Swami Nirvananandaji (familiarly known as Surya Maharaj) is remembered in the Ramakrishna Order for his devoted service as a personal attendant to Swami Brahmananda Maharaj.
Birth and Early Life
Swami Nirvanananda was born in what is now known as Palang district in Bangladesh on 10 May 1890. He was named Girindra Kumar Sen by his parents. Girindra had indomitable energy, bubbling spirit and a daring nature from childhood. To such a mental makeup were added idealism, spirit of service and sacrifice and love for the country in his teenage. He grew up in an atmosphere charged with nationalistic sentiments. He became an active member of an organization fighting for the independence of the country from British rule. Also, he had taken solemn oaths to practice moral principles and build up an unblemished character. He enjoyed a healthy and well-built body even from his student days, thanks to regular exercise. Like many youths of his age, he came under the influence of Swami Vivekananda’s thoughts. From Swami Vivekananda to Sri Ramakrishna was but a small step. His study of the Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna revealed to him the names of Swami Brahmananda and other monastic disciples of Sri Ramakrishna. Feeling attracted to Swami Brahmananda, he started writing letters to him.
Beginning of Monastic Life
Towards the end of 1913, Girindra went to Varanasi intending to join the Ramakrishna Order. There he met Swami Brahmananda for the first time and was much impressed by his bright smiling face, childlike simplicity and benign nature. Swami Brahmananda allowed him to remain in Varanasi Home of Service as a brahmacharin and gave him mantra diksha. While in Varanasi, he had also the privilege of living in the company of Swami Shivananda Maharaj and Swami Turiyananda Maharaj.
Girindra began his monastic life in Varanasi serving sick people at the Home of Service (hospital). The ideal of the institution shiva jnane jiva seva stirred his heart, and he derived much satisfaction in attending to various duties in the hospital. Added to this was the spiritually elevating presence of his guru Swami Brahmananda who had remained there for quite a few months.
Towards the end of February 1916, Girindra came to Belur Math and was ordained a monk and received the name Swami Nirvanananda.
A glorious chapter began in the life of Swami Nirvanananda in November 1917 when he was appointed a sevak of Swami Brahmananda. From then on he served him with exemplary devotion and dedication until Swami Brahmananda’s passing away in April 1922. As a sevak, his mind was attuned to the needs of his master and he would remain at his disposal all through the day and night. Swami Brahmananda was also immensely pleased with his service and he blessed him, “You will attain Brahma-jnana (the knowledge of Brahman)”.
After the passing away of Swami Brahmananda, Swami Nirvanananda was appointed head of Bhubaneswar Math in May 1922. After about four years, he was called back to Belur Math to serve as its Manager and take care of relief activities of the Math and Mission.
He was appointed a trustee of the Ramakrishna Math and a member of the Governing Body of the Ramakrishna Mission in 1929. He went back to Bhubaneswar to serve as the head of the centre there in 1931. He worked very hard to develop the centre in every respect. Those who had seen him in those days remember him as a dynamic monk with indefatigable enthusiasm and at the same time deeply drawn to meditation and austerities. He built a small kutir in a secluded corner for meditation. This kutir is known as ‘Nirvanananda Sadhan Kutir’.
In December 1939, he was once again appointed Manager of Belur Math. He held this responsible post for the next 26 years. He paid particular attention to keep up the religious traditions set by Swami Brahmananda and other disciples of Sri Ramakrishna. He also oversaw several major relief operations.
Swami Nirvanananda visited the USA along with Swami Madhavananda Maharaj in 1956 to take part in the temple consecration at Santa Barbara. He was elevated to the office of the Vice-President of the order in February 1966. About a year before this, he had been authorized to give spiritual initiation to devotees. He guided a large number of devotees in the path of devotion and liberation.
Swami Nirvanananda’s two significant contributions to the order were his role in acquiring the house of Sri Balaram Bose in Kolkata (it is now known as Balaram Mandir) and founding an ashrama in Sikra-Kulingram, the sacred birthplace of Swami Brahmananda Maharaj.
Swami Nirvanananda passed away at Belur Math on 6 April 1984 at the age of 94.