Swami Shuddhananda (1872-1938)
Fifth President of the Ramakrishna Order, disciple of Swamiji, the translator of most of his works into Bengali and considered the best exponent of his thoughts and ideals. Pre-monastic name Sudhir Chandra Chakravarty, second son of Ashutosh Chakravarty, born on 10.10.1872 at ancestral home on Serpentine Lane in Calcutta. Third brother Sushil Chandra, also Swamiji’s disciple, joined the Order before him (Swami Prakashananda) and youngest, Suprakash, disciple of Holy Mother. A brilliant student, Sudhir passed Matriculation examination with a scholarship, joined City College. Drawn towards spiritual life even in boyhood, at College in the close company of like-minded friends—all to be disciples of Swamiji and distinguished monks of the Order—spent his time in spiritual discussions and other religious pursuits, also frequenting the Baranagore Math and the Kankurgachhi Yogodyan (1890). Inspired by seeing and hearing Swamiji upon his return from the West in February 1897. Joined the Alambazar Math (April 1897) and initiated by Swamiji in May 1897, received formal monastic vows from Swami Niranjanananda in 1898.
Sudhir was to be Swamiji’s scribe taking down points relating to the ideals of the Ramakrishna Order, the principles to be followed and rules for the monastic members which Swamiji set forth at a meeting of monks and brahmacharins at Alambazar Math in April 1897. Swamiji had said, “One of your write while I dictate.” None dared to come forward, finally Sudhir, the new comer, had volunteered. Swamiji advised him to make a good copy of the rules and if some rule was in a negative form, to make it positive. Those rules taken down by Sudhir apply to the monastic members of the Order to this day. Shuddhananda often enjoyed the rare opportunity of studying the scriptures under Swamiji. Accompanied Swamiji on a lecture tour in northern and western India (May 1897). Being in close company with him familiarized Shuddhananda with his ideas regarding the past, present and future of the Order, and the scriptures too. Later accompanied Swamiji on his trip to East Bengal and Assam (1901). For about ten years editor of the Udbodhan journal from December 1902. Trustee of the Math (1903). Mainly through his efforts, guided by Swami Saradananda, Vivekananda Society, Calcutta, was set up. Planned and worked tirelessly for the first Monks’ Conference of the Order (1926), it being reported that “it was solely through the unbounded enthusiasm and the unremitting labour of Swami Shuddhananda that the idea of the convention materialized.” Secretary of the Order (1927-34). Presided over Sri Ramakrishna’s Birth Centenary celebrations at Belur Math (24.2.1936). A mild paralytic stroke (1937), elected Vice-President in February 1937, and President (18.5.1938 – 23.10.1938). Said to have been the living commentary on every article that Swamiji had included in the formal rules for the Order, uncompromising follower dedicated to his Master, Shuddhananda died on 23.10.1938.
Had translated efficiently Swamiji’s Complete Works and a major part of his lectures into Bengali. A talk on the Bhagavad Gita by Swamiji at Belur Math was written down later by Shuddhananda, possessing a powerful memory, and published as “Gita Tattva” in Bharate Vivekananda. Prepared a concise commentary of the Brahma Sutras. At the behest of his guru had maintained a day-to-day diary of the Math, now a treasury of information. His reminiscences of Swamiji, Swamijir Asfut Smriti, first published in the Udbodhan (Vols. 15 and 16) was incorporated in Swamijir Katha. Had written a Sanskrit play based on Janaka–Yajnavalkya-Samvad in Brihadaranyaka Upanishad and had it staged by the monks at Belur Math.