Author: Swami Chetananada
Publisher: Advaita Ashram
ISBN/UPC (if available): 8175053585
What if, in the long era before cameras and recording equipment, a skilled writer with a photographic memory had followed Jesus, Muhammad or Moses, carefully noting every word he spoke, every interaction with his devotees, every event of his day? This information would be invaluable, providing unparalleled insight into a great religious figure, most of whose sayings have been lost to history. In the late 19th century just such an appealing scenario actually occurred.
For four and a half years, Mahendra Nath Gupta (1854-1932), a high school headmaster from Calcutta, painstakingly transcribed every one of his encounters with the remarkable Bengali saint Ramakrishna Paramahamsa.
Ramakrishna’s inspiring teachings regarding the equal value of all religions and the transformative power of ecstatic love for God quickly spread not only through India but also throughout the Western world. This was due in no small part to the immense appeal of The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna, the spiritual classic written by Mahendra Nath Gupta based on his detailed diary notes.
This influential volume has rightly been hailed as one of the greatest spiritual biographies of all time. The English translation published in 1942 was edited by the legendary mythologist Joseph Campbell with assistance from Margaret Woodrow Wilson, daughter of the 28th U.S. president, and contained an introduction by famed British humanist Aldous Huxley.
While The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna is universally acknowledged as a masterpiece, the man who actually wrote it remains virtually unknown. He left scarcely a trace of himself in his work, focusing instead entirely on the luminous personality of Sri Ramakrishna. This has left many readers wondering who was this “M.,” as he styled himself, the invisible author who didn’t even include his full name in his book?
Thanks to Swami Chetanananda, we finally have a biography of the biographer. Mahendra Nath Gupta, the self-effacing author who craved no accolades, at last emerges from the shadows. We discover a highly intelligent Bengali schoolteacher whose dreams of studying at Oxford were undermined by poverty and bereavement. Burdened with financial obligations and continuous family discord, Gupta became nearly suicidal.
Grace and desperation led him to Ramakrishna, the unconventional temple priest at Dakshineswar who became his guru. By the close of his life Gupta was recognized as a saint in his own right, his life transmuted by the spiritual master whose activities he observed so closely and reported so vividly.
Swami Chetanananda has explored every available historical source for information about the humble devotee whose 177 diary entries would grow into one of the most engaging spiritual portraits ever compiled. Mahendra Nath Gupta: The Recorder of the Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna also includes reminiscences by such historical figures as the poet and dramatist Dilip Kumar Roy and the world-renowned yogi Paramahamsa Yogananda.
I believe Mahendra Nath Gupta would be pleased that even though this new biography is about him, in many respects its central focus remains Sri Ramakrishna, many of whose lively and inspired conversations are preserved in this volume. The transformation of an unhappy Bengali schoolmaster into a biographer and saint is only one of Ramakrishna’s countless miracles. Many thanks to Swami Chetanananda for illuminating the lives of both these extraordinary men, the brilliant spiritual master and his unassuming devotee who simply and honestly wrote everything down.
--- Linda Johnsen, author of Daughters of the Goddess: The Women Saints of India
In a world in which much spirituality is contrived, even ersatz, the story of Ramakrishna — India’s greatest modern saint — remains a perpetual fountain of authenticity. Entrée into his extraordinarily uplifting world is obtained, of course, via his biography, but also, and in some senses equally or even more powerfully, through study of the lives of those who were transformed by him. Among the latter, Mahendra Nath Gupta — to whom we owe the most reliable accounts of day-to-day life with Ramakrishna — is of paramount importance. This is all the more the case as Gupta (or “M.” as he has been known to readers of The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna) was not a monk but a married man with children and all the obligations of family. A study of his life will bear abundant fruit for any student of spirituality. We all owe a great deal to Swami Chetanananda for this engaging and meticulously researched account, which for seekers and scholars alike will become a “must read.”
--- Lance E. Nelson, Professor of Theology and Religious Studies, University of San Diego
Eminent writers praise “M.”
“M.”, as the author modestly styles himself, was peculiarly qualified for his task. . . . Making good use of his natural gifts and of the circumstances in which he found himself, M. produced a book unique, so far as my knowledge goes, in the literature of hagiography. No other saint has had so able and indefatigable a Boswell.
--- Aldous Huxley
If I had to use one single word to describe the atmosphere of the Gospel narrative, it would be the word Now. . . . The service M. has rendered us and future generations can hardly be exaggerated. Even the vainest of authors might well have been humbled, finding himself entrusted with such a task. M. was the least vain.
