By Swami Harshananda
Svāmi Vijñānānanda lived in A. D. 1868-1938. Rāmakṛṣṇa one day challenged a young man to wrestle with him. The tall and hefty youth put him down in no time. The young man soon felt a power entering from Rāmakṛṣṇa’s body into his own, making him completely powerless. That was how Hariprasanna had one of his early encounters with the Master.
Born on the 28th October 1868 in a respectable brāhmaṇa family at Belgharia in Calcutta, Hariprasanna Caṭṭopādhyāya received a good education from his parents. He became an engineer and rose to the position of District Engineer in the erstwhile State of United Provinces, before renouncing the world. From his very first visit, Rāmakṛṣṇa spotted him out as one belonging to the inner circle and a future monk. He took particular care to instill in him the ideal of brahmacarya or celibacy. His visits to Dakṣiṇeśvar and contact with the Master laid a firm foundation for his spiritual life.
When the Master passed away, Hariprasanna who was still a student at Patna in Bihar, had a strange vision in which he saw Rāmakṛṣṇa, standing before him. Since he had lost his father early and had to support his mother, he was obliged to take to government service, but kept in touch with the disciples of the Master, especially Narendranāth. Later in A. D. 1896, he renounced the world and joined the Maṭh then at Ālambazār and became ‘Svāmi Vijñānānanda’ after ordination.
Since he was an engineer with good experience in building construction, he was entrusted by Svāmi Vivekānanda himself with the task of building the Maṭh campus and also preparing suitable plans for a memorial temple of Rāmakṛṣṇa. So he prepared it in consultation with a noted European architect of Calcutta and Svāmījī approved of the same. Due to the sudden demise of Svāmīji and lack of funds, the project had to wait for a long time to be taken up. It was completed and dedicated by Svāmi Vijñānānanda himself on the 14th of January 1938.
A group of young men in Allahabad had formed themselves into an association called ‘Brahmavādin Club’ with a view to uplift themselves morally and spiritually. They had done this under the inspiration of a devotee of Rāmakṛṣṇa. This devotee had left Allahabad in 1900. Luckily, Svāmi Vijñānānanda arrived at Allahabad in the same year as a wandering monk. The young men who were delighted to have a disciple of Rāmakṛṣṇa amongst them, requested the Svāmi to live in the rented premises of their Club and guide them. The Svāmi agreed and lived there for nearly ten years, spending most of his time in austerity and study. He later on established a permanent branch of the Ramakrishna Math at Allahabad in 1910.
The Svāmi was a great scholar, not only in Sanskrit and religio-philosophical works but also in astronomy and astrology. He was elected the President of the Rāmakṛṣṇa Order in 1937 after the demise of Svāmi Akhaṇḍānanda. He strove hard to complete the construction of the temple of Rāmakṛṣṇa at Belur Maṭh, which he successfully did and dedicated in January 1938 as already indicated. He then returned to Allahabad and passed away on the 25th April the same year. The body was consigned to the sacred waters of the Triveṇī, at the confluence of the rivers Gaṅga and Yamuna, and the invisible Sarasvatī.
- ↑ It was the pre-monastic name of Svāmi Vijñānānanda.
- ↑ He is Svāmi Vivekānanda.
- The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore