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After finishing his studies in Benares, Tulasicharan came to Calcutta to pursue his studies in the College. The impact of western education and culture had undermined the religions beliefs and faiths of many a College student of those days. Some became rank atheists, some had grown sceptics, others had doubts and misgivings and most of them were restless at heart, pining for a haven of rest. It would seem that, that malady did not affect Tulasicharan. He was born and brought up in a family which was deeply religious for generations, which conducted the daily worship of all its household deities and solemnised the half-yearly annual festivals of most of them on a grand scale. The atmosphere of his family had the religious fragrance. From his boyhood he had a religious bent of mind and practised meditation. His faith had not received any rude shock. His boat was sailing fast on a placid stream. What river was it to join, what was its destination, he did not care to question. He was content to live the religion of his forefathers, in utter purity of thought and action. He laid himself in the hands of the Mother of the Universe. How she led him to the Supreme Goal, how Tulasicharan became Nirmalananda has already been made known to the world through the mass of literature that has grown round the names of the All-Gods, Ramakrishna – Vivekananda. It bears repetition; it has to be repeated by his chroniclers, in his own words and in the words of those who knew it first-hand – his own gurubhais and associates.

A leader never loses sight of the minutest details in the movement he leads; he leaves nothing to chance. In the vast movement which we see as the universe, there is no chance, there is no place for it. Every small event, every trifling incident, has its purpose and meaning. It was not chance that brought Tulasicharan's grand-father to Baghbazaar – the very dust of whose lanes and bye-lanes has been made holy by the touch of the Divine feet. It was one of the many fine stages where the Yugavatar enacted his leela. It was a rich pond where he had his net, and his catch was superb – Harinath, Tulasi and Gangadhar. In Tulasi's own words this was how he was caught, how his boat was floated on to the Ganges.

"Nivedita lane and the tank on that side formerly belonged to us. The quadrangle in front of the house occupied by the Boses now (1928) in Bosepara lane was tlic place where we boys used to meet. There we were chatting one day when we heard that Paramahamsa had come to the house of the new Kayasthas. Balaram Bose had recently purchased that property from the Banerjees who were Brahmins and so the house was called thus. At once all the boys ran. I also hurried to my house, put on a chaddar, for I was not acquainted with the Boses at that time, went to Balaram's house and found that the hall, – parlour and verandah – was full. In the middle of the hall there was spread a carpet on a cushion with pillows on. Paramahamsa was not there. I was but a lad of 17 or 18 summers and did not venture to go in as many of the elders of that quarter were seated in that hall. On the left side of the room was a verandah and I leaned against the wall there. I learnt that the Paramahamsa had gone in so that the ladies of the house might have an opportunity to meet him. A little later I saw a person clad in a towel of gerua colour {I think he had gone to the water closet) with leather slippers on coming through the door of the water-closet towards me. His eyes seemed not to observe anything, as if in a state of reverie, they were closed. Behind him there were a few persons. I did not know them. Suddenly he came to the place where I was standing and looked at me. He did not exchange a single word with me. I stood non-plussed and forgot even to salute him. At that moment, O, God, I felt a creeping sensation within my bosom. I felt a thrill from head to foot as if my body was becoming paralysed and I was inclined to weep. Afterwards, he staggered into the hall; I ran away to my house and laid myself on my bed. I said to myself, Oh! What kind of a Paramahamsa, I shall not go that way again. This was my first meeting with the Master, A few days after the above incident one day after finishing my mid-day meals I went to Hari Maharaj's house to see him. He was my friend from boyhood days and his residence was close to ours. I had heard that he used to go to the Paramahamsa of Dakshineswar. But I did not know that the Paramahamsa of Dakshineswar was this Paramahamsa. That day, it was Ekadasi and probably, a Sunday. Turiyanandaji told me 'Let us go for a bath in the Ganges'. At that time Turiyanandaji used to fast during da-y time and take some refreshment at night.' "From there we shall go to meet the Paramahamsa at Dakshineswar". I accompanied him to the Ganges. After bathing he hired a boat and went to Dakshineswar with some others. I returned home, took my meals and walked all the way to Dakshineswar. Turiyanandaji and others were already there. Sri Ramakrishna had gone out. We walked all round and saw the various things to be seen there. At nightfall I went back to Sri Ramakrishna's room to offer my salutations there before returning when I found that there were many pictures in the room. Near the place where the vessel of water was placed was a photograph of Sri Ramakrishna, I pointed it out to Turiyanandaji and asked him as to whose photo it was. He replied that it was the photo of Sri Ramakrishna. I remarked that I had already seen him. "Where?" he asked. "At the house of Balaram Babu," I replied. "Then it is all right" he said.

