Somsar Sri Ramakrishna Seva Mandir

Swami Bhuteshananda - life sketch

River Damodar flowing by SomsarSwami Bhuteshanandaji was born at 7.00 in the evening on Sunday, 8 September 1901 (23rd Bhadra 1308 BS) at Somsar, a village in the Bankura district of West Bengal. He took his birth at the ascendant of Mina (Pisces) under the nakshatra Punarvasu (Pollux), on Krishna-Ekadashi tithi. This child was destined to become a great spiritual leader. Named Vijay (Victory) Chandra, he was later to conquer "the hearts and souls of millions of people through his learning, large-heartedness and great spiritual wealth. His father was Purna Chandra Roy and his mother Charubala Devi.

Somsar, the quiet, peaceful and elegant village on the bank of the river Damodar was not however the native place of the Roy family. The Roy family owing its lineage to a respectable Brahmin family of the 'Gautam' clan of Gaur of the North Bengal came over to Somsar village at the special invitation of the villagers, sometime in the middle of the eighteenth century.His ancestral Shiva Temple (renovated) The village had no Brahmin family and to meet their social and religious needs the villagers sincerely wanted a respectable Brahmin family to settle there. Gadadhar Roy was the first to come to Somsar. Purna Chandra, Vijay's father Purna Chandra Roy was in the fifth generation after Gadadhar Roy. Purna Chandra was a pious and honest man. His wife, Charubala Devi, from Calcutta, was extremely religious.

Vijay began his academic studies at the age of eight at the village school of Aswini Master. Since Vijay's father worked in Calcutta and came home infrequently, his mother had to look after his studies. Mother and son were greatly attached to each other, Vijay helping his mother in the daily worship of Sadashiva, the family deity and in other ways.

His favourite placeIn his childhood days he would often go walking all alone down the dusty red village path deeply shaded by banyan, mango and other trees. Later while reminiscing he said, 'How can I describe how delightful it was to take these walks. Once I went too far away from the village. Finding me at such a distant place, a man from my village asked, 'Where are you going, Thakur?' I said, 'I'm travelling to distant lands.' The man said, 'Enough is enough! Now come with me. I'll drop you at home.' He took me back home and admonished my mother for 'leaving this little boy to travel alone.'

Vijay Chandra completed his studies up to class IV at Aswini Master's school, securing first place in all classes. His mother wanted him to stay in her brother's house in Calcutta and continue his schooling. So in 1913, Vijay was enrolled in class V at the Vidyasagar School at 100, Shyambazar Street. The Ganga flowed very close to his maternal uncle's house. One day he saw some young boys of his age singing on the riverside led by his school teacher Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay. They were singing bhajan and songs on Ramakrishna and Vivekananda. Gyan Maharaj's AshramaThe teacher invited Vijay to join them. When the singing ended, all of them moved to a two-storied building nearby. The small house had a room in the ground floor and the first floor housed a small temple dedicated to Shiva. From that day Vijay started visiting the Shiva Temple regularly. There he became familiar worth the ideas and ideals of Ramakrishna-Vivekananda. Many sadhus of Belur Math would visit the temple with his teacher who was an initiated disciple of the Holy Mother. Vijay could meet all of them whom were Swami Turiyananda, Swami Akhandananda, and Swami Premananda. Amongst them was Brahmachari Jnan Maharaj, a disciple of Swami Vivekananda. 24 December 1918 was the Holy Mother's birthday (tithi). On that day along with Jnan Maharaj, Vijay had the opportunity to see and make salutations to the Mother. Inspired by Jnan Maharaj's fiery personality the number of youths increased so much so that the tiny temple did not have enough room for all of them. So a three-storey building was rented at Madan Mohan Tala. And thus began 'Jnan Maharaj's Ashrama'.

Shyambazar Vidyasagar SchoolFrom 1920, Vijay lived mostly at 'Jnan Maharaj's Ashrama' and used to commute to school from there. In the meanwhile, he lost his father and mother in 1916 and 1919 respectively. In 1919 Vijay passed the Entrance examination from Shyambazar Vidyasagar School in the first division securing a Merit scholarship with Letters in as many as five subjects out of seven. In 1921 after passing the Intermediate in Arts examination in the first division with a Merit Scholarship he joined the B.A. class with Honours in Philosophy. He attended college in his dhoti and fatua (makeshift shirt) throughout, conspicuous with a large tuft on his head - an out and out brahmacharin.

In 1921 Swami Saradananda initiated Vijay with Mantradiksha at the Mother's house. Following this, at 9.30 AM on 30 December, Sunday in the year 1923 (15th Pousha 1330 B.S.) on the auspicious occasion of the Holy Mother's birthday tithi Mahapurush Maharaj initiated him with Brahmacharya diksha at the old shrine room of the Belur Math. Vijay was reborn as 'Priya Chaitanya'. Thus began his formal monastic life.

