Swami Brahmananda (also called Maharaj) was born on January 21, 1863, at Sikra, a village near Calcutta, Bengal. Ananda Mohan Ghosh and Kailas Kamini were his parents. His mother was devoted to Sri Krishna and spent most of her time in worship, prayer and meditation. Being a devotee of Sri Krishna she named her son Rakhal, “the shepherd boy.”
When Rakhal was only five years old his mother passed away. After Rakhal finished his studies at the village primary school, he went to a grammar school in Calcutta. This school also had an athletic club attached to it. Naren (later known as Swami Vivekananda) was the leader of this club. This club interested Rakhal very much and it was here that he met Naren for the first time. They were of the same age and became good friends. They also joined the Brahmo Samaj started by Keshab Chandra Sen. Rakhal started attending the services of the Brahmo Samaj regularly. He started to spend more and more of his time in prayer, neglecting his studies. He was intensely longing to reach God. Of Rakhal, Sri Ramakrishna would later say, “Rakhal was born with an intense love for God. Such a love is usually acquired only after a man has practiced spiritual disciplines for many years or many lives.”
Seeing Rakhal’s state of mind his father was very worried and he felt that if Rakhal were married then he would start behaving more normally. So he was married to a young girl named Visweswari. Visweswari’s mother Shyama Sundari, and her brother Manomohan Mitra were ardent devotees of Sri Ramakrishna. It was Manomohan who introduced his brother-in-law Rakhal to Sri Ramakrishna. Even before Sri Ramakrishna was visited by Rakhal for the first time, Sri Ramakrishna had visions regarding Rakhal. Once Sri Ramakrishna prayed to the Divine Mother: “Mother, I want someone to be my constant companion. Bring me a boy who is pure-hearted and intensely devoted to you.” A few days later he saw in a vision a boy standing under the banyan tree in the temple grounds. Concerning another vision the Master said, “A few days before Rakhal came to me Mother placed a little boy on my lap and said: This is your son. At this I was startled. “My son?” Mother smiled at this and made me understand that I was not to have a son in the ordinary sense but that this boy would be my spiritual son, one who would live up to the highest ideal of renunciation.”
A few moments before Rakhal arrived Sri Ramakrishna had another vision. Suddenly he saw a hundred-petaled lotus blooming on the bosom of the Ganges, each of its petals shining with exquisite loveliness. On the lotus two boys were dancing with anklets on their feet. One of them was Sri Krishna himself; the other was the same boy he had seen in the earlier visions. A few moments later a boat arrived carrying Manomohan and Rakhal. On seeing Rakhal Sri Ramakrishna thought to himself: “Here is the boy I saw standing under the banyan tree; here is the boy Mother placed on my lap; here is the boy I saw just now dancing on the lotus with Sri Krishna. This is the pure-hearted companion I prayed for to Mother.” He told Manomohan: “There are wonderful possibilities in this boy.” When Rakhal saw the master he was filled with joy, and love. He was greatly attracted to the Master. He felt that he had at last met a man who had seen God.