In the latter part of the last century a wonderful drama was enacted in the temple-garden of Dakshineswar. Sri Ramakrishna, who came to the place first as a temple priest, instead of mechanically performing the rituals connected with the worship, asked himself, with all the innocence of a child of nature, whether the Goddess whom he worshipped was a living Presence or simply a stone image. And wonder of wonders, the devotion of this young priest quickened the image to life, the Divine Mother vouchsafed him a vision and touched him with all the affection of a mother. As time went on, Sri Ramakrishna found in the image of Kali at Dakshineswar a living reality. He would see Her walk and play, he would converse with Her just in the way a child talks with its earthly mother. Nay, he could feel the very breath of Her nostrils or even the pulsation of Her heart. She was much more tangible to him than any material object in the world.

Afterwards through various forms of Sadhana Sri Ramakrishna realised God in different aspects, and his mind thenceforward constantly travelled back and forth from the plane of dualism to that of the highest monism where the worshipper and the worshipped become one and the world becomes naught.

Such being the condition of his mind, any worldly thought was impossible for him. He was the embodiment of renunciation. Even if inadvertently his fingers touched any metallic currency, his whole body would recoil, representing as the coin did to his mind the human desire for sense pleasure. Though in the world, his mind was beyond the reach of the world. His mind was buried in visions, ecstasies and divine communion.

One day Sri Ramakrishna saw a vision which threw his whole body into a shiver. He saw that the Divine Mother pointed out to him a boy as being his son. How could he have a son? The very idea was death to him ! Then the Divine Mother consoled Her disconsolate child and said that the boy was his spiritual son and not a son in the worldly sense. Sri Ramakrishna breathed a sigh of relief. Afterwards when the disciple who was later known as Swami Brahma-nanda came to him, Sri Ramakrishna at once recognised him to be the boy he had seen in his vision.


The early name of Swami Brahmananda was Rakhal Chandra Ghosh. He came of a rich family in Basirhat in the district of Twenty-four Perganas. His father Ananda Mohan Ghosh was a zemindar. His mother was a pious lady and a devotee of Sri Krishna. Perhaps it was she who gave her son the name Rakhal (meaning the boy-companion of Sri Krishna) when the latter was bom in the year 1863. Unfortunately the mother died when Rakhal was only five years old, and his father married a second wife who brought up Rakhal.

Rakhal grew up a veiy healthy and fine-looking boy. There was something in his very appearance which endeared him to one and all. He was sent to the village school which was started by Ananda Mohan chiefly for the sake of his son. During those days the village schoolmasters were famous for using their rods. Rakhal would feel pained if any of his class-mates had to undergo corporal punishment. This attracted the notice of the teacher, who afterwards gave up the practice of caning altogether. As a student Rakhal was remarkable for his intelligence. But even as a boy he had varied interests in life. Physically he was much stronger than the average boy of his age. His companions found it hard to cope with him in wrestling or at play. He would take part in many village games and show unsurpassed skill in them. But play and games did not absorb the whole of his attention. Near by was the temple dedicated to the Goddess Kali. Most of the time in the day Rakhal spent in the precincts of the temple. Sometimes Rakhal would play at Mother-worship along with his companions. Sometimes he would himself form a beautiful clay image of the Mother and remain absorbed in worship. Even at an early age

Rakhal had great devotion to gods and goddesses. During the time of Durga Puja in the family, Rakhal would be found seated still and calm as in deep meditation witnessing the ceremony, or at the hour of darkness, when the evening service was being performed, Rakhal would be seen standing before the Deity in great devotion.

Rakhal from his boyhood had instinctive love for devotional music. When begging friars sang songs in praise of the flute-player of Vrindavan, or when anyone sang songs about the Divine Mother, Rakhal would become lost to himself. Sometimes Rakhal would repair with his companions to a secluded spot in the midst of the open field close to the village, and they would sing devotional songs in chorus. In the course of singing, Rakhal would occasionally lose almost all outward consciousness, his mind soaring up to a higher region.

After he had finished the primary education, Rakhal was sent to Calcutta and admitted into an English High School. Here he came in contact with Narendra Nath, afterwards known as Swami Vivekananda, who was then leader of the boys of the locality. Narendra Nath was dynamic in spirit and a bom leader. He easily cast his influence over others and carried them along the path he thought right. Rakhal was very meek, quiet and soft-natured. He easily came under the spell of Narendra Nath, and there grew a close friendship between the two which culminated in a common discipleship at Dakshineswar and became fruitful of far-reaching results.

Rakhal and Narendra Nath practised physical exercise in a common gymnasium along with their other companions. And it was Narendra Nath who took Rakhal to the Brahmo Samaj. Rakhal’s inborn religious tendencies began to unfold themselves more definitely at this stage. He would be found brooding over the mysteries of life and death, and his mind longed for the realisation of the Eternal Verity. He was intelligent and sharp, but he now lost all interest in his school work. His guardians became alarmed at his indifference to studies. At first they tried to change his attitude through loving persuasion. When that failed, they became stem and strict. But even that failed. Rakhal was yearning for That which makes all book-learning insignificant and valueless. When all measures proved abortive, the father of Rakhal got him married, thinking that thereby his interest would turn towards worldly things. But such was the irony of fate that this marriage itself brought Rakhal into contact with the one who afterwards changed the whole course of his life.

Rakhal married the sister of one Manomohan Mitra of Konnagar, an important village up the Ganges on the right bank, a few miles from Dakshineswar. Both Manomohan and his mother were great devotees of Sri Ramakrishna. After the marriage of Rakhal, Manomohan one day took him to Dakshineswar to meet the Master. When Rakhal bowed before the Master, the latter at once recognised him to be the boy he had seen ip that vision. A wave of joy passed through the mind and the body of the Master, but he did not give vent to his feelings except by the fact that he treated Rakhal with utmost kindness. Rakhal was charmed with the wonderful love of the Master and thought that he had never received such affection from anybody before. Naturally, the thought of the Master haunted the mind of Rakhal even after he had returned home. As a result, some time afterwards, Rakhal one day went to Dakshineswar alone. The Master was in ecstasy at the sight of Rakhal, and the latter stood dumbfounded.


