Great souls come to this plane to liberate people from the life of bondage and misery. But we, as ordinary mortals cannot recognize them. They come silently, they live silently and pass away silently, leaving behind the notable works for the posterity! Swami Shivatatvananda was one amongst them. He was the second generation disciple of Swami Shivananda. Thus, he belonged to the great paraṁparā – the legacy of Bhagavan Sri Ramakrishna, Swami Shivananda and Swami Bhaskareshwarananda.
Swami Bhaskareshwarananda, the spiritual guide of Swami Shivatatvananda, was the first president and also the founder of the Ramakrishna Math, Nagpur. It is known from the authentic sources that when Swami Shivananda had asked Swami Bhaskareshwarananda to go to Nagpur for opening a centre of the Ramakrishna Order, Swami Bhaskareshwarananda was a bit reluctant since he did not know Marathi, the language spoken in Nagpur, which, he thought, may stand as an obstacle in his work. Instantly, Swami Shivananda who had a deep insight in the realm of spirituality, explained in unequivocal words, “Don’t worry, a nineteen year old boy, named Narayan will come to you, to assist you in Thakur’s work!” This nineteen year old boy as prophesied by Swami Shivananda is none else but our Swami Shivatatvananda. Just at the age of nineteen, having an intense spiritual urge in his heart, Narayan went to meet Swami Bhaskareshwarananda, who was eagerly waiting for him. And here started the wonderful, touching and charming saga of the divine relationship between a perfect guide and a worthy disciple!
Swami Shivatatvananda was born in the year 1919 on 15th April, on the very auspicious day of Hanumāna -Paurṇimā, in a small village named Lahiri-Sawangi, District Amaravati, in Maharashtra. His pre-monastic name was Narayan Shankar Benodekar. A very bright and brilliant student, Narayan completed his school and college education at Akola, Amaravati and Nagpur. He had his Master degree in Sanskrit, securing first position in the Nagpur University. He joined the Ramakrishna Math, Nagpur in 1942. Here he practised his sādhanā with complete dedication, sincerity and one-pointedness. Narayan spent almost forty years in the divine company of Swami Bhaskareshwarananda, who always paid special attention to him for his spiritual progress. He used to say, “Narayan, by your evolution, I get fulfilled.” Beneath the shower of this advaita (non-dual) love, Narayan’s spiritual life blossomed.
Swami Shivatavananda, destined for Sri Ramakrishna’s mission of preaching Vedanta, confined himself to his room in the Nagpur Math for about thirty years and brought out a spiritual treasure for the aspirants in Maharashtra. He translated Sri Ramakrishna Leela-Prasang, Sri Ramakrishna Kathamrita, and quite a big portion of Swami Vivekananda’s Complete Works in Marathi, indeed a Herculean task through which he brought the lives and teachings of the Holy Trinity to Marathi people, to their hearts and souls, actually transforming countless lives. Being a gifted scholar, a noted writer and a speaker, he was given the responsibility of starting a Marathi monthly magazine Jeevan-Vikas and holding weekly discourses for local devotees. He was the chief editor of this magazine from 1957 upto 1977. Apart from translations he has around twenty-two books to his credit out of which eighteen are published by Ramakrishna Math, Nagpur from the editorials of Jeevan-Vikas and four are published by Sri Ramakrishna Ashrama, Buldhana. All these books in Marathi are indeed highly thought-provoking and truth-reflecting, presenting the gems of Vedanta in its pristine and uncorrupted form. We can appreciate the force of logic, the feel of beauty and the fragrance of the spirit more and more as we read, meditate and start living the truths presented by him in his works, in his own inimitable style. A serious and sincere aspirant can very well notice his literary talent, his intellectual acumen and his spiritual genius speaking through these timeless classics.
Sadhaka’s attainment of samādhi, his life-building, was the sole aim of this realised soul and so his literature is a living literature, ever-effulgent with the consciousness of ‘Thou and Thine’, hammering constantly on the false, unreal and illusive consciousness of ‘I and mine’. Thus unfolding the secret of sādhanā, he interpreted the philosophy of Vedanta in a very simple and lucid manner and brought its essence within the fold of common people, without any distinction. This most reviving, rejuvenating literature brought revolution in the spiritual field of Maharashtra, reawakening people for the supreme goal of God-realisation in human life.
Known as a scholar sādhu, Swami Shivatatvananda was a perfect jñānī, having a feelingful heart. His tender touch of feelings, without much expression would raise the minds of devotees to a higher level. He was very much praised for his perfection in work. By his actual way of living life, he has shown how to bring perfection in work. With one-pointed devotion he used to do his work as worship of God, totally free from the doer-deed-dynamism consciousness. People witnessed in him a supreme jñānī, an ideal bhakta and a perfect karmayogī– a fully evolved spiritual personality with all these three facets.
Having stayed in Ramakrishna Math, Nagpur for about 35 long years he moved to Sri Ramakrishna Ashrama, Buldhana founded by Swami Bhaskareshwarananda himself for his most beloved disciple to stay there in his later life, seeing beforehand the footsteps of destiny. In this serene and solemn atmosphere charged with spiritual vibrations, like a Gurukula in ancient times, Swami Shivatatvananda continued his mission of life-building, guiding sincere seekers who gathered around him in those days. His whole focus during the classes was life-building, life-transforming, purification and expansion of consciousness among the seekers.
As Swami Bhaskareshwarananda, a spiritual giant used to say “Spiritual life is primarily spiritual consciousness and not merely spiritual activity”, Swami Shivatatvananda actually lived his life on the plane of non-dual consciousness – life lived primarily in and through consciousness! It was the very breath of his life. He always remained calm, steady and tranquil amidst the shocks and blows of life, accepting them as God’s will.
After completing his mission, this great follower on the path of advaita, finally became one with his spiritual guide on the same day of Maunī-Amāvasyā when Rev. Bhaskareshwarananda had taken Mahāsamādhi in 1976. Thus while living as well as while leaving this world, he showed his complete communion, complete oneness with him. Evolving many on this spiritual path through his mission of preaching Vedanta, finally he left for his eternal abode on 15th January, 1991.
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