It was sometime in 1916. Ramani Mohan Bhattacharya from Dulari, Sylhet (presently in Bangladesh), a scholarly Headmaster in a Government High School was expounding a passage on renunciation from the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad which states: “One must renounce the moment one feels dispassion.” In support of this statement Ramani Mohan repeatedly stressed that with tremendous will-power one can break the bonds of householder’s life. But his listeners refused to accept that it was possible to leave wife and children so easily. A heated discussion ensued. Ramani Mohan then roared, “Surely, one can renounce the world any moment, if he so desires.” The next moment he got up and walked away to join the Ramakrishna Order. He was married, but did not even go home to meet his wife or settle his worldly affairs.
Ramani Mohan had received mantra-diksha from Holy Mother Sri Sarada Devi in 1910. In 1920 he received ochre robes from Holy Mother and sannyasadiska from Swami Brahmananda. His new name was Swami Jagadananda. Once Holy Mother told him, “In your previous birth you were a Rishi. In your heart of hearts there was a little hankering for enjoyment, so you had to be born again. Now the enjoyment is over, so you have become Rishi again.” Highly respected for his intuitive knowledge of Vedanta, and considered a Jivanmukta, Jagadanandaji translated Sri Sri Ramakrishna Lila Prasanga into English as Sri Ramakrishna The Great Master ,— the authoritative biography of Sri Ramakrishna. He attained mahasamadhi in December 1951 aged 72 at the Ramakrishna Mission Sevashrama, Vrindavan.
Passing away of a Rishi
I had many opportunities to live with Jagadananda Maharaj and study scriptures. It was a rare opportunity to study Vedantic scriptures with him, because he was a living example of the spirit of Vedanta. In 1951, after the passing away of Swami Virajananda Maharaj, the 6th President of the Order whom I served as a personal attendant, I got a long leave. I went to Kishanpur where I practiced tapasya and studied scriptures under Jagadananda Maharaj and also rendered him a little service. Suddenly, he had a heart attack. As there were no good medical facilities in Dehradun, he was taken to our Vrindavan Sevashrama Hospital for treatment. I accompanied him and continued my spiritual practices while serving him. Maharaj continued to conduct classes for me and 2-3 other sannyasis. He was explaining Brihadaranyaka Upanishad. One day there was a great excitement in the class. He was explaining ब्रह्म सत्यं जगन्मिथ्या, “Brahman alone is real, the world is illusory”, because दृश्यत्वात् स्वप्नदृश्यवत् “whatever we see is illusory as in a dream.” He declared that the argument ब्रह्म सत्यं जगन्मिथ्या is invincible and continued to explain it for a long time. I was a student of philosophy and knew a little about how to argue. So, as he finished, I said, Maharaj you said this Truth, Brahman cannot be known by argument or logic etc. But now you say दृश्यत्वात् स्वप्नदृश्यवत्. You are contradicting yourself Maharaj!” He became furious; his appearance became blood-flushed. He said, “You! You are doing mischief! You understand, but yet you argue. Well! Well! Well! You hear, you hear, you hear from me now (patting his chest), I have known this truth, I have known this truth not by argument not by logic but by Mother’s grace.” The great Vedantin ended by saying ‘Mother’s grace’! But he was so excited that later in the evening he had a heart attack.
The doctors declared that the end would come very soon. In those days, there was no proper treatment for heart patients in our hospital. The next day towards the evening when his last moment drew near, Maharaj began to gasp for breath with his eyes closed. His legs were turning ice-cold. The doctors advised me to massage his legs with brandy. I started massaging his legs. Suddenly he opened his eyes, looked furiously at me and exclaimed in his native Sylhetian Bengali dialect, “Kita karo? Kita karo?—What are you doing? What are you doing?” I answered in a low voice, “Your legs are turning cold, so I am massaging them.” But in a high pitched voice he asked me, “विज्ञानमानन्दं ब्रह्म, Do you understand that? Do you remember that? If you don’t, everything is meaningless, futile. This knowledge and eternal joy is Brahman! If you haven’t known this, then it (i.e., this messaging) is futile. Have you known विज्ञानमानन्दं ब्रह्म?”
My God! In that condition, he did not talk of his pain, but asked me “What are you doing?” and shouted विज्ञानमानन्दं ब्रह्म. He repeated the great statement in such a manner that the sound appeared to arise churning his body and mind. When the final attack came, he forced me to make him sit-up. Then reclining on my shoulder and uttering “Maa, Maa” he passed away!
On his face, there was no sign of the pang of death. On the contrary, after a little while the face started beaming with light. Though his body became ice-cold, the body and face were radiating light. When his body was being taken to Yamuna for immersion, an elderly sannyasi protested, “Why are you taking a living man?” We said, “He is no more.” But he did not believe and madly protested again and again. Finally, according to the North Indian tradition, we immersed his body in the Yamuna tying it to a long fat stone.
— Srimat Swami Atmasthananda Ji Maharaj, 15th President of the Ramakrishna Order