Swami Vishwananda was a disciple of Swami Brahmananda, one of the direct disciples of Sri Ramakrishna.
Born in Bengal, he graduated from the University of Calcutta with a Master of Arts degree in Philosophy.
He came from a remarkable family: two of his brothers also joined the Ramakrishna Order after college, one being also a medical doctor.
The swami joined the Order as a novice in 1920, and after receiving brahmacharya worked for some time at the Madras Center,
finally receiving Sanyasa in 1923. Within the year he was assigned to start a center in Bombay.
Those who knew the swami at this time characterized him as
" The sociable Swami, strikingly resembling a Christian priest
or pastor with his flock...moving among them and casually visiting the homes of people.
He did not inflict any religious discourse,
but talked with everyone with a streak of humor. He readily accepted invitations to dinner and had no restrictions on food."
When the call came to go to America, an unusual "culture shock" awaited the swami. He had been used to the life of a Mohanta,
with all devotees eager to serve him. The gregarious nature of his predecessor, Swami
Jnaneswarananda had drawn to the Chicago center
an avant-garde group of anarchists, saints, mystics, "hippies," and musicians: a group used to treating a swami as a jolly good fellow
and a friend.
For whatever reason, the Swami became rather a recluse, with a deep meditative life revealed only occasionally in talks
with his brother-monks and chosen devotees. In his lectures and classes he was profound and brilliant: an accomplished story-teller
with a photographic memory for incidents and names, nourished by his extensive readings in world literature.
A few years after his arrival in Chicago, Swami Vishwananda moved the Center to 506 Deming Place, a rented apartment
with a large living room where he held classes on the Gita while continuing to give Sunday lectures in a rented hall usually
at a Unity Church. Then in 1955 a building was purchased at 44 East Elm Street in a quiet, respectable neighborhood.
Swami Vishwananda's last days were especially revealing. At least three observers confirm that during much of the time
when the doctors said he was in "coma," the swami was actually quite alert, but in deep meditation from which he could
be only briefly roused by questions from near ones or bodily pains. Even then, only to smile or indicate that he was all
And so he gave up his body on July 25, 1965.