Pre-monastic name :
Date of Birth : 21 January 1863
Place of Birth : Sikra Kulingram,
36 miles to the N.W. of Kolkata.
Rakhal was devoted to God and used to practise meditation even in
boyhood. At the age of 12 he was brought to Kolkata for his studies.
There he met Narendra (later known as Swami Vivekananda) and, under
his influence, joined the Brahmo Samaj. According to the custom
prevalent in those days, he was married at the age of 18 to
Vishweshwari. Soon after marriage Vishweshwaris brother Manomohan
Mitra, who was a close devotee of Sri Ramakrishna, took Rakhal to
the Master. Prior to that Sri Ramakrishna had had a vision in which
he saw the Divine Mother showing him a child who would be his son.
As soon as Rakhal came to Dakshineswar, Sri Ramakrishna recognized
him to be that child, and treated him like a son.
After a few visits Rakhal came to Dakshineswar to live permanently
with Sri Ramakrishna. Under the Masters guidance, he practised
intense spiritual disciplines, and attained high levels of spiritual
illumination. After the Masters mahasamadhi in 1886 when the new
Monastic brotherhood was formed at Baranagar, Rakhal joined it. He
underwent sannyasa ordination and assumed the name Brahmananda.
Two years later he left Baranagar Math and lived an intensely
contemplative life at Varanasi, Omkarnath, Vrindaban, Hardwar and
other places. During this period he scaled the highest peak of
non-dualistic experience and used to remain absorbed in Samadhi for
days together. In 1890 he returned to the Math. When Swami
Vivekananda, after his return to India in 1897, wanted to give a new
turn to monastic life, Swami Brahmananda whole-heartedly supported
him. There was deep love between these two monastic brothers. After
establishing Belur Math monastery when Swami Vivekananda got
Ramakrishna Math registered as a Trust, Swami Brahmananda became its
President. He held this post till the end of his life.
During his tenure as President, the Ramakrishna Order underwent
great expansion, and several new branch centres were opened in India
and abroad. The Ramakrishna Mission, which had been founded by Swami
Vivekananda as an Association, was revived and registered during his
time. His stress on contemplative life served to counterbalance the
activities undertaken by the monks. During those difficult formative
years he gave great stability to the Sangha. For his kingly
qualities of administration, Swami Vivekananda gave him the
appellation Raja, and since then he was respectfully referred to
as Raja Maharaj by all. He was one of the six disciples of Sri
Ramakrishna whom the Master regarded as ishvarakotis.
He gave up his body, after a brief illness, on 10 April 1922. At the
place where his body was cremated in Belur Math, a temple now stands
in his memory.
For further reading : The Eternal Companion: Teachings of Swami
Brahmananda by Swami Yatiswarananda and Swami Prabhavananda