Swami Gambhiranandaji, was the President of the Order. Once I went to meet him in his room and humbly asked him, “Maharaj, when I surrender the fruits of my actions, be it positive or negative to Sri Ramakrishna, I do it wholeheartedly. But still I find that my ego crops up and I either feel proud of the success or sorry for failure. How to overcome this problem?” Maharaj advised, “Keep up the habit of surrendering yourself daily and remember Sri Ramakrishna and Swamiji before and after any work. Gradually the hold of ego will become weak.” Then he added “See, to do sadhana one should possess qualities of steadiness and patience.”
— Swami Animeshananda
I joined the Order in 1976 at Belur Math. After a few days I came to know that Swami Gambhirananda Maharaj, the General Secretary of the Order, was a strict disciplinarian and stickler to punctuality. As his eyesight was poor, every day at 2 P.M. somebody would read out to him newly published books. Coming to know of this I once approached him and audaciously said that I wanted to read out the books to him. He agreed. I would reach his room before 2 P.M. He would come out of his bedroom exactly at 2 o’clock and go to the Office which was the adjacent room. He would give the book and tell the pages to be read. I would read sitting across the table. After some days, one hot April afternoon I overslept and woke up at exactly 2 P.M. I rushed to Maharaj’s office and was 5-6 minutes late. After I made pranams, he signalled me to sit. Then he turned an alarm clock on the table towards me without saying anything. I was embarrassed and apologised. I learnt the importance of punctuality and was never late again.
— Swami Nikhileswarananda
Value of 2 minutes
I had the blessed fortune to serve Swami Gambhiranandaji as his sevak. Maharaj strictly followed a daily routine. In those days, at 5.00 P.M. he would go out for his afternoon walk. One day I came to him and said, “Maharaj, it’s time for your walk; please get ready.” “I am ready. You are late,” pat came the reply. I said, “No, Maharaj, it is now 5.00 o’clock.” Maharaj then just picked up the table clock with his left hand, read the time, and told me, “Just look at it.” I replied, “Maharaj, it is only two minutes past five. It’s nothing.” After a little pause, Maharaj asked me, “Do you know at what speed a Boeing flight travels?” I gestured that I didn’t know. Then Maharaj said, “Listen, a Boeing plane flies at the speed of six hundred kilometres an hour. In a minute it goes ten kilometres and twenty kilometres in two minutes. And you say that two minutes is nothing!”
— Swami Nirantarananda
Karmaphala of a brahmajnani
One day Gambhirananda Maharaj spoke to me about the four castes and the duties assigned to them in the Gita. He said that each will get the fruit of his actions. Then referring to a man of Knowledge, a Brahmajnani, he asked what would happen to the fruits of his action? I kept quiet as I did not know the answer, being just a novice. Then Maharaj said that those who served him and spoke well of him will get the fruits of his good actions; those who derided him and spoke ill of him will get the fruits of bad actions performed unintentionally by him. He himself will remain untouched.
— Swami Satyapriyananda
How to handle a mistake?
It was the year probably 1977 or 78. I was working in the Mission Headquarters Office at Belur Math as assistant to a senior Swami who was in-charge of the Accounts Department. One day this swami showed me the draft of a letter to be sent to a branch centre. Young and immature as I was, I immediately blurted out that the sentences were not grammatically correct. The swami became very upset. He caught hold of my hand and virtually dragged me to the room of Swami Gambhirananda Maharaj whose office and residence was in the first floor of the then Headquarters Office. He went and told Maharaj straightaway, “Maharaj, this upstart is saying that your language is not grammatically correct.” Then only I realized that the letter had been dictated by Maharaj. But, Maharaj was calmness personified. He did not make any comment, but simply said, “Please read the draft.” When he read out, Maharaj remarked, “He is right. Please take down.” He dictated a fresh letter. I was stunned beyond words. Maharaj, who had written innumerable books and was so highly qualified, obviously could not have made that grammatical error. It was the mistake of the swami who took down the dictation and that was because he was somewhat short of hearing. But, Maharaj did not go into any of these details. Neither did he reprimanded the swami, nor did he praise me. He simply dealt with the matter in the most matter of fact manner. He did what was immediately necessary i.e., to correct the error by giving a fresh dictation. Maharaj was the administrative head of the worldwide organisation, an outstanding sannyasi with 60 years as a sannyasi in the Order, and I was a rank beginner in the Order just about six months old, and yet the way he dealt with the situation was truly amazing. It was a great lesson of calmness, equanimity, perfection, etc.
— Swami Shantatmananda
My mother and Holy Mother
I joined Belur Math as a novice in 1985. Soon after joining I had a very keen mental turmoil. Swami Atmasthananda Maharaj, who was in-charge of Pre Probationers Training Centre, where the newly joined young brahmacharis live, sensed that I was undergoing some kind of mental agony. When he found out what it was, he arranged for me to meet Swami Gambhirananda Maharaj, who was then the President of the Order.
When I went to Maharaj’s quarters at 4.00 P.M. Maharaj was sitting on his easy chair. Though he looked very grave, there was a kind of spiritual bliss in the room. He asked me, “Yes, my child what is troubling you so much? Thakur has given shelter to you. Tell me what is there in your mind.”
I then told Maharaj. “I love my mother very much; in a way I am a mother’s boy. At home, every morning I used to bow down to my mother. Now, that I have left home, is it alright if I continue to mentally offer pranams to my mother? Or will it create problems in my monastic life and spiritual journey? Hearing this, Maharaj laughed heartily and then commented, “Mother’s grace in there on you. Now you do this. In the morning after getting up when you offer pranams to your own mother, think that she is Bhagavati Herself. Our Upanishads also tell matru devo bhava, ‘May your mother be a god unto you.’ And then when you make pranams to Holy Mother Sri Sarada Devi, do so with the bhava or feeling that it is she who has given birth to you.”
