Date of Birth : 16 December 1854
Place of Birth : Barasat, east of Kolkata
Tarak was the second son of his father Ramkanai Ghoshal who was a
lawyer and Tantrik adept and also very charitable. In accordance
with the custom of those days Tarak was married in his teens but,
with the consent of his young wife, he lived an absolutely chaste
life. Years later, when Swami Vivekananda came to know of this, he
called him Mahapurush which meant great soul, and since then he
came to be known as Mahapurush Maharaj.
After completing school final, Tarak took up a job in order to help
his father. But he used to practise spiritual disciplines. He saw
Sri Ramakrishna for the first time at the house of Ramachandra Datta
in May 1880. A few days later he went to Dakshineswar and
surrendered himself fully to Sri Ramakrishna. From then on he began
to practise intense prayer and meditation under the Masters
guidance. Three years later his wife died; Tarak renounced hearth
and home and started living sometimes in a devotees house and
sometimes in lonely places.
After the Masters mahasamadhi, when Baranagar Math was started,
Tarak was one of the first to join the brotherhood. With sannyasa
ordination he received the name Shivananda. He, however, spent
several years leading an intensely contemplative life at different
places in north India, and returned to Math in 1896.
When Swami Vivekananda founded the Ramakrishna Mission in 1897, he
sent Swami Shivananda to Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) to spread Vedanta
there. A year later Swami Shivananda returned to Math. In 1902, just
before Swami Vivekanandas mahasamadhi, he went to Varanasi to start
the Advaita Ashrama there of which he remained the head for seven
years. In 1910 he was elected Vice-President of Ramakrishna Mission.
In 1922, after the passing of Swami Brahmananda, he became the
second President of Ramakrishna Math and Mission. He travelled to
different places blessing sincere seekers with spiritual initiation.
Like Swami Brahmananda, he stressed meditation along with work. He
gave great importance to prayer as a form of Sadhana. He was full of
love and compassion, and sincere seekers flocked to him.
In April 1933 he suffered a stroke and developed paralysis of one
side. On 20 February 1934, a few days after Sri Ramakrishnas
birthday, Mahapurush Maharaj left the body for the heavenly abode.
His memory is kept alive at Belur Math in the small room adjacent to
the Old Shrine.
For further reading : A man of God
by Swami Vividishananda; For Seekers of God translated by Swami
Vividishananda and Swami Gambhirananda.