( 1889 - 1966 )
Swam Yatishwarananda, known as Suresh Chandra Bhattacharya in his pre-monastic life was born on Wednesday, 16 January 1889 in his maternal uncle’s house in a village named Nandanpur in the district of Pabna which is now in Bangladesh. His father, Ishan Chandra Bhattacharya, a teacher in a government school, was a devout Brahmin and his mother Bidhumukht Devi too was a pious lady, and he was fortunate in being born in a religious family.
He had his early education in Jalpaiguri and Bogra and passed the entrance examination from a school in Rangpur. He studied at Rajsahi and Cooch Behar colleges and afterwards at the Bangabasi College, Kolkata. Finally, he got admitted into the Presidency College, Kolkata, from where he passed the BA examination, securing a gold medal for having stood first in Sanskrit in Calcutta University. He continued his postgraduate studies in Chemistry up to the sixth year, but did not come out successful, because of his indifference to his studies. At this time, he was being filled with the spirit of renunciation as a result of his contact with the monastic disciples of Sri Ramakrishna at Belur Math. His parents wanted him to lead a householder’s life, but he plainly told his mother someday towards the end of 1911 that he was going to join the Ramakrishna Order to attain God-realization and that, if he failed in his mission, he would surely come back and accede to their wishes.
With the little money that his parents gave him, he came straight to Belur Math and joined the order in 1911 at the age of 22. He was an initiated disciple of Swami Brahmanandaji Maharaj and was given sannyasa diksha by him in 1917 at Chennai.
in 1921 he became the editor of Prabuddha Bharata, in which capacity he continued for two years. Thereafter, he was made the head of Mumbai branch for about a year. In 1926 he was appointed the head of Chennai Math and he continued so till 1933. In 1928 he was made a trustee of the Ramakrishna Math and a member of the Governing Body of the Ramakrishna Mission. At the invitation of a group of earnest souls, he was deputed to Wiesbaden in Rhineland (Germany) where he arrived in November 1933. From the winter of 1935 to the end of 1938 he extended his activity to Switzerland, forming study circles at St Moritz, and later at Geneva and other places, and also worked for several months at Hague in Holland, as also in Paris and London. In 1940, at the beginning of the Second World War, he left Germany and went to the USA. There, in December 1942, he was able to start a Vedanta Centre at Philadelphia and was the head of that Centre up to 1949. He returned to India in 1950 from the USA via Europe. In 1951 he became the head of Bengaluru centre, and in view of his sterling spiritual attainments, he was authorized by the trustees of Ramakrishna Math in 1952 to give initiation to spiritual aspirants. In 1962 he was elected a Vice-President of the Ramakrishna Math and Ramakrishna Misson.
The swami was well versed in eastern and western philosophies. He was an impressive speaker, a good writer and was the author of the books The Adventures in Religious Life, Universal Prayers, Divine Life, Way to the Divine, and Letters and Prayers. His winning manners, feeling heart, catholic views and spiritual attainments earned for him the admiration and devotion of a large number of friends and admirers, devotees and disciples, in India and abroad, whose lives were very much influenced by him.
From about the middle of 1965 he was suffering from various physical ailments. He was taken to Belur Math for a change of climate and treatment. He attained Mahasamadhi on 27 January 1966.
For some time before his passing away, he had been feeling that the end was approaching. He was often heard saying, “Swami Brahmananda Maharaj has taken away all power from me. There is no use of this body any longer. Better it is cast away.”