( 1876 - 1947 )
Swami Achalananda Maharaj was known as Kedarnath Moulik in his pre-monastic days. He was born and educated in Varanasi. Not much is known about his childhood as he was reticent about that matter. Even his date of birth is also a matter of conjecture. He was probably born sometime in the year 1876.
As a young man, Kedarnath came in contact with Charuchandra Das (who later became known as Swami Shubhananda, a disciple of Swami Vivekananda) and others. These young men would often meet at Kedarnath’s house which had a good library. There they read and discussed books on philosophy and religion. Once they invited Swami Niranjanananda Maharaj to their gathering. Kedarnath was much attracted by the imposing personality of this disciple of Sri Ramakrishna. Listening to him talk about his Master, Kedarnath was filled with reverence for Sri Ramakrishna. Prompted by the spirit of renunciation, he resigned from his job after some time and gave himself completely to spiritual practices.
Kedarnath came to Kolkata towards the end of 1899 to serve Swami Niranjanananda who was suffering from severe blood dysentery. In Kolkata, Kedarnath had the good fortune of interacting with Swami Brahmananda and other disciples of Sri Ramakrishna. He also received blessings of the Holy Mother Sarada Devi.
Kedarnath returned to Varanasi in June 1900 and joined his former friends. That was the time when the future Ramakrishna Mission Home of Service was taking shape. Kedarnath and his friends served helpless pilgrims with their heart and soul.
Swami Vivekananda returned to India in December 1900 after his second visit to the West. He was very pleased to hear about the work of Kedarnath and others in Varanasi and encouraged them to continue their service. With an eager heart, Kedarnath came to Belur Math in 1901 to meet him. Though he intended to stay only for two weeks, he remained in Belur Math for nine months in the blessed company of Swami Vivekananda. Once seeing him, Swami Vivekananda suddenly remarked, “You will not have to do any spiritual practice. You will attain spiritual realization spontaneously.” He gave Kedarnath sannyasa diksha on Lord Buddha’s birthday in 1902 and gave him the name Achalananda. In 1904, Swami Achalananda was sent to the Chennai Math to work under Swami Ramakrishnananda. He stayed there for about eleven months and then returned to Varanasi.
Back in Varanasi, Achalananda was entrusted with the supervision of the construction of the hospital building of the Home of Service. He bore great love for that institution, and its progress was uppermost in his mind till his last moment. “Each brick of the Sevashrama [Home of Service] is like a rib of my body”, he would say.
Achalananda was elected one of the trustees of the Ramakrishna Math in 1910. Severe austerities had already led to his physical breakdown. He retired from active work in 1914 and spent the rest of his life in preserving and propagating the ideals of Sri Ramakrishna and Swami Vivekananda.
Swami Achalananda became the Vice-President of the Math and Mission in 1938. Though he now held such a prestigious position in the organization, he maintained his same austere lifestyle. His unassuming nature and sweet behaviour attracted one and all, and none who came in his presence failed to benefit from the spiritual power he emanated. There were many instances in which he roused the latent powers of even ordinary persons by his love and affection. Achalananda suffered much due to his physical ailments in his last few years. He passed away at the age of 71 in Varanasi on 11 March 1947. He was the source of spiritual inspiration for countless monks and devotees and was greatly admired for his spiritual attainments.