Rakhal began to go to Dakshineswar as often as he could. He began also sometimes to stay there. Though a young man of eighteen or nineteen, in the presence of the Master he felt like a child of four or five, and he actually behaved that way. In the Master Rakhal found the deep affection of his long-lost mother and the tender care of his father, only in a degree infinitely more intense. The Master also treated him exactly as his child. He would feel concerned for him as for a helpless infant. Whereas other disciples attended to the comforts of the Master, the latter himself would often take care of Rakhal. And there was such a spontaneity and naturalness in this strange relationship between the two, that a bystander would rather enjoy it than feel astonished at it. Whereas other disciples would consider it a great favour and privilege if they were allowed to do the least service for the Master, Rakhal would sometimes refuse point-blank to do work which he was called upon to do by the Master. Instead of being annoyed, Sri Ramakrishna was glad at such behaviour of Rakhal; for it indicated the intimate love which the boy had for him. But Rakhal would usually be eager to attend to all the comforts of the Master. He was more than a personal attendant to him. A son does not serve his father with so much loving devotion as Rakhal served the Master. Not only did he perform personal services for the Master, but he would carefully guard the body of the Master-when the latter's mind was lost in Samadhi. At times, when the Master would walk about in his ecstatic moods, Rakhal would guide his footsteps by holding his body and giving loud directions about the things to be guarded against.

When Rakhal began to frequent Dakshineswar and sometimes even to stay there to the detriment of his studies, his father became annoyed and afterwards alarmed. He tried his best to persuade Rakhal to be mindful of his future worldly career, but it was impossible for Rakhal to think of his future in terms of material happiness. At one time Ananda Mohan kept Rakhal under surveillance, but Rakhal managed to escape and ran to Dakshineswar. When all measures failed Ananda Mohan gave up the case of Rakhal as hopeless. Rakhal now felt relieved that he could stay with the Master without any interference from home.

Rakhal received from the Master not only the tender affection of a parent, but also the guidance of a spiritual Guru. It was the unsurpassed love of the Master which at first drew Rakhal to him, but the latter soon found that behind that human affection there was a spiritual power which could transform lives by a mere wish or thought. Along with the love he received from the Master, Rakhal began to undergo also a great spiritual transformation.

The Master was very keen in regard to the spiritual training of his beloved son. If need be, he did not hesitate to scold Rakhal for the least failing noticed in him. One day when Rakhal came before the Master, the latter asked him why there was a shadow of darkness over his face. Was it the result of any wrong he had committed ? Rakhal gaped in wonder. He could not remember to have done anything wrofig. When cross-examined by the Master, Rakhal recollected that he had told a fib in fun. Then the Master cautioned him not to tell a lie even in jokes.

One day the Master with Rakhal went on invitation to attend a religious festival. But the organisers of the festival were busy with rich and influential people and showed scant courtesy to the Master. This was certainly more than young Rakhal could bear. Like a petulant boy he asked the Master to leave the place at once. But the Master would not listen to his counsel, and put up with any amount of indignity. Afterwards he told Rakhal that if they had left the place in resentment that would have caused harm to the devotees. Rakhal saw the depth of meaning even behind the trifling acts of the Master, and himself got a lesson in humility and self-effacement.

Sometimes in a spiritual mood Sri Rama-krishna would quite unexpectedly bestow the highest gifts on his chosen disciples. Once he did that with respect to Rakhal also. Rakhal was in meditation in front of the Kali temple when the Master arrived on the spot. Finding Rakhal seated in meditation, the Master accosted him and said, “This is your sacred Word and this is your Chosen Ideal." Rakhal looked up and was vouchsafed the vision of his Chosen Deity. Rakhal was beside himself with joy at this unexpected stroke of favour and realised what a tremendous spiritual power was hidden in one with whom he was privileged to move about so closely and freely. Rakhal was overwhelmed with feelings of gratitude to God at his rare good fortune.

As he continued his stay with the Master at Dakshineswar Rakhal's spiritual life began to progress rapidly. There were many occasions when Rakhal would be so much absorbed in meditation that he would lose all consciousness of the sense-world, and the Master had to come to his aid to bring his thought down to the plane of ordinary consciousness.

The Master was so much pleased with the spiritual progress Rakhal was making that he would sometimes publicly praise Rakhal. Rakhal would be constantly in communion with God.

He would day and night repeat the Holy Name, and his moving lips would betray what was going on inside. The very sight of this would now and then throw the Master into ecstasy. Out of the fullness of joy at having such a worthy disciple Sri Ramakrishna began to teach Rakhal the intricacies of Yoga and various forms of spiritual practice. But Rakhal hated any publicity in these things. He would perform spiritual practices as secretly as possible. But his appearance, modes of thought and conduct, and, above all, the radiating sweetness of his nature would indicate the inner transformation he was undergoing.

Spiritual life is not, however , all smooth-sailing. There are ups and downs even there. However fortunate the aspirant, however favourable the momentum of his past life, however great the blessings of the Guru, he has to pass through a period of stress and struggle, toss about in the stream of hopes and fears and contend against the dark phantoms of doubts and difficulties. Rakhal also had to pass through these stages.

One day Rakhal sat for meditation in the music hall of the Kali temple, but however much he tried, his mind wandered about till he got exasperated. Rakhal was filled with remorse and self-disparagement. He had received the blessings of a saint like the Master and everything in the atmosphere was favourable to spiritual progress, and yet such was the condition of his mind! Perhaps he was not fit for spiritual life. Such stormy thoughts assailed him, and in sheer disgust and agony he left the seat of meditation. By a strange coincidence Sri Rama-krishna was just then passing that way. Looking at Rakhal he inquired why he got up from his seat after such a short time. Rakhal in all frankness narrated what was passing through his mind. The Master looked grave and pensive for a while and then asked Rakhal to open his mouth. While muttering some indistinct words, the Master wrote something on the tongue of Rakhal. It had the instantaneous effect of unloading the burden of Rakhal's mind. He felt relieved, and an inner current of joy flowed through his mind. The Master smiled and asked Rakhal to try to meditate again. There are similar other incidents as to how even a worthy disciple like Rakhal had to struggle against the vagaries of his mind, and afterwards the grace of the Master relieved him of his difficulties.

Rakhal was having a blissful time with the Master at Dakshineswar. But trouble came. He began to have repeated attacks of fever, which made the Master very anxious. At that time the great devotee Balaram Bose was about to go to Vrindavan. With him Rakhal was also sent for a change of climate. There also Rakhal fell ill. That made the Master all the more anxious, for he had known in a vision that Rakhal was a companion of Sri Krishna in a previous incarnation and he feared that Rakhal might give up his-body if the recollection of the past came to his mind. Sri Ramakrishna prayed piteously to the Divine Mother for his spiritual son, and was not relieved till he got an assurance from Her.

