A brief biographical sketch of Swami Premananda
Baburam’s birth place is the village Antpur in the Hooghly district which is specially sanctified by the touch of the Holy feet of Sri Ramakrishna, the Incarnation of our times. Baburam, the second son of Tarapada Ghosh and Matangini Ghosh is our Swami Premananda. The other siblings were the eldest sister Krishnabhavini, followed by Tulsiram. After Tulsiram was Baburam followed by Santiram. Tarapada gave his daughter Krishnabhavini in marriage to Balaram Basu, a scion of the landlord family of Kothar. Thus Balaram Basu, one in heart with Sri Ramakrishna, was the brother-in-law of Baburam.
Baburam was born on the 10th December, 1861 AD corresponding to the 26th Agrahayan, 1268 B.S. of the Bengali Calendar, at 11:55 pm “Chandra Agrahayan” the ninth day of the fortnight. From his early infancy, it was quite manifest that the dear child Baburam was no ordinary mortal creature. If someone teased him with talks of marriage, he used to mutter immediately “Don’t give me in marriage, I will die, I will die”. In his boyhood he used to loose sense of time whenever he met some monk on the river bank and got talking to him.
Baburam grew up in his early years in the holy environment of his own family and finished his education in the village school. He thereafter went to Calcutta and got himself admitted first in the “Aryan School” and later in the Shyampukur branch of the ‘Metropolitan School’. The Headmaster of the Metropolitan school was Mahendranath Gupta who wrote down the “Kathamrita”. It was only from him that he first came to know about Sri Ramakrishna. Baburam had the good fortune of first meeting Sri Ramakrishna at the ‘Harisabha’ in Jorasanko during a reading session of ‘Sri Bhagavatam’.
During the first meeting at Dakshineshwar, Sri Ramakrishna treated Baburam as one of his own. The meeting took place probably towards the end of 1882 AD. During this first meeting, Sri Ramakrishna saw Baburam’s well-proportioned soft body, fair complexion and modest manners becoming of a devotee and realized that Baburam was one of the six mentioned by the Mother(Devi Bhavatarini) as “Iswarakoti”. The other five were Swami Vivekananda, Brahmananda, Yogananda, Niranjanananda and Purna. Those who have attained Siddhi and are passing the rest of their lives in some divine thoughts are known as ‘Jivanmukta’ or freed in this lifetime. Those that have been born with such special relation with god and have not been entangled in some bondage like ordinary mortals are known as ‘Adhikarik’, ‘Iswarkoti’ or ‘Nityamukta’. The “Sadhakas” of this category after attaining the non-dual sublimity, remain alive in this life or in later lives only for the welfare of others. One day Sri Ramakrishna told Matangini devi – the mother of Baburam , “Give me this son of yours”. Matangini addressed Sri Ramakrishna as Baba and being ever dependent on god, replied with joy that “Baburam will stay with you” is an extremely good fortune. Receiving the call from Thakur and the consent from his mother, Baburam started coming frequently to Dakshineshwar and living there. Sri Ramakrishna tested Baburam by normal and supernormal standards and Baburam duly passed. Thakur was pleased and used to speak about Baburam as “Naikasya Kulin, pure to his bones”. He saw Baburam while in an exalted mood as a female goddess, a necklace on her neck and with female companions. He further said that Baburam received something in dream and a little effort by him will bring him realization (Kathamrita 1/460). Again talking about Baburam and his sister Krishnabhavini, He said “They have been born as a part of Radharani”.
After coming close to Sri Ramakrishna, Baburam did not have much attention to his studies. Hearing that Baburam had failed the Entrance examination Thakur said smilingly “It’s a good thing. One who has passed as many examinations, has as many bondages”. Baburam felt assured. Learning various things from Sri Ramakrishna Baburam gladly set about in building his own life.
