HIS LIFE AND TEACHINGS
Tulasi's position as the pet of the family and his ill-health came in the way of his being sent to school. The prosperous family kept two establishments, one at Calcutta and the other at Benares and used to live in Benares for some months in the year. While at Benares his mother passed away at the residence at Ganesh Mahalla, Benares City, on the 30th December 1873, when he was 10 years old. After the period of bereavement the father saw how unwise it was to keep the boy confined to the house. He decided to put him to school at Benares under the protection of his maternal uncle who lived there. Thus after his eleventh year Tulasi began his school education in the Bengali Tola High School, Benares. The precocious child advanced rapidly winning double promotions in the school. There he became the classmate of Hariprasanna Chatterji who was afterwards known as Swsmi Vijnanananda. At home he was taught Sanskrit in which he soon acquired great proficiency. It was this grounding which he received in this language in the great seat of learning during these early years that enabled him later to teach the Upanishads, Brahmasutras and Gita to the Brahmacharins at Belur, and to converse fluently in Sanskrit with the scholars who visited him in South India. During this time he also mastered the Hindi language.
In Benares there was then living an extraordinary person, a Mahatma, the living Siva himself, as Sri Ramakrishna described him-the great Trailinga swamt. Tulasi had the good fortune to visit him several times. The Swami was a Mouni then, Tulasi and other children would often go near and look at him as a curio or assemble round him in playfulness. He used sometimes to drive the boys away. On one occasion the Swami singled out Tulasi, beckoned him to go near him and smilingly and graciously gave him some prasad. Though the Swami was a Mouni he was not dead to the world. Once there was a knotty problem which the learned Pandits wanted to solve, but could not. They approached the Swami and explained the matter to him. He ordered for a slate and pencil and gave them a written reply which satisfied them.
Tulasi did not know much of the Swami or of religion and did not realise what it all meant. But he found that the Prasad was very sweet. He used to say in after years that initiation was of different kinds. One of them was through the stomach. This was perhaps his first stomach initiation. While Tulasi was in Benares, his farher passed away at his Calcutta residence on Friday, the 23rd November 1877.
Thereafter Tulasi came to Calcutta to study for the entrance examination of the Calcutta University.
As a student he realised how invaluable was sound health. Medical treatment not having helped him to any appreciable extent he decided to help himself by means of systematic physical exercise. He soon mastered the science and art of physical culture, became an expert gymnast, sportsman and athlete and he grew roboust in health. Not being content with being healthy himself, he wanted other young men to regain their health and to teach them gymnastics he opened and managed seventeen free gymnasiums in different parts of Calcutta. This great interest in physical culture did not affect his literary studies in the least. In regular course he passed the entrance examination in the year 1883, got a certificate of merit and a medal from His Highness the Raja of Talchar, Orissa, for general proficiency.
In Baghbazaar, the house of Harinath (Swami Turiyananda) was opposite to that of Tulasi. A portion of Tulasi's house was for a time occupied by Gangadhar (Swami Akhandananda) and his father. These three were fast friends. They and other young men used to meet in the quadrangle of Tulasi's house which was later occupied by the Boses. A portion of their ancestral house was the quarter where Vaikuntanatha Sanyalmahasaya's house was situate.