Lay Disciples of Sri Ramakrishna
Ram Chandra Datta
Ram Chandra Datta was born in Kolkata on 30 October 1851. His father,
Nrisimha Prasad Datta, was devoted to Krishna, and his mother, Tulasimani,
was known for her piety and kindness. Ram's mother died when he was only
two and a half. His favourite pastime during childhood was the worship of
Krishna. He would also visit a hermitage near his home, where he came in
contact with several monks.
As he grew up, Ram became greatly interested in science, and studied
chemistry. He later succeeded in extracting an antidote for blood
dysentery from an indigenous medicinal plant. As a result, he was
appointed a member of the Chemist Association of England. However, his
ardour for science promoted free-thinking, and as is often wont, he became
an atheist. The untimely death of his daughter, however, changed all this.
On 13 November 1879, he visited Dakshineswar with Gopal Chandra Mitra and
Manomohan Mitra. This was his first visit to Sri Ramakrishna. From the
beginning, Sri Ramakrishna made Ram his own and enquired about his
personal life and mental conflicts. In response to Ram's questions, Sri
Ramakrishna said, God really exists. You do not see any stars during the
day, but that does not mean that the stars do not exist...Make your mind
like a fishing-rod and your life-force or Prana, like a hook. Your
devotion and your japa are like the bait. Eventually you will be blessed
by the vision of God. As days went by, Ram's scepticism gave way to
faith. He surrendered himself spiritually to Sri Ramakrishna. He would
arrange Kirtan (devotional singing) in his home in the company of devotees
of Sri Ramakrishna.
In 1883, he bought a Garden House at a secluded place known as
Kankurgachi with the idea of leading a contemplative life there. He
named it, Yogodyana. Ramakrishna visited that place on 26 December 1883.
After Sri Ramakrishna's passing away, a part of his relics was installed
at the Kankurgachi Yogodyana on the holy day of Janmashtami. Ram was the
first person to publish a biography of Sri Ramakrishna, and to build a
temple for him.
On 17 January 1899, Ram breathed his last. His relics are placed next to
Sri Ramakrishna's temple at Yogodyana.
Surendra Nath Mitra
Surendra Nath Mitra was probably born in 1850, and met Sri Ramakrishna for
the first time when he was about thirty.
Surendra's early life was that of a Bohemian open-minded, care-free and
indifferent to religion. He was promiscuous and often got drunk. But this
gave him no peace and he even wanted to end his life. Finally, urged by Ramchandra Datta who was his neighbour, Surendra went to Dakshineswar in
the company of Ram and Manomohan to meet Sri Ramakrishna, probably in
1880. Sri Ramakrishna was speaking about self-surrender. His words gave
Surendra solace and strength. The Master accepted him with all his
blemishes. Surendra was deeply devoted to Mother Kali and set up a shrine
to her at his home. He worshipped her with much love and devotion. One day
the Master said to Surendra, Well, Suresh, why don't you first offer the
wine you drink to Mother Kali, and then drink it as her Prasad? When he
started practising this, the action, curiously enough, filled him with
Surendra was large-hearted by nature, and used to make arrangements for
the food and bedding for those devotees who spent nights with the Master
at Dakshineswar to serve him. It was Surendra who commissioned the famous
oil painting in which Sri Ramakrishna points out to Keshab Chandra Sen the
harmony of religions.
After Sri Ramakrishna's Maha Samadhi, Surendra paid the rent of the house
at Baranagore that housed the first monastery of the disciples of the
Master. Thus, Surendra's devotion and sacrifice made it possible for those
earnest souls to renounce the world for the realization of God.
Surendra passed away on 25 May 1890 at the age of forty. When Belur Math
was built, the marble flooring for the original shrine-room was done with
some money that Surendra had set part for the Math.
Balaram was born in December 1842, in a wealthy Vaishnava family of North
Kolkata. His grandfather, Guruprasad Basu, had established a Radha-Shyam
temple in his house, and because of this, that section of the city has
come to be known as Shyam-bazar.
It was probably on 1 January 1881 that Balaram met Sri Ramakrishna for the
first time. Balaram asked Sri Ramakrishna, Does God really exist?
Certainly, he does, was the prompt answer. Balaram soon became one of
the principal suppliers and gave generously to the Master and his
disciples. Every year Balaram would celebrate the Car Festival of Lord
Jagannath at his home. The Master's presence would greatly enhance the joy
of the occasion. The Master used to love visiting Balaram's home in
Kolkata. The entire household of Balaram Basu was devoted to God.
