Swami Chetanananda

Swami Chetanananda is a monk of the Ramakrishna Order and is the Minister of Vedanta Society of St. Louis and Kansas City, Missouri, USA. He has been associated with the order since 1950. He officially joined the Order as a monk in 1960. He was initiated by Swami Shankarananda, the seventh president of the Ramakrishna Order and the private secretary of Swami Brahmananda, a direct disciple of Ramakrishna Paramahamsa.

Before coming to the United States in 1971, the Swami worked in the Publication and Editorial Departments of Advaita Ashrama at Mayavati, Himalayas, and its branch in Calcutta. He served as the Assistant Minister of the Vedanta Society of Southern California, Los Angeles, from 1971-78. In 1977-78, he served as vice-president of the Inter-Religious Council of Southern California, and at present is a cabinet member of Interfaith Partnership of St. Louis. He was transferred to St. Louis, Missouri in March 1978, and served as assistant minister of the Vedanta Society of St. Louis under Swami Satprakashananda. He became the Minister of the Society in January 1980, after the death of Swami Satprakashananda in November 1979. He is also the Minister of the Vedanta Society of Kansas City, Missouri, USA.

Swami Chetanananda travelled all six continents and lectured on Indian philosophies, specially Vedanta and Ramakrishna-Vivekananda. He also taught meditation and spiritual disciplines to sincere seekers in the west last 48 years. He gave so far nearly 1400 lectures and a couple of thousand classes on Vedanta scriptures and Ramakrishna-Vivekananda literature, which are all recorded. Many of his lectures are available in YouTube (website: www.youtube.com/VedantaSTL).

Swami Chetanananda: How I became a Monk

In 1936 I was born in a remote village four miles north of Khulna, a district in Bengal under British India. Our family was deeply spiritual: my parents never ate without repeating their mantra; my mother would fast 45 to 48 days a year; my aunt gave public religious discourses that were attended by hundreds of people; and my uncle had a Krishna temple built. In 1944 my elder brother was married in Kolkata, where he purchased The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna, Sri Sri Ramakrishner Upadesh by Suresh Chandra Datta, and photographs of Thakur and Mother. He brought these books and pictures to our country home, which was 110 miles east of Kolkata. That was how I first came to know of Thakur and Mother. My brother would read the Gospel in our living room and the villagers would come to listen. So, by the age of 10, I knew almost all the stories of Sri Ramakrishna, especially the parables. My brother would decorate the shrine beautifully with red hibiscus and gardenia flowers. I first read Swamiji’s Swadesh Mantra in the Class Seven school curriculum.

When India was partitioned in 1947, our home became part of East Pakistan, now Bangladesh. In 1950 the riots began. Muslims were murdering Hindus. We left our home on 21 April 1950 and with great difficulty migrated to Kolkata along with millions of Hindu refugees. I enrolled in the Debi Prasad High School in Barrackpore.

In May 1950 my elder brother took me to Dakshineswar. We went there after lunch and all the temples were closed. We waited in the Panchavati until the temples opened at four in the afternoon. The Panchavati was then full of trees and there was no fence. My brother told me how Sri Ramakrishna would sit there and talk with the Divine Mother. There weren’t many people at Dakshineswar then. When the temple opened, he took me around and showed me the Kali, Krishna, and Shiva temples as well as Sri Ramakrishna’s room.

Another day, he took me to Udbodhan, Mother’s House. He introduced me to some swamis whom he knew. Later, I went to Belur Math on my own one day. In the 1950s there weren’t many buildings – and it was full of mosquitoes! Not too many people attended Arati: there were eight or ten swamis in front, then twelve or fifteen men, and finally women at the back.

When I was in Class Eight in the Barrackpore school, every Sunday after lunch I would go to Udbodhan House, where I would meet with the swamis and serve them. I would run errands for them, clean Mother’s place, or take Swami Saradananda’s and Holy Mother’s articles to the roof to sun them. I would put them away with black cumin seeds and naphthalene balls so they would stay protected.

