The swami joined the Order at the Contai Ashrama in 1922 and received his mantra diksha from Swami Shivanandaji and also sannyasa-diksha from him in 1926. As Secretary of the Rangoon Sevashrama (which no longer exists) for a decade from 1932 and then as the first Secretary of the Rahara Boys’ Home from 1944 he developed the centres in a remarkable way and he also did outstanding relief work during Burma Evacuee Relief, Bengal Famine Relief and East Bengal Refugee Relief. He attained mahasamadhi on 24 Nov 1971 aged 68. Member of Governing Body of the Ramakrishna Math and Mission. “Punyananda Pathagar” at Barrackpore Sri Ramakrishna-Vivekananda Mission and “Swami Punyananda Sevakendra” at Patulia dedicated to his memory.
“I would like to die in harness”
Swami Punyanandaji because of his galvanic personality had a tremendous effect on my life and in the lives of those who came in contact with him. Perfectly cast in the mould of Sri Ramakrishna, Swami Punyananda Maharaj harmoniously synthesised all the four yogas in his life and we were fortunate to see a living demonstration of this ideal. He was a true soldier of Swami Vivekananda. Once when Swami Shivanandaji offered to grace him with a boon, Punyanandaji had immediately asked, “Maharaj, kindly bless me that I may die in harness.” Swami Shivanandaji, time and again asked him the same question and every time he received the same answer from Punyanandaji, “I would like to die in harness.” Mahapurush Maharaj granted him the boon saying, “Let it be so!” Those who know Punyanandaji, know very well that the swami literally died in harness!
Swami Punyanandaji was an exemplary Karmayogi. But when he was at the dusk of his life, he was very much troubled by this thought: “I have done Swamiji’s work to the best of my capacity. But I have not done formal spiritual practices to that extent. Now that I am approaching the end of this mundane life, I feel concerned and worried about what would happen to me hereafter?”
Swami Punyanandaji one day came to Belur Math and narrated his agony to Swami Madhavanandaji, the then Sangha-Guru and asked him, “Maharaj! What will happen to me?” Immediately Madhavanandaji Maharaj in a very affectionate but at the same time stern voice said, “You have done ‘Shiva Jnane Jiva Seva’ all through your life. Do you think that Swamiji is a traitor and a liar? Know it for certain that at the end, Swamiji Maharaj will come to take you to Ramakrishna Loka.” After some years, just on the eve of his last breath, Punyanandaji asked his attendant, “Make me Get up! Make me Get up! Can’t you see Sri Sri Thakur, Maa and Swamiji have all come? Give them asanas for sitting.” Saying so, Punyanandaji looked above and breathed his last.
Thus, he presented an exemplary demonstration of dedicating one’s life for the good of the suffering masses. Swami Vivekananda, in his famous Sivashuktam wrote, परहितकरणाय प्राणप्रच्छेदप्रीतम्, नतनयननियक्तं ु नीलकण्ठं… “Who joyously sacrifices Himself for the good of others, whose throat is blue from drinking the poison intended for others, I prostrate before him.” And again, Swamiji said about Sri Ramakrishna, प्राणार्पण जगत-तारण “He has sacrificed his life to redeem the world and thus cut the bonds of the Kali Yuga.” In a letter addressed to his brother-disciple Swami Ramakrishnanandaji, Swamiji wrote in Sanskrit, प्राणात्ययेऽपि परकल्याणचिकीर्षावः, “They alone are Sri Ramakrishna’s children who render services to the suffering people even at the risk of their own lives.” In the person of Swami Punyanandaji Maharaj, we saw the living testimony of those blazing words of Swami Vivekananda.
Whenever I remember Swami Punyanandaji’s life, I feel doubly assured that if we respond to Swamiji’s call sincerely, he will never let us down, though we may be very insignificant. By his infinite grace, Swamiji has granted us refuge at his holy feet; Swamiji certainly has seen us, is still watching us at every moment, protecting us, and leading us onward and onward.
— Swami Suviranandaji, General Secretary, Ramakrishna Math and Ramakrishna Mission