Krishnabhavini, Balaram's wife, was the sister of Swami Premananda, one of
the foremost disciples of Sri Ramakrishna.
After Sri Ramakrishna's passing, Balaram would give one rupee every day
for the daily worship of Sri Ramakrishna at the Baranagore Math. He would
also keep track of the food situation in the monastery.
In 1890, Balaram became a victim of an influenza epidemic in Kolkata.
Before passing away, he wanted only to talk of Sri Ramakrishna, and keep
the company of his all-renouncing disciples. It is said that the Master
came at the final moment to take him to the Eternal Realm.
Mahendra Nath Gupta (M.)
M. was the pen name of Mahendra Nath Gupta. He was born in Kolkata on 14
July 1854. His parents were spiritual minded and he was deeply devoted to
his mother. When he was four, he went to the Car Festival at Mahesh with
his mother, and visited Dakshineswar on the way back. It is likely that
this was the first time that he saw Sri Ramakrishna. From his childhood M.
had mystical inclinations. He was a bright student and gained deep
knowledge in English literature, Western philosophy and other subjects.
After graduating from college, M. took up the profession of a teacher and
served as a head master in several schools. One afternoon, he went for a
walk with his nephew Sidhu to the temple garden of Dakshineswar. He was in
a depressed frame of mind, but the subsequent meeting with Sri Ramakrishna
removed all sadness. On his second visit, he tried to argue with Sri
Ramakrishna and got a scolding from the Master. As he described it later,
his ego was crushed. At the Master's instruction, M. practised inner
sannyasa, while not being indifferent to his worldly duties and
M. used to note down Sri Ramakrishna's words in order to think about them
in the intervening period before he met him again. Gifted with artistic
ability and an accurate memory, he recreated vividly in writing what he
had seen or heard in the Master's presence. After the passing away of Sri
Ramakrishna, some of the disciples of the Master asked him to publish the
diary, but he was reluctant. Only after Sri Sarada Devi approved it, did
he feel that he had divine sanction. The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna, or Sri
Sri Ramakrishna Kathamrita as it is called in Bengali, has not only made
M. immortal but it has also become the source of solace and hope for
millions today. About the new Gospel, Aldous Huxley remarks in his
Foreword: Never have the casual and unstudied utterances of a great
religious teacher been set down with so minute a fidelity.
M. regularly visited the Baranagore Monastery and supported the monastic
disciples in every possible way. On June 4, 1932, M. left his body in full
consciousness, uttering Mother, Gurudeva, take me up in your arms.
Durga Charan Nag was born on 21 August 1846 at Deobhog, a small village in
present Bangladesh. His father was Dindayal Nag. His mother passed away
when he was eight, and he was brought up by an affectionate aunt. The
latter used to narrate to the boy tales from the Ramayana and the
In later years, he studied homeopathy under Dr. Behari Lal Bhaduri, a
renowned physician of Kolkata. He was very successful as a homeopath.
However, he remained unattached, and lust and greed, name and fame, did
not taint him.
As years passed, the desire to realize God possessed Nag Mahashay , and
one day, with his friend, Suresh, he visited Dakshineswar. The saint of
Dakshineswar received them cordially, and at the time of parting said,
Come again. A relationship grows through frequent visits. Soon after, he
felt a tremendous urge to renounce the world, but the Master said in an
ecstatic mood, Remain in the world like the ancient king Janaka
unattached. Your life will be an example of how a householder should
Durga Charan could not tolerate worldly talk and his austerity was
extreme. After the Master's death, Nag Mahashay spent most of his time in
Deobhog, managing the household and looking after his aged father. He
lived a simple, unassuming life, concealing his glowing spirituality under
a veil of great humility.
His reputation as a holy man spread. However, he did not initiate anybody.
Barely three years after his father's death Nag Mahashay came down with
colic and dysentery which proved to be fatal. The last few days of his
life, he frequently he used to be in samadhi. On 27 December 1899 he
passed into maha samadhi.
Girish Chandra Ghosh
Born of pious parents on February 28, 1844, Girish grew up as a lively
carefree soul. He inherited from his father a sharp intellect and a
pragmatic approach to life, and from his mother a love for literature and
devotion to God. His grandmother introduced him to the rich heritage of
India's epics and mythology.
Unfortunately, at the threshold of youth, Girish started drifting into
drunkenness and debauchery. Yet side by side with his perverse behaviour,
he would raise money to help the poor.
Because of his wayward nature, he could not complete his school education.
