Barada received his mantra-diksha from Holy Mother Sri Sarada Devi and joined the Ramakrishna Order at Habiganj Ashrama in 1932. Swami Virajanandaji gave him sannyasa-diksha in 1940. He served as the Head of Sargachhi Ashrama for over three decades from January 1943 to November, 1973. He was loved by all for his simple and austere sadhu life.
The guiding hand
In the Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna, we read (dated 26 Sept 1884): “Suppose a man has set out with a sincere desire to visit Jagannatha at Puri and by mistake has gone north instead of south; then certainly someone he meets on the way will tell him: ‘My good fellow, don’t go that way. Go to the south.’ And the man will reach Jagannath sooner or later.” I heard of an incident which exemplifies this statement of Sri Ramakrishna. This was told to me by Swami Anamayanandaji (Saroj Maharaj) who succeeded Sukhadananda Maharaj as the 4th Secretary of Ramakrishna Mission Ashrama, Sargachhi.
In the Srihatta district of the erstwhile East Bengal, now Bangladesh, a young man called Barada had just got admitted to college. As good fortune would have it, he was already initiated by Holy Mother Sri Sarada Devi. He heard that Holy Mother had come to Kolkata, and her health was very bad. Barada now had an intense desire to have her darshan. So he sold one of his new books and with whatever little money he got, he started for Kolkata. He knew that he had to alight at Sealdah railway station and then proceed to Mayer Bari (Holy Mother Sri Sarada Devi’s residence) in Baghbazar. But he did not know whether he had to proceed in the northern or southern direction.
After alighting at Sealdah station, he started walking towards the south. After he had walked some distance, he unexpectedly came across an acquaintance who redirected him northwards and showed him the way to Mayer Bari. When he finally reached Mayer Bari, he was devastated to know that normal darshan of Holy Mother had been stopped. It was allowed only on special recommendation. Even as he stood there deeply disappointed, someone from upstairs called out, “If anyone has come here for darshan of Holy Mother, please come upstairs.” Barada happily went upstairs, had Mother’s darshan and also offered his pranams. When he came down, he saw a man creating a ruckus. Actually, that man had received permission for Holy Mother’s darshan but had just gone out when the attendant called out, and so missed his chance. When Barada had arrived, there were no other visitors, and he too had come for Mother’s darshan; and so as soon as he heard the call he had followed the attendant and met Mother!! Barada was so overwhelmed by Mother’s grace that he joined the Order and later came to be known as Swami Sukhadananda. He served as the Head of Sargachhi Ashram for a long time. After retiring from active work Sukhadanandaji Maharaj continued to live in Sargachhi until his last breath in 1980.
— Swami Devarajananda, Ramakrishna Math, Belur Math
The ego-less fight
Sri Ramakrishna says, “Pride and egotism stop you from attaining the Lord. A high mound cannot hold rainwater; the rainwater just flows down. Similarly, the shower of God’s grace doesn’t stay where there’s ego.”
In the early 1970s, the standard of living was quite poor in Sargachhi Ashram. Food was ordinary. Daily breakfast consisted of watery curd, puffed rice and a little jaggery. It was followed by a cup of tea, and about the quality of tea, the lesser said the better.
One day, the tea was really awful. An old sadhu, about the same age as Swami Sukhadananda, the Secretary of the Ashrama, was unable to drink it. He poured it in a bowl and then poured water into it and exclaimed with irritation, “Is it tea? Is such tea fit for drinking?”
Hearing this, Sukhadanandaji blurted out, “Why don’t you supervise the cook, so that he prepares tea properly? You waste the whole day, roaming here and there, doing nothing.”
This old sadhu was Swami Nityayuktanandaji, popularly known as Bhaskar Maharaj. He was an initiated disciple of Swami Shivanandaji and had almost retired from active service. He was unable to carry out any work other than chopping a few vegetables in the morning. So, he said, “I can’t do all such things!” Then their exchange went like this:
Sukhadanandaji: Oh yes! How will you do this? Whole life you have done nothing worthwhile!
Bhaskar Maharaj: What do you do? You too don’t do anything.
Sukhadanandaji: I will drive you out.
Bhaskar Maharaj: I will expel you! And chase you out of your position as the Head!
Sukhadanandaji: Get out! Get lost!
Bhaskar Maharaj: You get out!
[An explanation is required here. There are three levels of addressing people as ‘you’ in Bengali — ‘aapni’ denotes respect; people of the same level address each other as ‘tumi;’ and ‘tui’ denotes disrespect. The sadhus started speaking to each other using ‘aapni’ and as the altercation heated up, they shifted to addressing each other as ‘tumi’ and finally came down to ‘tui’.]
Fighting and shouting at each other, both the senior sadhus retired to their respective rooms in a huff. The other sadhus and brahmacharis were totally shocked and silently went back to their duties.
After 45 minutes, we saw from a distance, Sukhadanandaji walking towards Bhaskar Maharaj’s cottage. Sukhadanandaji then called the brahmachari on duty in the kitchen and instructed him to prepare two cups of proper tea and bring it to Bhaskar Maharaj’s room.
When Bhaskar Maharaj saw Sukhadanandaji coming, he stood up from his seat and most cordially invited him, “Come, come!” Sukhadanandaji called out, “Hello Bhaskar Maharaj! What are you doing?” [Now both of them addressed each other with the respectful ‘aapni’!]
Bhaskar Maharaj respectfully offered his chair to Sukhadanandaji. Tea came and both enjoyed the tea together. The bitterness of the fight was cleared within an hour. During lunchtime, both sat next to each other, as they normally did, and went for the evening walk together, as usual. It never seemed that such a fiasco had taken place in the morning! To us novitiates, it remained as a bright example of the ego-lessness of the sadhus!
— Swami Devarajananda, Ramakrishna Math, Belur Math