Belur Math . . . thenSwami Brahmanandaji had passed away when Vijay Chandra formally joined the Math, and the President of the Order was Swami Shivanandaji Maharaj. Encouraged by Mahapurush Maharaj, intellectual pursuits flourished at the Math under the leadership of Swamis Suddhananda and Omkarananda. Vijay Chandra along with others studied Upanishads under Suddhanandaji. Pundit Tarasar Bhattacharya taught them Nyaya, Mimamsa and Vedanta philosophies and the Gita and the Panchadashi. Scriptural study and spiritual disciplines went hand in hand in Vijay's life. On several occasions he spent entire nights meditating at the Holy Mother's temple. In those days there was shortage of living rooms in the Math and many novices slept in the visitors' room. When others would fall asleep Vijay used to quietly leave the room and reach the Mother's temple where he would meditate for the entire night and return silently in the early morning.

Along with intensely pursuing spiritual disciplines and scriptural studies Vijay Chandra was cultivating the ideal of 'Service to man as service to God.' In the year 1926, Midnapore district was severely ravaged by floods immediately before the Durga puja celebrations. Vijay then served as the main assistant to Swami Nirvananandaji in refief operations. In 1928 he took the formal vow of sannyasa from Swami Shivananda and was named Swami Bhuteshananda. Thereafter, he went to Kashi for tapasya and returned to the Math towards the end of 1930 before going to Dhaka. After spending about eighteen months at Dhaka he returned to the Math and then went to Mysore in 1932 to join the Study Circle. There he got the opportunity to study Sri Bhasya, Sri Ramanuja's Commentary on the Brahma-sutras, under the guidance of the eminent scholar A. D. L. Srinivasachariar. Sri Subramanya Aiyar taught him Sankara's commentary on the Brahma-sutras. At the Study Circle he was not only a student but also a teacher and taught scriptures to other monks, his fellow students.

In 1934 he went to Uttarkashi for the second time to practise tapasya. Later he used to recount his daily routine to inspire his attendants: "I woke up daily at 2.30 A.M., took a wash and sat for japa and meditation. ...I had with me only three books of my own -the Kathamrita, the Gita and Sangeeta-sangraha. Bath was at 7.30, followed by meditation again. At 9.30 I left for the Annasatra (shelter where food is provided to monks) and by 10.30 or 11 whatever I received I ate on the bank of the Ganga. Coming back to my kuthia, I rested for a while and again sat for meditation. In the evening I walked a little on a flat stretch of land on a hill near the place I stayed. I ate only once a day, so I didn't have to bother about my supper. One day after following this routine for a year, I felt like examining my mind. So I just let it wander freely. I wanted to see where it would go, and what it would do. What a joy it was to see it ensconced happily at the feet of Thakur."

at ShillongIn April 1936, the Math authorities appointed him as the President of the Ramakrishna Math, Shillong. In September 1945, he become head of the Rajkot Math; then in 1965, Swami Bhuteshanandaji was appointed as one of the Trustees and a Member of the Governing body of Belur Math. In the following year, he assumed the position of one of the Assistant Secretaries and took over the additional task of overseeing the relief operations. He not only added a dimension of softness to administration, but also under his leadership the relief operations of the Mission expanded remarkably.

In April 1975, Swami Bhuteshanandaji became one of the Vice-Presidents of the Order and moved over to Yogodyan Math, Kankurgachi, a suburb of Calcutta. Following the mahasamadhi of Swami Gambhiranandaji, the Eleventh President of the Order, in January 1989, he became the Twelfth President. Thus began his noble role as the supreme leader of the Ramakrishna Math and Mission, which he discharged very ably until the last day of his life on 1Oth August 1998.

The outstanding feature of Bhuteshanandaji, the President of the Order, was his extraordinary love and compassion. Every member of the Math received the touch of the genial current of his soul. But he was a strict disciplinarian as regards moral principles. No one ever saw him angry throughout his long life; he was ever calm, composed yet steady and determined. Senior monks of the Order believed that he inherited this legacy from his Guru, Swami Saradananda. He was steadfast in rationality and strongly disliked emotionality and faith in the occult. Everybody used to wonder at his sharp memory, profound intelligence and his ever-vibrant mind. Verily his entire life was an incomparable work of art. Blessed with an extremely jovial mind he ever lived in joy and made all around him joyous.

'Barabhay'Swami Bhuteshanandaji was indeed a vast reservoir of knowledge. We get only a glimpse of it in his works - Sri Sri Ramakrishna Kathamrita Prasanga, Kathopanishad, Mundukopanishad, Saranagati, Upanishad O Ajker Manush, Sri Ramakrishna-Bhavadarsa, etc.

Maharaj's love for pilgrimage was innate in him. He travelled far and wide and visited many pilgrim centres. During the long spell of twenty-three years as Vice President and President of the Order he travelled to many countries including Singapore, Fiji, Japan, Australia, America, Canada, England, France, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, and carried the ideals and ideas of Ramakrishna-Mother-Vivekananda to innumerable people. On the holy birthday tithi of Acharya Shankar the 16th May 1975, he began to initiate people at the Yogodyan Math. On that particular day he initiated seven persons into Mantradiksha. Since then, till the last day of his life, he untiringly discharged his responsibility as the spiritual pathfinder. Even at the age of ninty seven years, at the end he was lively, and mentally alert man. On 30th July 1998, he initiated fifty persons at Belur Math. They were the last of his 1,21,027 disciples. He passed away shortly after in August 1998.