But he was a genius and a voracious reader. He studied several subjects
and gained vast knowledge in English literature, Western philosophy and
science. His prodigious creativity found expression through writing and
acting. He wrote many well-known plays, and acted in most of them. The
songs which he wrote are popular even today.
In his case, it was not he who first sought Sri Ramakrishna, but it was
the Master who sought him first. On seeing Sri Ramakrishna for the first
time, he thought that the latter was a fraud. Only in his fourth meeting
did he feel the wonderful attraction of Sri Ramakrishna. Through the
latter's influence, he slowly gave up his haughtiness, rudeness and
arrogance. The Master asked him to have faith in order to get rid of
crookedness of heart. Under the Master's loving care, Girish started
realizing that the Master would not condemn him for his shortcomings. One
great virtue that Girish had was his steadfastness to Truth and total lack
of hypocrisy. Finally, one day Girish surrendered completely to the
Master. Girish's faith and love were so intense that his life was quickly
On 1 January 1886, during the Master's last illness, Girish openly started
preaching the Master's divinity. Many were blessed by the Master after the
event. After the Master's death, he purposely did not see the latter's
dead body to preserve in his mind the conviction that the Master was
He breathed his last on 8 February 1912. His last words were: Master, you
have come. Please destroy my worldly intoxication. Victory to Sri
Ramakrishna. Let us go.
Akshay Kumar Sen
Akshay was born in 1854 at Maynapur, a small village in the Bankura
District of Bengal. Because of the extreme poverty of his parents
Haladhar Sen and Bidhumukhi Devi, Akshay was brought up in the countryside
and educated in a village school.
He moved to Kolkata to escape his poverty, and took up a job as a private
tutor. He once overheard a conversation about a Paramahamsa in
Dakshineswar and was intrigued. One day a friend took him to Sri
Ramakrishna. On his first visit, he witnessed the Master singing and
dancing in a God-intoxicated state. Then Akshay underwent a period of
great trial, during which he felt that Sri Ramakrishna was ignoring him.
However, one day he got the first opportunity to serve the Master
personally. This left a deep mark on him. On 1 January 1886 (Kalpataru
Day), he was one among those who were specially blessed by the Master. On
that occasion Sri Ramakrishna whispered a Mantra (Sacred Syllable) in his
After Sri Ramakrishna's passing away, Akshay used to worship Master's
photograph at his home with flowers etc and sing his glory to the
accompaniment of a one-stringed instrument. In 1887, he started writing
Sri Ramakrishna's life in verse, the Sri Sri Ramakrishna Punthi in
Bengali. The book has been translated into English prose under the title A
Portrait of Sri Ramakrishna. He later wrote Padye Sri Sri Ramakrishna
Paramahamsa Dever Upadesh and Sri Sri Ramakrishna Mahima. These books have
given to Akshay an everlasting and important place in the Ramakrishna
Movement. He suffered from poverty and other family problems. But he used
to pass his days in recollection of the Master. Akshay died on 7 December
Devendra Nath Majumdar
Devendra Nath Majumdar was born in the village of Jagannathpur in the
Jessore District of East Bengal (now Bangladesh) on 7 January 1844. His
father, Prasanna Nath, died two months before his birth. As a child, he
would never utter a falsehood. The death of his elder brother, Surendra,
thrust the family into poverty. His work fetched very little money. He was
also assailed by doubts about the existence of God.
One day, coming to know of Sri Ramakrishna from a friend, he rushed to
Dakshineswar. He was deeply impressed by the Master's completely artless
nature. The next meeting took place in Balaram Bose's house. Mentally
Devendra accepted the Master as his guru, and later came to feel that the
Master was with him all the time and watching over him.
Soon he resigned his job and took to a life of intense sadhana. He
experienced ecstatic moods. On 6 April 1885, Sri Ramakrishna visited to
Devendra's house along with several devotees.
After the Master's death, Devendra used to visit the Baranagore Monastery
and the Kankurgachi Yogodyana from time to time. He worked in Girish
Ghosh's Minerva Theatre from 1893-1895, but this seemed to lead him
astray. So, he gave up the job and suffered from financial distress for a
Devendra began to spend his time speaking about Sri Ramakrishnas life and
teachings. He composed several beautiful songs on Sri Ramakrishna which
are sung even now.
In February 1902 he, along with some other devotees, rented a house at 39
Dev Lane where they worshipped Sri Ramakrishna and performed Kirtan and
meditation. This Institution was called, Sri Ramakrishna Archanalaya. On 8
October 1911, Devendra passed away at the Archanalaya uttering the name of