"Shortly after this, one day I walked from my house to Dakshineswar alone. It was about half-past eleven or twelve when I reached the Kali temple. Without stopping anywhere I went direct to Paramahamsa Deva's room and found him taking his meals. I saluted him and sat on the floor in front of his cot. This was my first bowing down before him. I was so ignorant that it did not occur to me that I should not salute him while he was eating or sit by him. However, he did not mind the breaches of etiquette. He talked to me smiling all the time. When his meals were over a lady came from the verandah near the side of the Nahabat and removed the plates, etc. At that time there was no one else in the room. As I was a mere boy she had no delicacy in entering the room and doing the work. Later on I came to know that she was the Holy Mother. After finishing his meals, he washed his hands and mouth, sat on the cot with placid face and began to smoke and chew betal leaf. After a few preliminary questions he suddenly said something curious which astonished me. He said, "The other day a boy resembling you came here and asked me if I could act as his go-between." I did not quite understand him and wondered why he used that slang expression. As I kept silent, he at once read my mind and said, "No, no, by the word go-between, I mean one who brings about the meeting of a person with his beloved Lord. He is the guru, he is everything. There is no difference between Him and God." I understood that it was a hint thrown out to me to accept him in that light. After a while he came down from the cot and placing his left hand on my shoulder as a mark of favour, stepped out of his room and slowly walked towards the Panchavati. He went to the Javtala to answer the calls of nature. Ramlal or some other person accompanied him. Returning, with great tenderness he said to me 'come here now and then,' Then my heart was rilled with joy, After reaching the Panchavati, he saluted the spot where he had practised Sadhana and sat on a lower step. Then in an exalted mood, he began to speak with the Divine Mother. I could catch the word Mother at intervals and knew that he was talking to the Mother, I could not, of course, hear the talk of the Muther. I was able to understand bits of the words of the Master. Shortly after, towards nightfall he returned to his room when I prostrated before him and returned home. He told me 'come again'."

When asked as to what Sri Ramakrishna said to the Mother, his reply was "All those things are personal. Why should you want to know them? "The human guru gives the mantra in the ear and the divine guru in the Prana." In the course of the conversation he repeated "Ah! the human guru imparts the mantra to the ear and the guru of the universe to the heart." What all things he said! But what right has the world to know about them? And what do you gain by knowing those things?" At a later date, on the 20th February 1931, in his inaugural address as Chairman of the first religious convention of Nikhil Banga Ramakrishna Mahotsava, he said, "There were a thousand and one occasions when the Great Prophet himself used to remain a mute spectator before a thirsting soul with occasional glimpses of smiles hovering between his penetrating eyes and quivering lips. For verily, it is not the Vaikhari speech alone that speaketh; but the Pashyanti speech that rises in the heart like waves and passes beyond the bounds of the flesh, and falls like breakers on the hearts of the audience like sweet caresses to lull them, to soothe them, to embrace them. I am one of them who has had the good fortune to experience this touch, and I shall fail in my task if I do not carry that touch. May he infuse in me his Shakti".