The devotional nature of Rakhal got further impetus by his stay at Vrindavan, holy with the association of Sri Krishna. It was perhaps due to this that in later days on more them one occasion he went to this place for Tapasya. After three months Rakhal returned to Dakshineswar much improved in health, and the Master was glad beyond measure to receive him.

The number of devotees and young disciples who were attracted by the personality of the Master was steadily on the increase. Some of the young disciples were Rakhal’s old friends and acquaintances; so he was happy to have a tie of common discipleship with them. But they were not to enjoy the holy company of the Master long. For Sri Ramakrishna iell ill of throat trouble which developed into cancer. Sri Ramakrishna was removed to Shyampukur, Calcutta, and then to Cossipore for facilities of better treatment. Under the leadership of Narendra Nath Rakhal and others threw themselves heart and soul into the work of nursing the Master. These were days of service to the Guru as well as of strenuous spiritual discipline. Rakhal and others would work hard during the day and undergo even harder spiritual practices at night. They knew no fatigue. Rakhal was by nature introspective, but now he grew more and more serious and indrawn. Naren was the leader, but Rakhal was by his side to help him. One day the Master told Narendra Nath in secret, “Rakhal has the wisdom and capacity to administer a vast kingdom.” Naren understood what it meant. And when the time came, he took advantage of this opinion of the Master about Rakhal. The young disciples held Rakhal in great esteem because he was so much loved and admired by the Master. One day Narendra Nath suggested to his brother-disciples, "Henceforward let us address Rakhal as ‘Raja,' meaning king.” Everyone gave a spontaneous assent to the proposal. When the news reached the ears of the Master he was glad and remarked, " Indeed it is an appropriate name for Rakhal.”

One day a devotee expressed a desire to the Master to feed and distribute some cloths amongst Sannyasins. At this the Master remarked, “Where will you get better monks than these young boys?” The devotee did as suggested and placed some ochre cloths before the Master for distribution. Sri Ramakrishna distributed them amongst Rakhal and others. He now and then sent them out to beg their food, for that was a training in self-effacement and a preparation for their future monastic life.

The disciples were hoping against hope that the Master would recover. But he was gradually becoming worse and worse. One day Rakhal in agony asked the Master to pray to the Divine Mother for recovery. But it was impossible for the Master to pray for any particular thing against the will of God, much less for his health. He simply replied, “ That rests with God.”

Yes, God’s will prevailed against all human efforts. In spite of the best medical care and treatment, the Master began to sink and passed away on August 16, 1886. The disciples and devotees were plunged into profound grief. All of a sudden they felt as if the protecting roof overhead had been taken off, and they did not know what to do. The case of Rakhal was the more so; for he had lived under the special care of the Master who had guarded him constantly against every difficulty or hardship of life just as a mother-bird guards her young ones with her protecting wings. Though grown up Rakhal had been looked upon as an innocent child by the Master. Now Rakhal had nothing to console and comfort him excepting the memory of the love he had been privileged to receive from the Master.


The Cossipore garden-house where the Master was put up in his last days became like a monastery. The atmosphere was surcharged with the spiritual fervour of the disciples as well as with the uplifting influence of the presence of the Master. After the passing away of the Master when many of the young disciples returned home, they could not fit in there. They were pining for one another's company as well as for the happy days of Dakshineswar. They wanted to live together in search of the Ideal the Master had put before them. At last a monastery was established at Baxanagore to which began to come, one by one, the disciples of the Master, and they formed the Ramakrishna Brotherhood. After some time they took Sannyasa ceremonially and changed their family names. Thus Rakhal became Swami Brahmananda. But his brother-disciples preferred to address him as "Raja," as a mark of deep love and respect.

If the period of stay in the company of the Master was one of supreme bliss, the days at Baranagore were of hard Tapasya. • The young disciples were ready to lay down their lives, as it were, in search of the great Unknown. They did not care about physical comforts, they did not care about food and drink; the one supreme thought of their lives was how to realise the Sclf-or rather how to make the realisations they had in the presence of the Master a permanent factor in their lives.

After some time even the life at Baranagore seemed to them too secure for their spiritual growth. They wanted to be lost in the wide unknown world with no help and guide excepting God. Some of them began to go to places of pilgrimage to practise Tapasya in seclusion. Swami Brahmananda, spurred by such a spirit of renunciation, went to Puri. He stayed there for some time begging his food here and there and passing his days in the thought of the Lord. The devotees and disciples of the Master could never bear the idea that Swami Brahmananda should suffer any hardship, for was he not the special care of the Master? So when Balaram Bose, who had a big estate in Orissa and a rich establishment at Puri, heard that Swami Brahma-nanda was undergoing great austerities, he began to press the latter to stay with him in more' comfort. Swami Brahmananda, finding that at Puri he could not follow his own way of life, returned to Baranagore. But he was seized with intense longing to make harder efforts to realise the goal of life. He expressed his desire to go to North India and to practise Tapasya somewhere there. The* leader, Narendra Nath, reluctantly agreed to allow his beloved brother-disciple to embrace the wandering life. But he directed another brother-disciple, Swami Subodhananda, to accompany him, so that "Raja" should not have to suffer much inconvenience. Swami Brahmananda went to Benares via Deoghar and stayed there for some time. From Benares Swami Brahmananda went to Omkamath on the bank of the Nerbuda. It is said that while practising Tapasya on the bank of that holy river, Swami Brahmananda was once for six days at a stretch in an ecstatic mood, almost oblivious of the outward world. After Omkar-nath Swami Brahmananda with his brother-disciple and a devotee visited other places of pilgrimage like Panchavati, holy with the association of Ramachandra and Sita, Dwarka, where there is the famous temple of Sri Krishna, Porbandar, Gimar, Ajmere, etc., and afterwards returned to Vrindavan. For a soul like Swami Brahmananda, visiting these holy places did not simply mean the satisfaction of the idle curiosity of a sight-seer, but at every place he would identify himself with the deeper spirit of the environment. As a result he was constantly absorbed within himself, and though his lips were closed his face indicated the spiritual fire within. Many were the persons who were attracted to him merely by his placid countenance and indrawn look. They would feel it a privilege to be of some service to him, and pressed the Swami to receive it, but one whose mind was soaring high was altogether indifferent to any material comfort. It was difficult, if not impossible, to persuade the Swami to accept any gift. If extremely pressed, the Swami would agree to accept something, but that would be so little and of such a trifling nature that that would cause more astonishment than pleasure to the giver.

