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Subhas Chandra Bose and Sri Ramakrishna Paramhamsa

The birth anniversary of Sri Ramakrishna, the great mystical saint who is regarded as a divine incarnation by millions of his followers across the world, was celebrated a few days back. In this connection the great Nationalist leader and his relationship with the Ramakrishna Vivekananda movement should be scrutinized in detail. It is quite evident from the Indian Pilgrim, as well as from the biographies of Subhas, that he was inspired by Swami Vivekananda after he happened to read the Complete Works. He was particularly inspired by the philosophy of practical Vedanta - of serving the poor, the needy, the afflicted as a means of worshipping the divinity in them. But even before coming in contact with Vivekananda, a young Subhas read Kathamrita or the Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna, as was evident from some of his correspondence with mother Prabhavati Devi - "goal of life is to realize God". A young Subhas however was more influenced by Swami Vivekananda's dynamic personality and could understand the Gospel better after reading Vivekananda. He says, "From Vivekananda I turned gradually to his master, Ramakrishna Paramahansa. Vivekananda had made speeches, written letters, and published books which were available to the layman. But Ramakrishna, who was almost an illiterate man, had done nothing of the kind. He had lived his life and had left it to others to explain it. Nevertheless, there were books or diaries published by his disciples which gave the essence of his teachings…. There was nothing new in his teaching, which is as old as Indian civilization itself, the Upanishads having taught thousands of years ago that through abandonment of worldly desires alone can immortal life be attained. The effectiveness of Ramakrishna’s appeal lay, however, in the fact that he had practised what he preached and that…he had reached the acme of spiritual progress."

He developed the spirit of renunciation and left his home in 1914 in search of a Guru. He met Swami Brahmananda, the spiritual son of Sri Ramakrishna and the President of the Ramakrishna Math and Mission, in Varanasi, who advised him to go back as he had a different life ordained for him. Swami Brahmananda knew Subhas's father Janakinath Bose and perhaps also Subhas himself.

After Subhas Chandra Bose assumed office of the CEO of Calcutta Corporation he started his seva activities in a much higher scale. In 1922 he organized the relief work in North Bengal flood, that earned the appreciation of his enemies. In 1924 he visited the Ramakrishna Mission Student's Home of Swami Nirvedananda, and left the following message - “I visited the Ramakrishna Mission Students’ Home a few days ago and was exceedingly pleased with what I saw. Hostels of this kind are a crying necessity in a place like Calcutta… This institution deserves well of the Calcutta University and in fact all who are interested in the welfare of the students. The fact that a serious attempt is made here to impart moral and religious instruction as also to make students live a good and pure life, is a further reason why I am interested in the success of this institution.”

There is no evidence of Subhas Chandra Bose visiting Belur Math during the time he was the Mayor of Calcutta Corporation or the brief period when he was outside prison in India. It is not clear if he met any other Ramakrishna Mission monk, particularly the direct disciples of Sri Ramakrishna. Subhas was interned when the 100th birth centenary of Sri Ramakrishna was celebrated in Calcutta. But according to the reminiscences of his close associate Hari Vishnu Kamath, who also left ICS and became an ardent follower of Subhas, during his two month stay with Subhas in Calcutta, he found that Subhas Chandra Bose used to visit the Ramakrishna Mission Ashrama in Calcutta to meditate, at dead of night. It is not clear which Ramakrishna Mission Subhas visited - whether it was Belur Math, Advaita Ashrama in Calcutta or any other Ramakrishna Mission, or the newly founded Institute of Culture in 1939. But the fact remains that despite all his turbulent life, Subhas found time to meditate, that too in a Ramakrishna Mission temple. He always carried his pocket Gita and Rudraksha beads.

Another important point was Swami Abhedananda, a direct disciple of Sri Ramakrishna, expressed his earnest desire to meet Subhas Chandra Bose, a few months before he passed away, in 1939. Subhas met Swami Abhedananda, who had spent twenty one years in America and was one of most powerful orators and staunch Vedantin after Swami Vivekananda, who laid the foundation of Vedanta movement in America. Swami Abhedananda embraced Subhas and blessed him as, "be thou victorious."

In conversations with Narendra Narayan Chakrabarty, Subhas's deep reverence for both Sri Ramakrishna and the Mata Thakurani or Sarada Devi came out pretty clear. He considered Sarada Devi to be the Shakti of Sri Ramakrishna, without whom his mission would not be fulfilled. Before leaving India, Subhas sent Ila, his niece, to perform a puja in the Dakshineswar temple, the place where Ramakrishna lived for thirty years, and perform worship of the temple Goddess Bhavatarini, who was so dear to Ramakrishna, and bring her sanctified flowers.

Subhas Chandra Bose (by then he was already the Netaji) came in close contact with Buddha Maharaj or Swami Bhaswaranandaji, who was then the head of Ramakrishna Mission Singapore and developed a close personal bond with him. According to the reminiscences of S.A Aiyer, Netaji used to often go and meditate after midnight in the shrines of the Ramakrishna Mission. He also contributed generously towards establishing an orphanage under the Mission. He himself participated in the Tithi Puja of Sri Sarada Devi in Singapore. He even entrusted one of the monastic members, Brahmachary Kailasam into important work regarding the condition of poor Indian labourers engaged in railway construction. Buddha Maharaj and Brahmachary Kailasam had to suffer a lot of indignities in the hands of the British forces after they reoccupied Singapore, on account of this relationship.

To Subhas Chandra Bose, Bengal and India, were synonymous with Mother Durga Kali. Ramakrishna personified that divine mother. Therefore the relationship was special, sacred and secret.

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