He was highly reticent regarding personal matters which, in general, only satisfy curiosity and furnish food for talk. It is on the firm foundation of basic principles and eternal truth that man should mould his character and frame his conduct. Personal experiences always differ. They are but experiences in varying degrees of those principles and truth coming through the medium of different personalities. They are as much phenomena as any other in nature. Man should go behind them. But the tendency of the ordinary man is to take delight in the phenomenon and let the noumenon to take care of itself. That seems to be one of the reasons why he was extremely reticent and reserved in such matters. He has said so much regarding his first meeting with the Master on two occasions and for two different reasons. The first occasion was the publication of the Life of Ramakrishna (Mayavati Edition 1924). Swami Madhavanandaji – the present Secretary of the Mission who was in charge of that publication wrote to Swami Nirmalanandaji for an account of his meeting with Ramakrishna. The Swami could not refuse it. The substance of his answering letter is what is published in the life in the chapter 'Hari, Gangadhar, Tulasi and Hariprasanna. The reader will note that the account here given is substantially the same. Translation of the Swami's letter to Madhavanandaji will be found published in Part IV of this book. In it he says 'you have asked me to write an account of how I had the good fortune to meet Thakur, with a view to incorpora- tins; it in the new life'. After giving a few details he concludes. "As I have a love for you I write these incidents for your personal information. Do not communicate them to any one else or incorporate them in the new iife of Sri Ramakrishna. Omitting these details you may mention in general on what occasions I had the good fortune to meet the Master. The letter is dated P. K. Office, Trivandrum, 23rd November 1923.

The second occasion was in 1928. The Swami was in the Ramakrishna Sevashrama, Benares, on the 25th February of that year. Swamis Viswarupananda, Heerananda and several others were present. In the course of conversation Swamiji said that he was brought up in Benares during his early years. "If so" he was then asked, "how did you get the opportunity to meet Sri Ramakrishna or Swami Vivekananda". In answer to them the Swami narrated the above incidents with very little variation and said that he said so much because "fables are gaining currency even while we are still alive". That day's conversation recorded by those present will be found published elsewhere.

After the first meeting, as above described, he used to go to the Kali Temple now and then, sometimes with Hari Maharaj (Swami Turiyananda) and sometimes alone. "After a few visits" said Swamiji at a later date" I was fortunate enough to be blessed with initiation or "upadesa" by him. When he used to come to Balaram Babu's house I would go and meet him. When he was lying ill at Cossipore I used to go there also. On hearing one afternoon the news of his Mahasamadhi the previous night, I went to the Cossipore garden. I bowed down to his form for the last time and placed my head on his feet. Then I returned home from the cremation ground at about 10 P.M."

Thus from about the year 1882 when Tulasi was about 18 years of age, till the Mahasamadhi of the Master in 1886 for nearly 5 years he had the good fortune and the privilege of associating with him, serving him and receiving his Divine grace.

Further details of his visit to his Master and of his association with his gurubhais during this period must, henceforth for ever remain unknown. Their precious memories have all been lost to us with the passing away of one and all of them. The solitary figure who has had access to some information on those points – Srijut Mahendranath Dutt, the revered brother of Swami Vivekananda – is, he regrets, too unwell to give those details. Although he was not as regular a visitor to Dakshineswar as some of his other gurubhais and although he was not one of the twelve who served the Master day and night at Cossipore, yet that he had Become one of the inner circle and that making his Master, the polestar and refuge of his life he was doing tapasya at home is clear beyond all doubts. Speaking of the twelve, the revered author of Leelaprasanga – Swami Saradanandaji Maharaj says¶ "To satisfy the curiosity of the readers the names of these twelve young men are given below. Norendra, Rakhal, Babiiram, Niranjan, Yogin, Latu, Tarak, Gopal Seniur, Kali, Sasi, Sarat and Gopal Junior, Sarad on account of the persecu- tion of his father used to come now and then and to stay for a day or two. * * * Hari, Gangadhar and Tulasi would come at intervals and practised Tapasya at home."§ All the above were bound together by their common love and devotion to their Master, all were dedicated to him and all were destined to merge their entire selves in that supreme personality and to re-appear as so many of its facets.

Swami Abhedanandaji writes as follows in his Gospel of Ramakrishna (1907) as well as in the revised edition of that book published in 1939 under the title "Memoirs of Ramakrishna" "Among these were a few more devoted ones, like Sarad, Hari, Gangadhar, Subodh, Tulsi, who, afterwards joined the order and were known as Trigunatita, Turiyananda, Akhandananda Subodhananda and Nirmalananda. Bhagavan Ramakrishna received them all with equal kindness and was ever ready to help them."

¶ Leelaprasanga. IV Edition – V – 391.
§ The name of Swami Vijnananandaji who is also a disciple of the Master is not included in the above list.