It was. for the second time that the Swami came to Vrindavan. Here he passed the days in severe spiritual practices. He was burning with a desire to reach the ultimate goal of life. And in the attempt to realise this desire any price was not too great for him to pay. Throughout the day he would be practising one or another form of spiritual practice. Swami Subodhananda was there with him. But they hardly talked. Swami Subodhananda would fetch food for him; but sometimes he would eat that and sometimes he would remain without meals. Such austerities were not the outcome of deliberate effort, but he was so much occupied with the thought of the goal of life that the physical comforts, about which ordinary people are so particular, had no importance for him. The great saint Vijay Krishna Goswami, who had seen Rakhal at Dakshineswar and knew how beloved he had been to Sri Ramakrishna, was at this time staying at Vrindavan. When he saw the severe austerities Swami Brahmananda was undergoing, he asked him: “What necessity have you to perform so much Sadhana ? Has not the Master given you all that is covetable in spiritual life?” To this the Swami simply smiled and replied, “What I got from him I want to make a permanent possession.” The saint understood that it was idle to try to dissuade the Swami from his path.

After some time Swami Subodhananda left for a pilgrimage to Hardwar and Swami Brahmananda lived alone. This gave him greater freedom of life and an opportunity to practise harder Tapasya.

At Vrindavan he heard the news that the great devotee Balaram Bose had died. Balaram Bose had befriended him so much and he had been so greatly loved by the Master 1 The news of the death of Balaram Bose upset him so much that he left Vrindavan and went to the Himalayan region at Hardwar for greater solitude. He stayed at Kankhal near Hardwar for a period. Afterwards he would praise Kankhal very much as a suitable place for Tapasya. He would say that the atmosphere of Kankhal was very favourable for spiritual growth. At Kankhal Swami Vivekananda with some brother-disciples unexpectedly came to meet Swami Brahmananda. The joy of such a meeting can be better imagined than described.Swami Vivekananda feared perhaps that Swami Brahmananda would impair his health by hard Tapasya and living alone, so he compelled him to accompany him on his way to Meerut. Swami Vivekananda left his brother-disciples at Delhi in order to wander alone. After this, accompanied by a brother-disciple, Swami Turiyananda, Swami Brahmananda started on a pilgrimage to Jwalamukhi and from there he visited various other sacred places in the Punjab, Sindh, Bombay and Rajputana. At Bombay they unexpectedly again met Swamifont-weight:bold Vivekananda who was then preparing to sail for America to attend the Parliament of Religions at Chicago. From there Swami Brahmananda again returned to Vrindavan. Swami Turiyananda was also in his company. Both of them gave their time entirely to spiritual practices, Swami Turiyananda also taking care of Swami Brahmananda. They had a very enviable time at Vrindavan, both of them being absorbed day and night in communion with God. Afterwards they would very delightfully recount many happy incidents of their lives at Vrindavan.

Time passes too quickly. While the two brother-disciples were enjoying spiritual bliss in the holy atmosphere of Vrindavan, the news reached them that a tremendous success had attended the mission of Swami Vivekananda in America. They were so glad to see that the prophetic utterances of the Master with respect to their leader had come true. Swami Vivekananda was constantly writing to his Gurubhais to plunge themselves into work for the regeneration

of India as well as for the welfare of humanity. Repeated letters began to come from the monastery, which had now been removed to Alambazar from Baranagore, asking the two brothers at Vrindavan to return to Bengal, so that all might organise themselves together into a band for future work. At first Swami Turiyananda returned, and after some time he was followed also by Swami Brahmananda.

The arrival of the " Raja ” at the Math created a great stir and enthusiasm. Everybody was so glad to have the privilege of his company. His very presence had an uplifting influence on the atmosphere. His placid countenance, calm look, indrawn thought, and, above all, extremely sweet behaviour indicated the great spiritual power hidden within him. As far as narrating his own spiritual experiences was concerned, Swami Brahmananda was always veiy taciturn. But anyone standing before him would invariably feel that he was in the presence of an extraordinary personality. When he returned to the Math, there was amongst the members a fresh wave of enthusiasm for spiritual development. The swami was glad to see that the message of Sri Ramakrishna made such a tremendous appeal to the world. Knowing the Master as he had, he was not surprised at that, but he wanted to make the Math a powerful vehicle for the spread of that message. Once he said to his Gurubhais: “Your life, your Math will be the source of solace, hope and inspiration to all who are weary and heavy-laden. Just build up your life accordingly.” When Swami Vivekananda heard in America that “Raja” had returned to the Math, he was greatly relieved. For he had always a great regard for the judgment and opinion of Swami Brahmananda. And had not the Master said that Rakhal possessed the capability to rule a kingdom ? Henceforward Swami Vivekananda would address most of his letters dealing with his future plan of work to Swami Brahmananda. Swami Vivekananda would give out his plans and principles in general, but it was Swami Brahmananda who saw to their practical applicability and gave them a definite shape. Swami Vivekananda fell upon the world like an avalanche. He moved like a whirlwind from one end of the world to the other to giye his message. He was too busy and dynamic. He had no time, as he said, to give his message a finish. So far as the Ramakrishna Brotherhood was concerned Swami Brahmananda with his infinite calm and patience, extraordinary common sense and wisdom made that message fruitful in the soil of India. Swami Vivekananda came upon the world as a thundering voice. Swami Brahma-nanda’s life was like a gentle dew that falls unknown and unperceived but brings in the rich autumnal harvest.


Two years after Swami Brahmananda had returned to the Math, Swami Vivekananda also returned to India. When the great Swami met Swami Brahmananda he handed over to the latter all the money he had collected for his Indian work, and said: “Now I am relieved. I have handed over the sacred trust to the right person.” Swami Brahmananda was the “friend, philosopher and guide” of Swami Vivekananda in every respect. He took care of his health, gave advice about his plans, arranged his tours and put his ideas into action. When the Rama-krishna Mission Society was started Swami Vivekananda became the general President and Swami Brahmananda was made the President of the Calcutta centre. But in the beginning of 1902 Swami Vivekananda relinquished his position in favour of Swami Brahmananda, and the latter worked as the President of the Rama-krishna Math and Mission till his last day.