--- Christopher Isherwood
List of Illustrations
1. Early Life (1854-1874)
2. As a Householder and School Teacher
3. First Meetings with Ramakrishna
4. The Guru and the Disciple
5. With Ramakrishna in Various Places
6. Christmas Vacation with Ramakrishna
7. Two New Entries from M.’s Diary
8. The Stage for Ramakrishna’s Divine Play
9. Service to the Master
10. Ramakrishna’s Love for M.
11. Last Days with Ramakrishna
12. After Ramakrishna’s Passing Away
13. M. at the Baranagore Math
14. Some Early Drafts of Sri Ramakrishna Kathamrita
15. The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna: A History
16. The Centenary of The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna
17. Pilgrimage and Austerities
18. Holy Mother and M.
19. M. and Swami Vivekananda
20. An Ideal Householder Devotee
21. The Morton Institution and Naimisharanya
22. M. as a Guide at Dakshineswar and Cossipore
23. What Ramakrishna Taught
24. From Death to Immortality
25. Swami Satprakashananda
26. Gokuldas Dey
27. Lalit Bandyopadhyay
28. Ramesh Chandra Sarkar
29. Swami Dharmeshananda
30. Swami Kamaleshwarananda
31. Mahendra Kumar Chaudhury
32. Sailendra Kumar Gangopadhyay
33. Satish Chandra Nath
34. Shanti Kumar Mitra
35. Amulya Krishna Sen
36. Swami Jagannathananda
37. Tarani Purakayastha
38. Brahmachari Yatindranath
39. Jitendranath Chattopadhyay
40. Abinash Sharma
41. N. Bangarayya
42. Paul Brunton
43. Paramahamsa Yogananda
44. Dilip Kumar Roy
45. Swami Shivananda
Appendix 1 — Correspondence of Romain Rolland with M.
Appendix 2 — A Brief History of M.’s House
Appendix 3 — M.’s Family Tree
Appendix 4 — Chronology of M.’s Life
List of Illustrations
1. Mahendra Nath Gupta (M.) at Bel-tala in Dakshineswar, 1927
2. M. in his younger days
3. Ramakrishna’s bedroom at Dakshineswar
4. Ramakrishna at Dakshineswar in 1884
5. Panihati festival ground; Kankurgachi Yogodyana
6. Northern Nahabat at Dakshineswar
7. Early picture of the Temple Garden of Dakshineswar
8. Map of Dakshineswar Temple Garden
9. Shyampukur House; Ramakrishna’s room at Shyampukur
10. Cossipore garden house; Ramakrishna’s room at Cossipore Raghuvir’s shrine and Ramakrishna’s room at Kamarpukur; Ramakrishna’s writing in Bengali
11. Devotees with Ramakrishna’s body before cremation
12. Baranagore Math; monks and devotees at Baranagore
13. M.’s diary, page 1 (first and second visit, Feb., 1882)
14. M.’s diary, page 2 (second and third visit, Feb./March 1882)
15. M.’s diary, page 3 (fourth visit, March 1882)
16. M.’s diary, page 4 (fifth visit, March 1882)
17. M.’s diary, page 5 (visit to Vidyasagar, Aug. 1882)
18. M.’s diary, page 6 (visit to Vidyasagar, Aug. 1882)
19. M.’s diary, page 7 (some notes of M.)
20. Ten of M.’s diaries and his inkpot
21. Holy Mother in 1905; Holy Mother’s thumb print
22. Swami Vivekananda at Cossipore garden house in 1886
23. Group photo of swamis and devotees
24. M.’s room in the attic; Morton Institution
25. Mother Kali of Dakshineswar; Krishna Temple, Kali Temple, Natmandir of Dakshineswar
26. Bel-tala; Panchavati at Dakshineswar
27. M. in his old age; M. with Brahmachari Balai
28. M.’s monument at Cossipore cremation ground
29. Steps leading to M.’s shrine; Entrance at M.’s house
30. Sri Chandi Mangal Ghat installed by Holy Mother; M.’s shrine with picture of Ramakrishna and some of Master’s relics
31. Clothing and shoes used by Ramakrishna
32. M.’s bedroom on the second floor; M.’s shoes
33. Painting of nesting bird visualized by Ramakrishna; Roof garden at M.’s house
34. Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar; Keshab Chandra Sen Vijaykrishna Goswami; Dr. Mahendralal Sarkar
35. Illustration of the Dakshineswar temple complex, 1920
36. Cossipore garden house; Balaram Basu’s house, 1920