s name. In the passing of Swamiji, Shree Shree Anandamayee Sangha lost a great Mahatma, as well as its chief executive for well nigh four decades. He had joined the Sangha already a confirmed sadhu who had completed his tapasya and sadhana in the Himalayas, and had brought his vast experience to bear on dedicated ministering to Ma and Her wishes, and his sterling character to act as an inspiration to others trying to follow in his footsteps.

Swami Paramananda talks in Hindi on Video