The relation between Swami Vivekananda and Swami Brahmananda was wonderful, and very enjoyable to anyone who witnessed it. One was a bom leader of men and a world mover, the other was a hidden reservoir of great spiritual power and loved to work silently. One gave out his message like a trumpet call, the other sought to spread influence mainly through silence and life. One was in the limelight, the other always wanted to be away from the public gaze. Both were beloved of the Master. Both were termed by the Master as Nityasiddhas or Ishwarakotis, that is, souls who are eternally free but come down to earth for the good and guidance of humanity. Both knew each other intimately from their school days, and their lifelong relationship only increased their love and respect for each other. When Swami Vivekananda returned from America he bowed down to Swami Brahma-nanda saying, "The son of the Guru is to be respected as much as the Guru himself. ’ ’ Swami Brahmananda too did not lag behind in his sense of humour. He returned the compliment saying, "To the elder brother is due the respect that is given to a father."

With this spiritual background the human relationship between the two was very interesting. Sometimes with his practical common sense and intimate knowledge of local affairs Swami Brahmananda had to modify plans given by Swami Vivekananda. At that the latter would at times become upset and wild. But afterwards when he understood his own mistake he showed repentance in such a way that the supposedly aggrieved party would feel embarrassed, and regret the suffering caused to the Swami. Swami Vivekananda was fond of animals. Swami Brahmananda was a lover of plants and gardens. When the animals of the one would cause damage to the garden of the other there would ensue a quarrel, the very seriousness of which would cause side-splitting laughter to the bystanders.

Swami Vivekananda had infinite faith in the loyalty of Swami Brahmananda to his cause. He would say: "Others may desert me. But Raja will stand by me till the last." The two giants put their shoulders together to further the cause of the work started in the name of the Master. The new monastery at Belur was established in 1899. A permanent centre was started in Madras, another was opened in the retreat of the Himalayas. Others were growing. Preachers were sent to England and America. The work was growing apace. But the two Swamis could not work together long. The life of Swami Vivekananda was prematurely cut short in the year 1902.

The passing away of the leader was a great blow to the work he had started. And it was a great shock to his Gurubhais, specially to Swami Brahmananda on whom the whole responsibility now fell and who was looked up to for guidance by the whole institution.

But love for the leader meant love for his work and for the Mission he had started. And behind the Mission of the leader was the will of the Master. So Swami Brahmananda, with his usual calmness, suppressing the feeling of personal bereavement at the passing away of Swami Vivekananda, turned his attention to the discharge of the duties that devolved on him.

There were critics who thought that in the. absence of Swami Vivekananda his work would be stranded or would die a natural death. But Swami Vivekananda as a spirit was. no less a power than Swami Vivekananda in his physical body. He himself once said, "I am a voice without body." Yes, that voice even at the absence of the body began to ring in the ears of his brother-disciples, personal disciples and innumerable admirers and devotees. Their love and respect for him were spontaneously translated into enthusiasm for the furtherance of his cause, so it was no wonder that the organisation soon recovered from the shock and the work began to grow and expand as a matter of course. At such a critical time the Ramakrishna Math and Mission was fortunate to have at their helm a personality like Swami Brahmananda.

The method of work of Swami Brahmananda was wonderful. Though he would be working hard and though his responsibility was too great for any ordinary mortal, his calmness was never disturbed, the serenity of his mind was never ruffled. About the secret of work he once said: " Give the whole of your mind to God. If there is no wastage of mental energy, with a fraction of your mind you can do so much work that the world will be dazed.” The truth of this was exemplified in the life of the Swami himself. Who could have believed on seeing him that he was bearing such a heavy burden? It seemed rather as if he was indifferent to what was going on outside with regard to the organisation and that his whole mind was given to God. It was as if only by an effort that he could bring his mind down to mundane things. His far away look, his half-closed eyes, deeply calm composure indicated that his thoughts did not belong to this plane of existence. He would very often be so much lost in his own thought that one would not dare approach him lest one should disturb him. But yet he was aware of .the very details of the work that was going pn. He had intimate knowledge of the minds of the different members working even in distant centres. He could read characters at a glance and guide them accordingly. Every member of the vast organisation felt that his interest was safe in the hands of the Swami. His gentle wish was more than a command to all the workers.

The interests of the Swami were varied. He could give wise direction as to the design of a building, he could give plans as to how to do relief works, his suggestions on the methods of education were valued by educationists, his advice regarding the principles to be followed in editing books was at once found to be extremely sound, and in every Ashrama he visited or stayed in, he encouraged people to have flower and kitchen gardens. His love of flowers was great. He would consider that flowers blossomed forth in the gardens as the offerings of Nature to the All-pervading Deity. Anyone plucking a flower or injuring a flower plant would incur the greatest displeasure of the Swami. He would see that the accounts of public money were kept with the strictest regularity. He would not tolerate the slightest carelessness in this respect.

But beyond all these interests one could vividly see in him that here was a mind which could not be brought down to the level of ordinary work. It was very difficult to persuade the Swami to attend the meetings of the Trustees of the Math or of the Governing Body of the Mission. He had a happy knack of falling "slightly indisposed" on such occasions or of giving suggestions that the meeting might be postponed. Those who were responsible for convening such meetings had a hard time with the Swami in this respect. They felt that they were trying to bring within the constitution of the law a soul which eternally soared above all laws. They felt greatly pained at the thought of what a great torture it meant to the Swami. But once he could be brought to the meeting his opinions and suggestions were invaluable. Experiences showed that his counsels were so very correct that nobody, even in the course of the debate, would afterwards feel inclined to dispute what he had said. And there was hardly any debate at such meetings. What the Swami would say or even remotely suggest would invariably be accepted by all. Swami Saradananda, who was the Secretary of the Ramakrishna Mission, once said to a young worker, "When I say a thing, you should judge and discriminate whether I am right or wrong, but when Maharaj (meaning Swami Brahmananda) says a thing you may safely accept that as true without the slightest doubt." This was said by one who had vast organising ability and who had successfully guided innumerable undertakings.