Thereafter a few months after the passing away of Sri Ramakrishna in 1886 AD, Baburam went to Antpur along with Narendra and others in response to a call from his mother Matangini. There, on the Christmas Eve on 24th December under a divine inspiration, the nine fellow-disciples led by Narendranath took the extreme resolution of renouncing the world collectivity. After returning from Antpur to Baranagar Math, set up a few months ago, they performed the “Viraja Hom” and embraced ‘Sannyasa’. Remembering the words of Sri Ramkrishna, Baburam’s new name as a monk was Swami Premananda. After performing severe penance at Baranagar and Alambazar Math, and at a few pilgrimages specially Vrindavan, Baburam was immersed in the thoughts of Ramakrishna (“dilute” in the words of Sri Ramakrishna). The fellow disciples had the quality of looking at each other’s high points; they never noticed the shortcomings. When Swami Ramakrishnandaji was sent to Madras (present Chennai) for preaching, Premanandaji took up the worship of Thakur at the main centre, Belur Math. With the passing away of Swami Vivekananda, the principal responsibility of running the “Sangha” devolved on Swami Brahmananda. As his chief assistant, Premanandaji used to attend zealously to all works of the Math, from worship to looking after the cattle. Swami Brahmananda was required to go to different places of India in connection with various works of the sangha. Because of that the work of training up the newly arrived Sanyasis and Brahmacharis was given to Premanandaji. Besides, the coming of devotees was increasing daily; many used to come to the Math being attracted by his love. He used to make everybody feel close to him with his heart felt love and charming behaviour. Who knows by his mercy how many evil fellows became saintly and how many sinners became religious. The sweet influence of his personality permeated to different strata of the Ramakrishna Sangha. In a word he was the “Mother of Belur Math”. Literally, life in the main centre of Ramakrishna Sangha, the Belur Math went on centering around him.
The salient feature of his training was “Example is better than precept”. He used to be always pre-occupied with work and used to say ‘let the performance speak and let the mouth shut’. When necessary he used to discipline the trainee and mend his ways. But even in that he had only the welfare of the trainee in his mind; he used to say himself “I am getting them to perform different tasks like that and even abusing them – but only for their good”. “In my mind I have no animus on anyone. How I love them!”. He wanted all-round development of the latent power of the monks and the Brahmacharis. Through all the works he used to make everybody understand that the Math is of Sri Ramakrishna and that he physically moves around all the corners of the Math. That is why he liked the buildings, gardens and the lawns of the Math to be neat and tidy. Behind all this training and rearing up his pure love used to work. In a letter he wrote “Another name of love is Ramakrishna Mission”.
Sri Ramakrishna was informed by the universal mother that more than emotion Baburam will come to have knowledge. In his personality love was hidden under the garb of knowledge. The best expression of his personality came to be manifested in 1910 through intense meditation on Swamiji’s sayings and compositions. The exaltation inherent in Swamiji’s thoughts showed in his conduct and intellect. In a public meeting in Malda he narrated a story. A seller was going round selling love. As a price for the sale, the seller wanted the buyer’s head, but such a buyer was not to be had. Ending the story Premanandaji exhorted “Will anyone of you be able to give your head? Love and devotion are no easy things. In this age whatever Swamiji had said about constitute of religion – to serve the Jiva as Shiva” He cited his own life as an example of such ideals. These thoughts flowed cleanly during his travel through Dacca, Narayanganj, Mymensingh and Assam. Wherever he went preaching, people around were agog with his love. It was not merely a temporary flourish. Everywhere he was able to spread across a deep inspiration of Swamiji’s ideas.
At any festival premises the presence of Premanandaji was equally attractive to the rich and the poor, the scholar and the illiterate alike. On one such occasion of a sit in meal at Belur Math sat the well-known literary personality Suresh Chandra Samajpati. While going around, Premanandaji came before him and said with a smile “Where will we get materials like sentences, thoughts and language to welcome you? We do not have that wit. Your pen has on its nib all the wit”. Samajpati replied “You are in a trap with your own words. I admit that my pen nib has wit, but your wit is in your works, movements, words, body and your heart”. Truly such copious was the personality of Premanandaji. Others were enlivened by his wit and grace, attained exaltation and were immersed in deep thoughts of God. One day in presence of some fellow-disciples Swamiji told Baburam Maharaj “You don’t start the process of initiation for if you do your disciples and the disciples of Rakhal will fight it out”. Attracted by the love of Baburam Maharaj countless hundreds flocked, some prayed for initiation but he either sent them to the Holy Mother or to the President Swami Brahmananda. Therefore he did not initiate even one.
During his last trip to East Bengal (present Bangladesh) Premanandaji was down with a serious attack of Black Fever. The illness abated after coming back to Calcutta and undergoing treatment. He was then taken to Deoghar for Convalescence, but there he was attacked by a fresh bout of Influenza. He was brought back to Calcutta and inspite of proper treatment, on the fourth day, on 30th July, 1918 at 4:15 PM he went back to his very own place leaving the mortal remains. The Holy Mother wept and said, “The strength, devotion and reason of the Math lit up the river bank in the form of Baburam. Alas! Thakur took him away too”.