Swami Tapasyananda(1904-1991) Maharaj was born in 1904 in an aristocratic family of Ottapalam in Kerala. Known in his pre-monastic days as K. P. Balakrishnan Menon, he came into contact with the Ramakrishna-Vivekananda Movement and its literature at a young age.
In 1921 he met Swami Brahmananda Maharaj and Swami Shivananda Maharaj when they visited Chennai. He received Mantra Diksha from Swami Shivananda Maharaj in December 1924. After completing his postgraduation in 1925 from the Presidency College, Chennai, he joined the order at Ramakrishna Mission Students’ Home, Chennai, in 1926. In 1932 he received sannyasa diksha from his guru, Swami Shivananda Maharaj. From 1931 to 1939 he edited the English magazine Vedanta Kesari. He was appointed in 1940 head of the Ramakrishna Ashrama, Thiruvananthapuram, where he spent the next three decades, developing the small dispensary there into a big hospital to serve poor people.
From 1971 till the end he was the head of Sri Ramakrishna Math, Chennai. During this period there was a phenomenal growth and expansion of the Math activities in spiritual, medical, educational, publication and preaching spheres. In November 1965 he was appointed a trustee of the Ramakrishna Math and a member of the Governing Body of the Ramakrishna Mission. In 1985 he was elected one of the Vice-Presidents of the order, and in that capacity, he gave mantra diksha and guided hundreds of earnest seekers on the spiritual path.
Swami Tapasyananda attained Mahasamadhi on 3 October 1991 in a hospital in Chennai. He was 87.
The swami was an erudite scholar. His contribution to the order’s literature has been immense. He translated many Sanskrit scriptures into English, the most outstanding of which is his four-volume translation of Srimad Bhagavata. His other translations include Bhagavad Gita, Adhyatma Ramayana, Sundara Kandam, Narayaneeyam, Bhakti Ratnavali, Sri Vishnu Sahasranama, Sri Lalita Sahasranama, Saundarya Lahari, Shivananda Lahari, and Kapilopadesha. He also wrote short biographies of Sri Ramakrishna, Sri Sarada Devi and Swami Vivekananda. His Sri Sarada Devi, the Holy Mother, a detailed biography of Sri Sarada Devi, published way back in 1940, continues to be a favourite among devotees. The last important book he wrote was Bhakti Schools of Vedanta, which is a masterly study of the philosophies of Vedantic teachers Ramanuja, Madhva, Nimbarka, Chaitanya, and Vallabha.
He was an inspiring personality entirely dedicated to the ideals of the Ramakrishna Sangha and was loved and respected by all for his austere life of self-discipline, dedication, service and devotion.