Swami Brahmananda made several tours in North and South India, and once he went also to East Bengal and Assam. By the inspiration of his presence existing centres received a fresh impetus and new centres began to spring up. Wherever he would go there came a crowd of visitors—young and old—to see him. They were invariably so much impressed by his love, kindness and the force of his personality, that they became lifelong friends and supporters of the Mission. When he visited a centre he would not go so much into the details of the work as he would be interested in giving the members a spiritual uplift. He would say that one cannot do really unselfish work unless one's whole mind is given to God. Now this was exactly the thing he was interested in with regard to the work, viz. whether they were working in the spirit of service of God or only passing their days in a humdrum way. He would say to the monks, " Fie on you, if after giving up the world, cutting yourself from the love of your parents and relatives, you cannot devote the whole of your energy to the realisation of God.” He would exhort one and all to make the realisation of God the one and only aim of their lives. He would say: "Create dissatisfaction in your mind even by an effort. Ask yourself whether you are devoting the whole of your energy to your spiritual welfare. Ask yourself at night how much of the time has been spent in communion with God and how much in other things. The time that has not been given to God has been spent in vain, has been wasted.” Strange to say, though he laid the main emphasis on spiritual growth, the work of the Mission was steadily growing under his care. He raised the humanitarian work of the Mission to a spiritual level. Mere humanitarian work without any spiritual motive behind it leads to egotism and pride and becomes a danger to one's spiritual life. But, unselfish work done in a proper spirit, in. a spirit of humble service, conduces to one's spiritual welfare and leads to God. That is what the Swami wanted. “We have to work so hard that we do not get sufficient time for meditation,’’ said a disciple to the Swami, thinking he would get sympathy from one whose whole mind was given to God. “You should feel ashamed to say that, my child,” replied the Swami. “You are monks, you ought not to complain of hard work. It is not the quantity of work but the vagaries of the mind that create obstacles in the way of meditation.” “Just sacrifice this one life for the sake of the wrork of Swamiji (Swami Vivekananda), even if you consider it a loss. Have you not lived countless lives before ? But if you give yourself up wholeheartedly to his cause, rest assured, through his grace, your spiritual life will progress with the speed of a rocket,” he once said to a disciple who inquired whether the work started by Swami Vivekananda was consistent with the orthodox form of Sadhana. “Don’t be ungrateful to Swamiji,” he said to some young men on another occasion. “ He worked himself to death for you and the country. Just plunge yourself into his work and repay the debt due to him.” Swami Brahmananda would not often talk of spiritual things. It would be very difficult to draw him into spiritual conversations. But when he would talk, his words would scintillate with fire, and those who would hear would get a lifelong inspiration.

As a result of his influence many young men began to join the Order. Sometimes a doubting mind would find its scepticism vanish by merely coming into his presence. One could rarely argue with him, nor was he given to theoretical discussions. His presence was enough to solve many complex problems which had troubled people for many, many weary years. Innumerable persons had such experiences.

Wherever he would go there would be so much joyous festivity that all found themselves drowned in it. But there was this characteristic about it, that it was highly uplifting. Once there was so much disaffection amongst the members in a certain centre that the whole atmosphere was vitiated. When all other remedies failed Swami Brahmananda was approached and persuaded to visit the centre. When he went to the place he did not at all inquire into the grievances of the individual members. His presence created such a great wave of spiritual enthusiasm that all petty problems were automatically solved. Everyone was astonished at this wonderful phenomenon.

After the passing away of Swami Viveka-nanda, the first thing that Swami Brahmananda gave his attention to was the consolidation of the work at headquarters. After about two years, when he had put the day-to-day work of the organisation in the hands of Swami Saradananda and the management of the Belur Math in charge of another Gurubhai, Swami Brahmananda left for Benares. In Benares at that time there was a centre of the Ramakrishna Math, called Advaita Ashrama, meant exclusively for meditative life, and there was also a philanthropic institution started by some young men under the inspiration of Swami Vivekananda. When Swami Brahma-nanda reached Benares the committee of the latter institution formally handed over the management to the Ramakrishna Mission. The Swami stayed at Benares for about a month and improved the management of both the institutions. Some years later, on another visit, the Swami laid the foundation-stone of the Ramakrishna Mission Home of Service on a new plot of land. Some of the buildings that have been constructed there were according to his own plan and design.

From Benares he went to Kankhal, near Hardwar, where Swami Kalyanananda, a young disciple of the Order, had started medical work for the sick and the needy. In the quiet of the holy atmosphere at Kankhal the Swami remained day and night absorbed in divine communion, his very look indicating that here was one whose mind rested on the Self and whose thoughts were centred in the Atman. Here as elsewhere his silent presence gave impetus to the work of the institution and the Ashrama began to improve after he had been there. From Hardwar the Swami went to Vrindavan where Swami Turiya-nanda was practising Tapasya. Arriving at Vrindavan, Swami Brahmananda again felt an urge to devote himself exclusively to Tapasya. He stayed at Vrindavan for a period, along with Swami Turiyananda, spending his time in hard spiritual practices. He would at that time get up regularly at midnight for meditation. It is said that one night he was fast asleep and the time to get up was almost over when he suddenly felt a push. He woke up, to find a good spirit beckoning and reminding him to meditate.

From Vrindavan the Swami went to Allahabad, where one of his brother-disciples was staying and building up the nucleus of the future Rama-krishna centre. He next went to Vindhyachal, a sacred place of pilgrimage associated with the memory of the Divine Mother. At this place the Swami was in a highly ecstatic mood. It is said that at the temple of the Divine Mother one night he asked an attendant to sing some song. As the Swami stood before the Divine Presence listening to the song, tears flowed down his cheeks, and soon he was so much absorbed in communion that he lost all outward consciousness and the bystanders had to take care of him. He had a similar experience in another temple at Vindhyachal. After staying at this holy place for a few days, the Swami returned to the monastery at Belur.

In the month of June, 1906, he went to Puri in order to recover his health which had been seriously impaired by an attack of typhoid. The climate as well as the spiritual atmosphere suited him exactly. Of all the holy places he liked Benares, Vrindavan, Puri and Hardwar most. When at Benares he would be full of the thoughts of Vishwanath and Annapurna, the presiding deities; at Vrindavan the association of Sri Krishna would throw his mind into ecstasy; at Puri his emotion would be stirred by the remembrance of Chaitanya and Jagannath, whereas at Hardwar his mind would be absorbed in contemplation of the all-pervading Presence. At different places he would be in different moods— every one as inspiring as another.

