Surendranath Mitra (1850-90)—One of the foremost lay disciples of the Master, considered to be one of his four “suppliers” of provisions. A handsome, young man holding a well-paid job as commercial agent of the large British firm, Dost Co. An atheist at first, led an unprincipled, bohemian life. An outspoken man with a large heart. Persuaded by his neighbour Ramchandra Datta, accompanied him and Manomohan Mitra to Dakshineswar sometime in the middle of 1880 and met the Master. Having gone reluctantly and prepared to scoff, returned as an ardent devotee of Sri Ramakrishna. Visited him regularly, provided food and bed for devotees spending a night with the Master. The latter attended Annapurna Puja at Surendra’s residence on three occasions and his garden-house at Kankurgachhi twice (26.12.1883 and 15.6.1884). Surendra first celebrated the Master’s birthday at Dakshineswar and bore all the expenses on the first two occasions. Narendranath first met the Master at his house in November 1881. Also said to have taken Narendranath on his first visit to Dakshineswar. Had the first oil painting of the Master made in which he is shown pointing out to Keshab the harmony of Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, etc. Keshab Sen commented, “Blessed is the man who conceived the idea.” The Master too was pleased, saying “It contains everything…” Took the Master to a studio at Radhabazar in Calcutta and had him photographed on 10.12.1881, the second of the Master’s three photos while living. Much against the wishes of his family Surendra celebrated Durga Puja at his residence (October 1885) with a heavy heart, the Master lying ill at Shyampukur. At the time of Sandhi Puja the Master passed into samadhi and his astral body visited Surendra’s house. Emerging from the state of samadhi he described to devotees a luminous path from “here” to Surendra’s house that he had seen in that state, the image of Durga with rays of light coming out of Her third eye, and also rows of lamps lighted in the verandah. Having also seen Surendra sitting in front of Mother and weeping bitterly, the Master asked the devotees present to go to Surendra’s house and there they found everything as he had described (Sri Ramakrishna, the Great Master, Vol. 2, p. 199).
At the Master’s behest Surendra paid the rent of the garden-house at Cossipore and bore other expenses too. After the Master’s demise Surendra had a vision of the Master who commanded him to do something for his young, “homeless” devotees. With a monthly allowance for him the house at Baranagore was rented. Was said to have thus laid the foundation of the great Order later associated with the Master’s name, making it possible for the young devotees to live together in renunciation. Died of dropsy on 25.5.1890. Rs. 1000 left by him to build a shrine for the Master was spent on the marble flooring of the shrine at Belur Math. The Master had said to him, “You spend more than you earn.” Had had a novel symbol of religious harmony made with the symbols of different religions such as the cross etc. Keshab Chandra Sen had once carried that symbol during a procession that passed through the streets of Calcutta singing devotional songs.