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Ramakrishna Math and Mission

17th president of Ramakrishna Math and Mission stresses religious harmony

All religions are the same and God is one. People just call him by different names — Allah, Jesus, Bhagwan and Thakur, said Swami Gautamananda

Kinsuk Basu | Published 25.04.24, 05:49 AM
Swami Gautamananda

Swami Gautamananda

The Telegraph

The Ramakrishna Math and Mission doesn’t discriminate between religions, said Swami Gautamananda, moments after being anointed the 17th president of the order on Wednesday.

“All religions are the same and God is one. People just call him by different names — Allah, Jesus, Bhagwan and Thakur,” Swami Gautamananda said.


“This is what the Vedas say — ‘Ekam sat vipra bahudha vadanti (Truth is one, sages call it by many names)’ — and that is what Thakur (Sri Ramakrishna) propagated through this life and teachings that the truth or ultimate reality is one.”

The 96-year-old monk was unanimously elected by the board of trustees and senior members of the order as the president on Wednesday.

Speaking after the announcement, Swami Gautamananda said: “There is a part of God in every individual and we all are a part of him.”

“The world is one family. Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam. If I believe I’m God’s son, then automatically I will consider others my brothers and sisters.... Kauke bairer mone korbo na (We will not consider anyone an outsider),” the monk said.

“If I consider myself a part of Him and believe everyone is a part of one big family, a sense of peace will prevail and there won’t be any competition. Why would I want to compete with my brother? Let him move ahead, such would be the feeling.”

Swami Gautamananda, who said he was made the president because he was the senior-most monk of the order, underlined the concept of equality. “We are the child of one God and there is one religion. This is the ideology that we want to take to all corners. This is why Thakur (Sri Ramakrishna) and Holy Mother (Sri Sarada) came to this universe and Swamiji (Swami Vivekananda) propagated this. We want to spread this sense of belonging across the world.”

Immediately after the passing away of the 16th president of the order, Swami Smaranananda, on March 26, the Math and Mission convened an emergency meeting of its board of trustees and the governing body to choose Swami Gautamananda as “interim president”.

“Since the seat of the president of the order can’t remain empty, he was chosen as interim president. We are now happy to have Swami Gautamananda as the 17th president,” said Swami Suvirananda, the general secretary of the Math and the Mission.

“In our system, we consider the president the living embodiment of Thakur (Sri Ramakrishna). He remains our spiritual head.”

Born in what was then Bangalore in 1929, Swami Gautamananda received
mantra diksha (spiritual initiation) from Swami Yatishwarananda in 1955. Next year, he embraced monastic life and joined the New Delhi branch of the Ramakrishna Mission. He spent six years at the Delhi centre getting introduced to monastic life and serving in different departments.

In 1962, he received the brahmacharya vows from Swami Vishuddhananda and sannyasa ordination and the name ‘Swami Gautamananda’ in 1966 from Swami Vireshwarananda, the 10th president of the Ramakrishna order.

In 1964, Swami Gautamananda moved from Delhi to the Mission’s centre in Sohra (formerly Cherrapunjee) and then to Mumbai. At these two centres, he served for about 12 years. Subsequently, he was appointed the head of the Mission’s centre in the remote tribal village Aalo (formerly Along) in Arunachal Pradesh in 1976.

He served there for 13 years bringing the light of education to tribal children. Under his leadership, the centre in Aalo attained national stature and reached new heights.

Swami Gautamananda became a trustee of the Ramakrishna Math and a member of the governing body of the Ramakrishna Mission in March 1990. Thereafter, he served briefly as the head of the order’s Raipur and Narainpur centres (in Chhattisgarh) and Saradapitha centre in Belur.

“Between 1992 and 1995, I was here, as the secretary of Saradapitha, before moving to Chennai,” he said.

Swami Gautamananda served the Ramakrishna Math, Chennai, for almost three decades. Under his stewardship, the activities and influence of this branch expanded.

In 2017, he was elected vice-president of the order.

As a diksha guru and vice-president, Swami Gautamananda travelled extensively in India and different parts of the world.

Last updated on 25.04.24, 05:50 AM

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