Swami Ranganathananda (December 15, 1908 – April 25, 2005), born Shankaran Kutty, was a Hindu monk of the Ramakrishna Math order. He served as the 13th president of the Ramakrishna Math and Mission.
Ranganathananda was born in December 15, 1908 in a village called Trikkur near Trichur, in Kerala. As teenager, he was attracted by the teachings of Swami Vivekananda and Ramakrishna and joined the Mysore centre of Ramakrishna Order as a Brahmachari in 1926. He served the Mysore Centre for 9 years and was under Swami Siddheswarananda and another 3 years under him in the Bangalore centre. He was initiated as a Sannyasi (monk) in 1933, on the 70th anniversary of Swami Vivekananda’s birth by Swami Shivananda, a direct disciple of Ramakrishna. Between 1939 and 1942, he served as the secretary and librarian at the Rangoon branch of Ramakrishna Mission.
He then served as the president of the Karachi centre of Math from 1942 to 1948 until the partition of India, after which the mission found it difficult to continue its activities at Karachi. At Karachi, L.K. Advani came in contact with the Swami and used to listen to his discourses on the Bhagavad Gita. Advani said that Ranganathananda was a “great influence” during his formative years. According to Advani, at Karachi, Mohammed Ali Jinnah had once listened to Ranganathananda’s lecture on Islam and Prophet Mohammed and remarked, “Now I know how a true Muslim should be.”
From 1949 to 1962, he served as a secretary at the Delhi centre. Then from 1962 to 1967, he served as the Secretary of the Ramakrishna Mission Institute of Culture, Kolkata, director of School of Humanistic & Cultural studies, editor of mission’s monthly. The swamiji became president of the Hyderabad branch in 1973, where he developed Vivekananda Vani School of Languages, a temple, library and delivered spiritual discourses. He was elected to the post of vice-president of Ramakrishna Math and Mission in 1988. In 1998 he was elected as the president of the mission.
Ranganathananda was chosen by the Indian government for Padma Vibhushan award in 2000. He declined the Padma Vibhushan as it was conferred on him in his individual capacity and not for the Mission. He accepted the Indira Gandhi Award for National Integration in 1987 and the Gandhi Peace Prize in February 1999 as both were conferred on the Ramakrishna Mission.
Since his residence in Bangalore in the 1930s, Ranganathananda has been a popular teacher and lecturer on Indian spiritual culture. By the mid-1950s he was known within India as an authority on practical Vedanta. Since the 1960s he made nearly annual lecture tours to Western Europe, the United States, Australia, and Singapore. He also lectured in Iran and in the Soviet union. Ranganathananda is noted for this contributions that bridges Western science and Vedantic spirituality.
Raganathananda lived the last days of his life in the headquarters of the Ramakrishna Mission at Belur in West Bengal. He died at Woodlands Medical Centre, Kolkata, at 3:51 p.m. on Monday, 25 April 2005, owing to cardiac arrest. He was 96. His mortal remains were kept for darshan at Belur Math (near Kolkata) on that day, and were consigned to flames at 12.30 p.m. on 26 April 2005. India Post released a postage stamp in the denomination of Rs 5 to commemorate the 100th birth anniversary of Swami Ranganathananda, during December 2008 at Kolkata.
Ranganathananda was regarded a great scholar and teacher. He has authored over 50 books. The Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan has published around twenty-nine of these books. His famous book includes Eternal Values for a Changing Society and commentaries on the messages of the Bhagavad Gita and Upanishads. He was known as a good orator. His weekly classes and public lectures were popular among the followers. Ganapathy, a correspondent of The Hindu writes that “In all his lectures, Swami Ranganathananda had stressed on the philosophy of eternal religion, a practical Vedanta, which teaches universal acceptance”. Ranganathananda conducted moral and religious classes for the prisoners in the Bangalore and Mysore jails. In Delhi, Swami Ranganathananda organised social services at hospitals and worked for the relief of leprosy patients. Indian prime minister, Manmohan Singh described Swami Ranganathananda and Swami Vivekananda as “leaders with a modern mind and scientific temper.