The swamis were very fond of me and would give me all kinds of work. They taught me to sing the vesper hymns. After attending the vesper at Udbodhan, I would go to Dakshineswar, visit all the temples, and sit in Thakur’s room. There was no fence around the Master’s bed. I would touch my head with the Master’s bed from the west side, so that nobody could see me. I was then 14.

After my graduation, I initially thought of doing a Master’s in Law as my father’s wished. But Sri Ramakrishna had a different plan for me. On 1 December 1958 Swami Advayananda, the manager of Advaita Ashrama, Kolkata, arranged for me to stay there. Swami Gambhirananda was then the president. I became a proofreader in the publication department. Finally, on 28 February 1960, on Ramakrishna’s birthday, I joined the Ramakrishna Order. I was initiated by Swami Sankarananda in 1961, received my Brahmacharya vows from Swami Vireswarananda in 1966, and received Sannyasa in 1969. Later, I was sent to Hollywood in 1971 and to St. Louis in 1978.

Works :

Swami Chetanananda’s books and writings have been translated into German, Dutch, Spanish, French, Japanese, Croatia, Lithonia and most of the Indian languages.

The swami has written, translated, and edited many books in English, Bengali, and Sanskrit. He has produced three documentary DVDs and six chanting CDs. Following is a list of some of his publications in English:

English books :

  1. Sri Ramakrishna and His Divine Play
  2. Sri Sarada Devi and Her Divine Play
  3. Sri Ramakrishna: A Divine Life in Pictures
  4. Ramakrishna: A Biography in Pictures
  5. Holy Mother: A Biography in Pictures
  6. Ramakrishna as We Saw Him
  7. They Lived with God
  8. God Lived with Them
  9. How to Live With God: In the Company of Ramakrishna
  10. See God with Open Eyes: Meditation on Ramakrishna
  11. Meditation and Its Methods
  12. Vedanta: Voice of Freedom
  13. Vivekananda: East Meets West
  14. Mahendranath Gupta (M.)
  15. Girish Chandra Ghosh: A Bohemian Devotee of Ramakrishna
  16. A Guide to Spiritual Life: Teachings of Swami Brahmananda
  17. Spiritual Treasurers: Letters of Swami Turiyananda
  18. How a Shepherd Boy Became a Saint—Teachings and Reminiscences of Swami Adbhutananda
  19. Avadhuta Gita: The Song of the Ever-Free. (Sanskrit into English)

Anonymous (Compilation) :

  1. Ramakrishna and His Message by Swami Vivekananda
  2. Swamiji and His Message by Sister Nivedita
  3. Vivekananda and His Call to the Nation

Bengali books (written, edited & translated) :

  1. Dhyanaloke Sri Ramakrishna
  2. Sri Ramakrishner Sannidhey
  3. Sri Ramakrishnake Jerup Dekhiachi
  4. Kalpataru Ramakrishna
  5. Matri Darshan
  6. Ya Devi Sa Sarada
  7. Bahurupe Vivekananda
  8. Vedanta O Muktir Vani
  9. Swami Brahmanander Smritikatha
  10. Swami Shivanandake Jerup Dekhiachi
  11. Swami Premanander Jivan O Smritikatha
  12. Swami Turiyanander Smritikatha
  13. Swami Saradanander Smritikatha
  14. Swami Ramakrishnanander Smritimala
  15. Swami Akhandanandake Jerup Dekhiachi
  16. Swami Vijnanander Smritikatha
  17. Swami Subodhanander Smritikatha
  18. Srima Samipe: Reminiscences of M.
  19. Vedanter Aloke Christer Sailopadesh
  20. Galpa Malika
  21. Prachin Sadhuder Katha – 2 volumes

CDs :

Echoes of the Eternal—Peace, Bliss, and Harmony, and Breath of the Eternal—Awakening, Reflection, and Illumination (Sanskrit chants with English translation).

DVDs :

  1. Ramakrishna (A Documentary)
  2. Vivekananda as We Saw Him (A Documentary)
  3. Parables of Ramakrishna