Swami Swarupananda (8.7.1871-27.6.1906)
A true disciple of Swamiji. Pre-monastic name Ajay Hari Banerjee, born on 8.7.1871 in an affluent family of south Calcutta. Imbibed qualities of piety and humility from parents. Highly educated and with a flair for Sanskrit, set up a “Bhagavat Chatushpathi” (Sanskrit school for Bhagavat studies) collaborating with Satishchandra Mukherjee, the great patriot and scholar. Joint Editor with him of the monthly Dawn, the organ of the Dawn Society. Met Swamiji upon his return to Calcutta in 1897, ordained into sannyasa by him on 29.3.98 following which he announced to others, “We have made an acquisition today.” At his behest Swarupananda taught Sister Nivedita Bengali and soon became her spiritual guide. She wrote, “Under the influence of the Swami Swarupananda, I began seriously the attempt at meditation” (The Master as I Saw Him, 9th ed., p. 87). Swarupananda accompanied Swamiji to Almora (May 1898) and benefitted much from the close association at Thompson House where the latter discussed his plans, the purpose and how the Order was to function. As Swamiji wished, Capt. Sevier took charge of Prabuddha Bharata which recommenced publication in August 1898 from Thompson House in Almora with Swarupananda as the Editor. Under his efficient editorship it became “a powerful organ for disseminating the ideals of Sri Ramakrishna and Swami Vivekananda”. Swamiji’s inspired writings were its assets. To alleviate the poverty and ignorance of the local people Swarupananda taught them the methods of cultivation, set up two schools and the charitable dispensary at Mayavati. Visited Jaipur in 1899 and learning about the terrible famine at Kishangarh, at once joined Swami Kalyanananda in serving the famine-stricken people, the work going on for about a year. The latter sought his help before starting the Kankhal Sevashrama and the two begged from door to door at Nainital thus collecting some money. Also collected funds for earthquake relief operations at Dharamsala in 1905. Strove tirelessly for spreading the teachings of the Master and Swamiji. In December 1902 delivered a series of lectures on Vedanta at Allahabad for a period of three months which so enthused the people that they wanted a centre to be started there. Began the work of collecting and publishing Swamiji’s works, had even started printing parts of it. His English translation of the Bhagavad Gita much appreciated by scholars, his writings in the Prabuddha Bharata testify to his scholarship.
On his way to Nainital via Almora fell ill and died at Lala Amar Sah’s residence at Nainital on 27.6.1906. Sister Nivedita wrote, “… To those who leaned on him in the hour of trial, he gave unfaltering tenderness and protection. And to all alike his life made visible those ideals of purity and austerity which were ever the objects of his passionate quest” (Prabuddha Bharata, August 1906). “By seeing him, I gradually realized that this is the right synthesis of the yogas of Jnana and Karma” (Excerpt from Mrs. Sarala Devi Chowdhurani’s autobiography).