The wandering monk

Soon after this, Sri Ramakrishna fell ill and was finally removed to the Cossipore garden house. Even though the Master was very sick, the source of spiritual strength to all those around him. He fired his young disciples with the ideal of renunciation. Naren and Rakhal were among these chosen few. During this period Sri Ramakrishna prepared Naren to be the leader of the band of young disciples. He spent hours talking to Naren. In course of one conversation he told him: “Rakhal has the keen intelligence of a king. If he chose, he could rule a kingdom.” Taking this to mean that Sri Ramakrishna wanted Rakhal to be their king, Naren told all the young disciples, “From today, we shall call Rakhal our king.” Everybody agreed. From that day they called Rakhal ‘Raja’, the king. When Sri Ramakrishna heard this, he joyfully approved. Later Rakhal used to be addressed as ‘Maharaj’.

After the passing away of the Master, at Naren’s suggestion all the young disciples went through the formal ritual of sannyas –  the taking of the Monastic vow. Naren became known as Swami Vivekananda, and Rakhal as Swami Brahmananda. Soon after this Swami Brahmananda started living like a wondering monk for several years and visited many holy places. At each of these holy sites he stayed for a long period of time absorbed day and night in meditation and contemplation. Seeing him thus absorbed in contemplation and neglecting food and sleep, one of his brother disciples who was accompanying him at that time asked him, “Why do you live so strictly? You are the spiritual son of God Incarnate; he has already done everything for you. Through his grace you have attained samadhi. Then why do you still have to sit like a beggar, begging for the Lord’s grace?”

“What you say is true,” Brahmananda replied. “The Master did everything for us. But still I find a lack within. This proves that we need repeated practice in order to make the state of samadhi natural and habitual to us. You know Uddhava was a devoted disciple and friend of Sri Krishna; through his grace he realized God. And yet Sri Krishna sent him to the Himalayas to live in solitude and contemplation.”

 On another occasion a well known saint by the name Bijoy Krishna Goswami, asked Brahmananda the same question. He said, “I am only trying to become established in that vision of God which I received through my master’s grace.”

During his travels once when he was in Brindavan, he saw in a vision the shining form of his devoted brother-disciple Balaram standing before him. On his face was a heavenly smile. Gradually his form merged into the light of the divine realm. Next day, he received the news that Balaram had passed away. At first he felt a pang of grief, for he loved Balaram dearly; then he realized that this sorrow also was a form of attachment. By constant practice throughout these years of pilgrimage Brahmananda experienced the ‘fullness of God’ even in the periods of his normal consciousness. Thus established in this state of samadhi, he felt he was ready to serve his brothers and mankind. With this view in mind he returned to Calcutta.