Continuing, Maharaj asked, “Is this okay my child? Our Holy Mother, is mother of all, the real mother. Read Holy Mother’s life and think, ponder on various aspects of her life. She will definitely bless you and I too will pray for you.”
My mental anguish vanished forever. And I believe that it is definitely Holy Mother’s grace and the effect of Gambhirananda Maharaj’s prayer and blessings, that I had the opportunity to sing the glory of Holy Mother for 14 long years at our Pune Ashrama, and also conduct Sunday discourse on Holy Mother from 2003 to 2016.
— Swami Suvijneyananda
Goodness over rules
I used to look after the legal part of the work in the Order’s headquarters when Swami Gambhiranandaji was the General Secretary. Whatever letters came by post would first be read by Maharaj. He would write my name on some of the letters. This meant that his Assistant Secretaries would read those letters and pass them on to me. I would then have to discuss these letters with Maharaj and frame proper replies.
Once a letter came from a Board of Trustees of an organisation from Bombay. They were requesting for a copy of the Rules and Regulations of Ramakrishna Mission. They had also mentioned that the Ramakrishna Mission was marching forward in a disciplined way because its rules and regulations were very good. Hence, they wanted to adopt some of these rules into their own organisation. When I read out this letter to Maharaj, he immediately said, “That’s not it! Our Order is doing well not because the rules are good, but because the men are good. The day the members become spoilt no rule will be able to save this Order.”
— Swami Rudratmananda
Swami Gambhiranandaji kept an eye on how the sadhus and brahmacharis developed their sense of brotherhood in the Order. Once during his evening walk, Maharaj went towards the Training Centre for Brahmacharis. Meeting a Brahmachari on the way, Maharaj asked him, “How many of you are there in the Training Centre?”
“Here we are 70 people,” replied the brahmachari.
“Oh! You are people!” remarked Maharaj.
Understanding Maharaj’s intention, the brahmachari again replied, “No, Maharaj, we are brahmacharis.”
‘Say that,” was Maharaj’s comment.
— Swami Nirantarananda
My life has been impacted by his scholarship, renunciation, devotion and punctuality. Not only was he fond of scriptural studies, he also encouraged others to do so. Also, he would be upset if any day went by when he could not do any writing. Similarly, he would keep a strict watch on whether our studies were progressing properly. A few months before he breathed his last, he had told me, “Look here, wherever you are posted after my passing away don’t give up the study of the Upanishads.” In this way he would motivate us.
Once we went to Agartala. In the evening he asked me, “Ratan, have you studied something today?”
I replied, “ No, Maharaj.”
“Why not?” asked Maharaj.
“I did not get the time. After arriving all the time was spent in settling in.”
“See, amidst all this, you have to find time to study.” Maharaj then quoted this sloka “samudra santakallole snatumicchati durmatih “He is a foolish person who says that he will bathe in the sea after it becomes calm without waves.”
Often he would ask, “How are you progressing in your Sanskrit studies?” At night before Maharaj went to bed, I had to recite in front of him one sloka from the Upanishad or Gita. One night the doctors had come to see him. I thought that I would not have to recite a sloka that night. But just before going to bed he called out, “Today Ratan did not recite a sloka! Without hearing the sloka I cannot get sleep.”
I have seen his dedication. Whenever he decided to do something, he would do it then and there.
— Swami Amalatmananda
Devotion to truth
Once, during the morning walk a monstic attendant accompanied Swami Gambhiranandaji. As they walked by the Brahmacharis’ Training Centre, the attendent plucked some fragrant flowers from the Training Centre garden to put them in Maharaj’s room.
When Maharaj smelt the fragrance, he asked the attendant:
“What flowers are these, and who has brought them?”
“Maharaj, during the morning walk I brought them from the garden of the Training Centre.”
“Did you take permission to pluck them?”
“No, Maharaj.” “Without asking if you take something which belongs to others, it is an act of theft.”
Then Maharaj sent the attendant to inform the Head of the Training Centre and seek forgiveness for having plucked the flowers without permission.
— Swami Yogeshwarananda
Mother has seen me!
Swami Gambhirananda Maharaj, had come to Mysore as the President of the Ramakrishna Order. As is the practice, he was to visit Goddess Chamundeshwari, the presiding deity of Mysore. For the convenience of Maharaj to get in and out with minimum effort, a car with a low floor (Fiat car) was arranged to take him and his monastic assistant to the hill top temple at 7 P.M. Since the Head Priest of the temple was known to me, the President of Mysore Ashrama had asked me to escort Revered Maharaj. I was cautioned before hand that the aged Maharaj should not be made to stand for a long time in the temple and the darshan of the Divine Mother was the only priority. Accordingly Maharaj was escorted to the very door step of the brightly illuminated sanctum for a clear darshan of the Deity. Besides, Maharaj used a pair of tiny binoculars to have the clearest view of the Divine Mother. Arati over, Maharaj was escorted straight to the car, specially permitted to be parked at the main entrance of the temple. While driving back to Ashrama, I asked, ‘Maharaj, could you have darshan of Mother?’ After a little pause Maharaj replied in a steady voice, “No matter! Mother would have seen me!!” I was shocked. Even decades after this incident, I get thrilled whenever I recall the firm conviction of Maharaj. Yes, great sadhus look at things in great perspectives.
— Keerthi Kumar