When I was in the Training Centre for Brahmacharis at Belur Math, I would go to Shantananda Maharaj’s room which was in Premananda Bhavan ground floor (just opposite to Swami Vivekananda’s Temple). One afternoon, when I was in Maharaj’s room, Swami Chidatmanandaji who was one of the Assistant Secretaries in the Head Quarters’ Office came to meet Maharaj. He had brought with him a respectable looking gentleman. After pranams, Chidatmanandaji introduced the gentleman as a judge in the Supreme Court of India.
Shantananda Maharaj was so innocent of worldly matters, that he asked the gentleman, “How much salary do you get? Can you manage your family comfortably? When do you have to go to office?” The judge replied tactfully, and was so moved by Maharaj’s innocence and concern that he again and again prostrated before Maharaj.
When I read in the newspapers about Jawaharlal Nehru’s death, I conveyed it to Shantanandaji. Maharaj then asked me, “Who was he? What was he doing?” I managed the situation. Such was Maharaj’s disinterest in worldly matters!
— Swami Suhitanandaji
Seek Mother’s advice
I had the good fortune to be the sevak of Swami Shantananda Maharaj. When he contracted tuberculosis, he was in our Kashi ashrama. I slept on the floor next to his cot. Maharaj was not told about his having T.B. There was no cure for T.B. in those days and he was given only calcium tablets and a special diet including Horlicks. Santanandaji would tell me, “You are doing work whole day. So take this Horlicks. He would take some and give me the rest as prasad. I also partook of some other food items in this manner. Finally, when his health deteriorated. it was arranged to take him to the T.B. Sanatorium at Shimla in Himachal Pradesh. Maharaj was puzzled at this unforeseen transfer to a new place. At the King Edwards the Seventh Memorial T.B.Sanatorium, we had separate rooms and the forest scene was very beautiful. Maharaj understood his condition and asked me, “Oh! I am a T.B. patient! That is why I am having a separate room?”
He became very grave and indrawn and did not answer the doctors’ questions. I wondered if he was afraid of death and thought of writing to Belur Math. On the 5th day, he received me with a beautiful smile. He asked me, “How do you like this place?” I was astonished to hear his happy voice. I asked in a casual manner, “Maharaj, what happened to you these past few days?” He replied, “Will you believe me if I told you?” “Of course” I replied. Then he said, “When I knew that I am suffering from T.B. I was worried about you. How foolish I was. I never thought about your health. We were in the same closed room and you drank Horlicks from the same cup. If you get T.B. I won’t have peace even after my death. You are very young. So, I called Mother incessantly ‘Ma, I don’t have anyone. If I have at least a little bhakti grant me a boon.’ Yesterday Mother came and asked ‘Now what do you want?’ I told her, ‘I am going to die soon. But this boy must not die of this disease.’ Mother replied ‘Let it be so.’”
Holy Mother Sri Sarada Devi had once told Shantanandaji how to receive her advice: “If there is any crisis in your life, remember me. Isolate yourself from others for a few days, and practise japa and meditation intensely. Pray wholeheartedly and ask me ‘Mother what shall I do?’ During that period, eat less and keep your body and mind pure. Try to maintain silence and speak only if it is absolutely necessary. Don’t let other people know what you are doing. Continue your prayers and sadhana in this way with a one-pointed mind. Never lose patience. If you see that you are not receiving my command, still you should not give up. If you find that no response is coming, then know for certain that your mind has not risen high enough to receive my advice. You will definitely receive my advice if you call on me with a wholehearted faith and devotion.”
— Swami Sridharananda
Once Swami Shantananda Maharaj told me , “I see that you remain so engaged on attending on me that you are unable to carry out the spiritual instructions of your guru. I will teach you a means that will help you achieve the very thing for which your guru’s instructions are meant.” By guru’s instructions were meant such acts as remembering God, and establishing God in one’s heart etc. So what was that method? Maharaj told me, “Salil – please try doing japam along with your breath.” It sounded easy to practise , but the catch lay in often forgetting to do it. I was a novice and the mind was yet restless. So Maharaj would often ask, “Salil, are you doing the japam?” A little taken aback and ashamed I would answer , “No Maharaj , I forgot.” He would then say, “Initially there will be such forgetfulness. But keep on doing japam as you breathe.” And sure enough I had to own up to such forgetfulness a number of times. One day he scolded me saying, “Why is it that you keep forgetting to remember the name of your Ishta? Are you not ashamed How long will this go on? I do not want to hear any more of your apologetic ‘Maharaj, I’ve forgotten.’ Do try seriously.”
