Born : 5th February 1884 - Banaripara, East Bengal, India (nowadays Bangladesh)
Died : 21st June 1940
A YOGI from India named Swami Paramananda arrived to meet Meher Baba, accompanied by his niece and three of his yoga students. During the interview, he invited Baba to visit his ashram in California. Baba replied, "It is not possible on this trip. When I visit America again after six months, maybe I can." The niece also requested that Baba come to California, promising to prepare Indian food for him. Baba smiled, gesturing, "After six months."
Paramananda had brought a bottle of honey for the Master and after he presented it to him, Baba dictated, "Except for that One, Infinite Existence, there is nothing, and I am one with that Existence. I continuously enjoy eternal bliss and see myself in everything and in everyone.
"Mere intellectual conviction is not enough. Reality is a matter of illumination, inner sight and experience. All this is within you; but for that, death is necessary – to become dead to Maya in order to be born in Reality."
After hearing this, Paramananda put the several books which he had written about spiritual knowledge on a nearby table. The yogi had intended to present them to Baba but realized the foolishness of his idea. He said, "Even though I have studied yoga and philosophy and may be able to explain things to others, all these books are worthless unless Infinity is experienced." Humbly he said, "This I have not attained. I require a Sadguru like you, Baba. I need your grace. I bow before you. Push me forward, Baba!"
Paramananda then prostrated himself before Meher Baba who placed his hand on the yogi's head, blessing him. The yogi then turned to his students and said, "One can never attain spiritual perfection without a Sadguru. Meher Baba, being a Perfect Master, finds the content of these books playthings. We discuss God with the intellect, but Meher Baba is constantly experiencing divine bliss." Paramananda was an accepted guru by several hundred Americans. By declaring this, his disciples understood the spiritual status of Meher Baba – a God Conscious Being.
Suresh Chandra Guha-Thakurta, the youngest son of a prestigious family, in the village of Banaripara. The village is in the district of Barisal, which was then part of East Bengal in British India and is now part of Bangladesh. His father, Ananda Mohan Guha-Thakurta, was well known as a progressive, a champion for women's education, a legacy he was to pass along to his sons. His mother, Brahmamoyee Basu, bore eight children before dying of cancer in her early forties, when Suresh was nine years old. Suresh was known for his affectionate nature and cheerfulness. When Suresh was sixteen, his father began to lose his eyesight. As a result, Suresh read devotional texts aloud and one that was particularly compelling was a collection of "Sayings of Sri Ramakrishna," a revered saint who had died fourteen years prior.
Joining the Ramakrishna Order
On his seventeenth birthday, Suresh joined a group of older men from the village in a journey to Belur Math to visit the monastery and temple founded by Ramakrishna's disciples. There he met his teacher, Swami Vivekananda, who was the foremost disciple of Sri Ramakrishna and the first swami to teach in America. Paramananda was initiated a month before his eighteenth birthday, becoming a monk (sannyasin) of the Ramakrishna Order and the youngest disciple of Swami Vivekananda. The President of the Ramakrishna Math, Swami Brahmananda, would call Suresh "Basanta Kokhil" [spring-bird], or simply "Basanta" [spring] and that became his new nick name. He trained under the mentorship of Swami Ramakrishnananda, also a direct disciple of Sri Ramakrishna, and founder of the Madras Math, a thousand miles south of Calcutta.
In the West
Swami Paramananda was sent to America in 1906 at the age of twenty-two to assist at the previously established New York Vedanta Society. He lived and taught there until 1909, when Paramananda established the Vedanta Centre of Boston. He lectured throughout the United States, Europe and Asia for thirty-four years, until his passing in 1940. He founded four centers still thriving today, two in the United States and two in Calcutta, India. The American ashramas are in Cohasset, Massachusetts and La Crescenta, California. Like his teacher, Swami Vivekananda, Paramananda believed in equality between men and women. He established disciplined communities of nuns under the supervision of Sister Devamata (1867-1942) his American first disciple, whom he ordained to teach Vedanta from the platform in 1910. Throughout the entire history of the community, women were accorded positions of leadership in all areas of the work. The first Indian woman to join the community was Gayatri Devi (1906-1995), who was brought by Paramananda in 1926 to be trained as one of his assistants. Srimata Gayatri Devi became the spiritual leader of the centers upon Swami Paramananda's death in 1940 and the first Indian woman to be ordained a teacher in America.
Swami Paramananda founded the "Message of the East" in 1909, the first Vedanta periodical published in the United States which continued for 55 years, offering articles, poetry and commentary on all religions in its monthly, and later quarterly, magazine. He authored translations of the Srimad Bhagavad Gita and The Upanishads as well as four volumes of mystical poetry, “The Vigil”, “Rhythm of Life”, “Soul’s Secret Door” and “My Creed” and many other books and publications.