In October, 1908, at the earnest request of Swami Ramakrishnananda, head of the Rama-krishna Math at Madras, Swami Brahmananda started for South India. With his wonderful devotion Swami Ramakrishnananda considered Swami Brahmananda as a veritable representative of the Master on earth. So when Swami Brahmananda arrived at Madras, Swami Ramakrishnananda told the innumerable devotees who came to see the new Swami: “You have not seen the Master. Just make your life blessed by seeing his beloved son.” The childlike simplicity and very unassuming nature of the Swami, hiding within an extraordinary spiritual personality, made a wonderful impression wherever he went. If anybody would approach the Swami with a question, he would now and then say with his inborn humility: “Just go to Sasi (meaning Swami Ramakrishnananda). He is a great scholar. He will solve your question.” But if the inquirer persisted and could persuade the Swami to speak, his words would remove a heavy load from the mind of the aspirant.

In those days the gulf of separation in the social lives of Brahmins and non-Brahmins was much greater in Southern India. The Brahmins were more rigidly orthodox and the non-Brahmins were kept at a greater distance. When Swami Brahmananda was staying at Madras Math, a non-Brahmin devotee invited him to his house. The Swami accepted the invitation readily. And in the house of that devotee, along with the Swami, Brahmins, non-Brahmins, Christians, Brahmos, all took their meal together. There was no fuss about social reform in this inter-dining. It was inspired by a spontaneous feeling that arose in the presence of the Swami: that there was no distinction of caste or creed in the soul, that in the eye of God every one was equal.

From Madras City he went on a pilgrimage to Rameshwaram and Madura. It is said that as the Swami entered the temple of Minakshi at Madura he began to utter the name of the Mother like a child, and he lost soon all outward consciousness. Swami Ramakrishnananda, who accompanied him, immediately took hold of the Swami lest he should fall down. It was nearly an hour after when he came down to the normal consciousness. Swami Brahmananda usually had great control over his religious emotion. Rarely could a person detect what was going on within him. His spiritual experiences, of which he had a great many as circumstantial evidences indicate, are a sealed book to the outside world. But at times a flood-tide of feeling would break down all barriers of control even in such a powerful personality as that of Swami Brahmananda and the bystanders could see outward signs of his spiritual experience. Two or three other similar incidents in the life of the Swami can be cited. But as soon as he came to the ordinary plane he would betray signs of embarrassment at not having been able to keep his spiritual experience shut out from public view.

From Madura he returned to Madras and from there went to Bangalore to open the new building of the monastery in Mysore State.

It was in July, 1916, that the Swami went to visit the South for the second time. During this visit on August 4, he laid the foundation-stone of the new building of the Ramakrishna Math at Madras and after a week went to Bangalore. At Bangalore an incident happened which indicates how wide and deep was the sympathy of the Swami. At the monastery at Bangalore many untouchables would meet in the main hall for prayer and worship. Swami Brahmananda was specially pleased at this sight. One day, of his own accord, the Swami suddenly visited the quarters of the untouchables, saw the shrine-room they had built and encouraged and blessed them. It was beyond the farthest limit of their imagination that the Swami, whose presence had created a stir amongst the elite of the town and to see whom even the big people of the place were very eager, could feel so interested in them as to go to their place unasked and to mix with them so freely.

This time the Swami visited many sacred places in the South including some in Malabar and Travancore. On May 6, 1917, he laid the foundation-stone of the new building of the Ramakrishna Mission Students’ Home in Madras and soon after left for Bengal. During this visit he was very pleased to see that the number of persons who showed interest in the message of the Master was rapidly on the increase. Even in distant Malabar and Travancore centres were growing and the devotees of the Master and of Swami Vivekananda were becoming innumerable. Swami Brahmananda in this visit laid the foundation-stone of an Ashrama on a beautiful spot on the top of a hill in Trivandrum overlooking the sea.

The Swami went to the South for the last time in 1920. This time he opened the new spacious building of the Ramakrishna Mission Students’ Home in Madras.

In the meantime, in 1916, he went to Dacca in East Bengal to lay the foundation-stone of the local Ramakrishna Mission on a new site. He took advantage of this occasion to visit the holy place at Kamakhya. The Swami went to Mymensingh and visited Narayangunge as also Deobhog, the birth-place of Durga Charan Nag, a great devotee of the Master.

Wherever the Swami went there was unusual enthusiasm, and people showed spontaneous expression of great devotion to the cause of the Mission. Thus these visits of Swami Brahmananda always laid the foundation of the future activity and expansion of the work of the Mission. But he himself was unconcerned about these things. He simply depended on the will of the Master and felt glad, with the naivety of a child, that the message of the Master was spreading like wild fire.

It has been mentioned that he went to North India several times. He would usually stay at Benares or Kankhal and visit other sacred places occasionally. Whenever he visited a sacred place or a temple a large number of monks and devotees would accompany him, for to go with him was to get an added inspiration. On such occasions he would sometimes take with him those who could sing and ask them to sing devotional songs in the presence of the Deity. The combined effect of all these was simply marvellous. Those who were present on such occasions would feel an experience which they could never forget. They would be lifted up to a plane beyond the reach of any earthliness. And the one who was the centre of all this would remain absorbed within himself almost oblivious of his surroundings. Once while he was hearing devotional music in Ayodhya standing in front of the Deity, there came a downpour. The Swami stood steadfast almost unconscious of the rains. Others came hurriedly and took care of him. It was long after the rains had ceased that the Swami came back to the conscious plane.

He had a great love for music. Latterly wherever he would be there was devotional music in the evening. The Swami would sit quiet in the midst and his very serenity would create such an atmosphere that nobody would dare whisper a word lest there should be disturbance. On such occasions the listeners enjoyed the blessings of a spiritual bath, as it were.


With respect to Swami Brahmananda, Sri Ramakrishna used to say in his inimitable homely way, "Rakhal is like a mango which does not give any outward indication when ripe." He meant that Rakhal had within him great spiritual potentiality which he would always keep hidden from the outside world. But in spite of all the attempts of Swami Brahmananda to keep his powers hidden, when his spiritual personality began to unfold itself people in larger and larger numbers began to flock to him. And they were of all classes—actors and dramatists, lawyers and doctors, old and young men. They all wondered what was in him that attracted them so much, but they could not help going to him. He would not necessarily talk of spiritual things with them. As a matter of fact the Swami was veiy taciturn in that respect. He would talk of all sorts of things, but if any spiritual question was put to him he would look grave, and the questioner would not like to press his point. But still there were many who would feel miserable if they had not seen the Swami at least once in the course of the day.