Then onwards, my heart would tremble if he were to just call my name, fearing he would ask , ‘Salil – are you doing Japam?’ It went on like this for a while. Then one day hearing him just utter ‘Salil’ I spontaneously responded ‘Yes, Maharaj’. Maharaj was visibly excited and, getting up from bed said to me , “You have made a good start – do not give it up. It’s already become a habit. By doing this continually, your japam will be automatically synchronised with your breathing and you will hear the ‘Anahata’ sound. You’ll get to know about this by reading shastras.” Finding him in such joy I forgot about myself. Indeed, his joy made my motivation deeper and stronger. From then on, I did not have to say ‘No’ to him in this regard. As my daily routine was intimately linked with his life, Maharaj was very vigilant about my daily spiritual practices and provided the impetus in getting me established in ‘ajapa japam’. Such is the great gain of having come in touch of great souls.
— Swami Sridharananda
Power of prayer
Devotional literature lays stress on the efficacy of prayer. We find Sri Ramakrishna too time and again asserting the power of praying with intense longing. He would say, “Pray to God with a longing heart. He will surely listen to your prayer if it is sincere.” One day, in the holy association of Shantananda Maharaj, we were most fortunate to witness a living validation of these divine words of Sri Ramakrishna.
One day, a little before evening, Swami Santoshanandaji, Secretary of Belghoria Ramakrishna Mission, came to pay respects to Shantananda Maharaj. Santoshanandaji too was a disciple of Holy Mother Sri Sarada Devi; he was junior to Shantanandaji both in age and in sannyasa-diksha. After offering his pranams Santoshanandaji said, “Maharaj, West Bengal is now in the grip of a terrible drought. If there is no rainfall soon, the poor people solely dependent on agriculture will starve to death. Why don’t you pray to Mother for rainfall?” Hearing these words, Shantanandaji, with a smile on his face, turned to Santoshanandaji and sweetly replied, “You too are a child of Holy Mother. Why don’t you pray to her?” And then something extraordinary happened. These two sannayasi-children of Holy Mother started praying to Mother with the heartrending cry ‘Maa’, ‘Maa’; tears streamed down their faces. Speechless, we sat drinking in those divine moments of prayer. As the evening wore on I came back to the hostel and went about the usual evening routine. As I was finally preparing to go to bed that night – lo and behold! – rain started pouring down in torrents! It rained the whole night. All along, I felt that the tears of those two senior sannyasis were verily coming down as streams of rainwater.
Later I came to know about a similar incident in the life of Holy Mother. On a similar occasion of severe drought, the farmers of Jayrambati village narrated their difficult plight to Holy Mother. Holy Mother, seeing the desiccated fields all around, was moved to great pity and, with tears, she prayed to Sri Ramakrishna, “Oh! Thakur, why did you do this? Will they all die of starvation?” On that occasion too, there was a heavy rainfall all through the night and the harvest of that year far outstripped that of other years.
— Swami Divyananda
Consulting Holy Mother
Once, Swami Vedantananda (Anukul Maharaj), the Head of Ranchi Sanatorium centre was disturbed by the strained resources of the Hospital and the increasing difficulty in running the Sanatorium. Shantanandaji Maharaj was then staying at the Sanatorium centre.
One day, Swami Shantanandaji, standing on the veranda of his Kutia (now known as Shantananda Kutia) asked Anukul Maharaj why he was looking so despondent. Anukul Maharaj then explained the utter paucity of funds to carry out the medical activities and hence his thought of recommending to Belur Math authorities to close down the Sanatorium.
Swami Shantananda instantly admonished him for thinking so. He said that he would ‘converse’ with the Holy Mother and would let him know her opinion in this matter. After three days or so, when Anukul Maharaj was walking along the Kutia path, Swami Shantanandaji came out of his room and shouted from a distance, “Come quickly Anukul, I have happy news for you!”. Anukul Maharaj heard him with rapt attention. Shantanandaji said that he had talked to Holy Mother and she had said the Sanatorium need not be closed down and the required funds would come soon!
Within a short time, in a miraculous manner, a Bengali gentleman living in London expressed his interest in donating a substantial amount to Ranchi Sanatorium on his visit to India. Swami Atmasthanandaji Maharaj was then the Assistant Secretary of Ranchi Sanatorium. He was there from 1952 – 1958. So, he went to Belur Math and from there to a hotel in Calcutta where he met the gentleman and his wife. The gentleman gave a cheque for 15 lakhs rupees! It was a huge sum in those days and it resolved the financial problems of Ranchi Sanatorium!
— Swami Vimokshananda