Perhaps one of the secrets of this magnetic attraction was his deep love for one and all. But there was hardly any sentimental expression of his love. He would say, "The love that expresses itself outwardly is not sufficiently deep." Behind his silence people could not gauge how great was his love for them. They would feel drawn by a strong current, as it were, but they could not understand the why and wherefore of it. Innumerable were the lives that were changed by his touch. Many would come with whom he would crack jokes and make fun, but afterwards they would find to their great astonishment that their lives had taken a new turn. There were persons who thought no sacrifice too great to fulfil his slightest wish. Many young men, caught in the current of his love, gave up the world and worldly prospects. They felt that in comparison with the love they got from him, the love of their parents dwindled into nothingness.

For a long time the Swami would not make any personal disciple. It was very hard to get initiation from him. He felt himself too humble for that. But latterly he was more liberal in this respect. The method of his giving initiation was novel. Once he said that in giving initiation he had to find out through deep meditation the exact Mantra and the Chosen Deity of the disciple. Unless he could do that he would not give initiation. He was conscious of the fact that to make a disciple is to take upon oneself the spiritual responsibility of the person concerned. And until the disciple gets his salvation the Guru willingly forgoes his own desire for that. Naturally he was careful to give initiation to only those who were really earnest about their spiritual life. That was also the reason why he would not easily talk about spiritual things. Those who were genuine seekers would get proper—nay tremendous, guidance from him. But those who were half-hearted and dilettante would find no response from him in this respect.

His human relationship was wonderful. We have seen how everybody felt the touch of his infinite love. From the leaders of thought and of society down to a humble servant every one was the recipient of great consideration from him. His courtesy and dignity were remarkable and betrayed more a prince than a monk, or do they not apply equally to both ? He had actually the majestic appearance of a prince. If nothing else, his mere appearance compelled reverence from others.

But when he made fun or played with.children, who would take him to be Swami Brahmananda, the head of the Ramakrishna Order, before whom the monks bowed and big men felt themselves small? He was then just like a child, and the children considered him as surely one of them. His fund of humour was great, and no less was his capacity for mischief-making. One of his Gurubhais wanted to leave him and go to his field of work when there was urgency. Swami Brahmananda reluctantly agreed to the proposal. A palanquin was engaged which would carry the Gurubhai to the railway station for the night train. Before the palanquin started Swami Brahmananda whispered something to the bearers. The bearers instead of going to the station walked and walked throughout the whole night to the tune of their droning sound of “ hoom, hoom ” and returned with the inattentive Gurubhai at sunrise to the place from which they had started. Swami Brahmananda came out and greeted his brother there gravely. The Gurubhai realised the mischief. The condition of his mind can well be imagined; but he did not know whether to get angry or to admire the cleverness of his brother. It was difficult to cope with Swami Brahmananda in such matters. He wa’s without a parallel.

The last important act of Swami Brahmananda was to build under his personal supervision an Ashrama at Bhubaneshwar, some miles from Puri. He was of the opinion that Bhubaneshwar had such a spiritual atmosphere that progress would be very rapid if Sadhana was performed there. He saw that many monks of the Order had to work so hard that they did not find sufficient time for spiritual practices. And those who' went to Rishikesh and other places exclusively for Tapasya broke down their health by too much hardship. He desired very much that there should be a place where the monks could get proper facilities for spiritual practices. The Ashrama has a big compound with well-laid gardens and a vast open space around. He had an idea of personally carrying out the development of the place according to his plan and desire; but he was not able to see his dream fulfilled.


After his last Madras tour he went to Bengal stopping on the way for some time at Bhubaneshwar. While at the headquarters he sometimes went from Belur to the house of Balaram Bose in Calcutta and stayed there. The house of Balaram Bose is a place of pilgrimage to the devotees of Sri Ramakrishna; for to this house the Master went many,, many times, so that the place was just like a second home to the monks of the Ramakrishna Mission. In the last week of March, 1922, Swami Brahmananda went to stay at the house of Balaram Bose. Suddenly on March 24, he had an attack of cholera. The best doctors were called in, the best attendants were engaged. But he had hardly recovered from the attack when symptoms of diabetes developed which took an alarming turn. Out of great anxiety different kinds of treatment were tried, different physicians were called in, but there was no sign of any improvement. He had great suffering attended with various ailments. But even in that state he began to talk of high spiritual things punctuated with masterly strokes of sudden humour. In a great spirit of compassion he began to bless one and all. The devotees were alarmed lest this should mean his bidding farewell. Sri Ramakrishna had one day had a vision that floating on the waters of the Ganges there came a thousand-petalled lotus illumining the whole surrounding. On the lotus stood a boy holding the hands of Sri Krishna. When the Master first met Rakhal he identified him as that boy. But he kept that vision secret, giving it out only to a select few, and said that if Rakhal knew this fact of identity hd would give up his body. Now Swami Brahmananda, in an ecstatic state, began to refer to just such a vision as that of the Master. People grew more alarmed at this. Another day passed. The following evening, on April ro, Swami Brahmananda closed his eyes in deep Samadhi, and the spirit which had put on mortal flesh for the benefit of humanity fled away.

Indeed, to see Swami Brahmananda was tangibly to feel that he did not belong to this world, that he belonged to a separate plane of existence. He was in a class by himself. He was far above the level of humanity, but still he lived and moved with it as if to fulfil a divine purpose. Even a sceptic would feel this, and even a person knowing nothing about him would realise it. Those who had known both Sri Ramakrishna and Swami Brahmananda used to say that Swami Brahmananda represented some of the characteristics of the Master; there was some similarity even in physical appearance.

So long as the devotees and disciples lived with the Swami they were enveloped in ceaseless bliss. The thought did never come to them at any time that there would be an end of it. But when the biblical “bridegroom" was taken away, they suddenly came to the sense of from what a great height they had fallen. As far as the organisation was concerned, its main pillar was removed, its very foundation was shaken. By his silent and imperceptible influence he had raised the organisation to such a height of prestige and standard of perfection that to the public eye it had become almost synonymous with infallibility. But now everybody felt as if a great Himalayan peak had suddenly been bodily removed. Everyone bfegan to ask himself, " Now, what about the future?” And those who had moved with him closely thought within themselves, " Was it a fact that we lived with a soul like that of Swami Brahmananda ? Indeed, what have we done to deserve that blessed privilege ?' ’ A great dream had faded away all too suddenly.