Friday, April 1, 2011

The monk who cracked IIT

Apparently, a lot I wanted to write is nicely summed up in another blog. So, I can just point you to there and live the page blank. But wait, I have my own version too. And a few links in the previous blog is broken. So, you can do the reading in the following order.

A quick summary - here.
Another link of the TOI article- here.
A list of comments from people who knew this monk - here.
A blogger's personal experience - here.

So, I read all those and had an intense desire to meet him as well. I sent a mail to him asking for a time, to which he cordially replied to visit him any time.

It was second last Sunday of February, 2011. I reached Belur in early afternoon and approached straight towards the Ramakrishna Vivekananda University. This is a newly set up university closely working together with Ramakrisha Mission. In West Bengal, the Ramakrishna Mission have done wonders in secondary and higher secondary education - producing toppers every year from the schools it run. Nothing good can stop attracting some brickbats and the government decided to show up its muscle in the schools run by monastics by pushing in their own comrades. I assume Ramakrishna Mission wants to break from that schackle slowly by creating its own university in this way. Anyway, the newly built university has a large auditorium, a pond and a beautiful multistoried building. In that building, classes are held, monks, all highly qualified, conduct lectures, replies to mails from a neatly organized computer lab. It feels so beautiful a blend between modern and ancient India. I had to wait as Shreesh Maharaj was immersed in meditation. An attendant looking after the guests requested me to wait. I took a visit to the main Belur math premises.

I walked in a newly constructed Museum in Belur Math. It contains memoribilia from the Ramakrishna order of monastics like the dumbells used by Swamiji, the original manuscripts of SriRamakrishna. It was an enriching experience, walking through the past of so many great souls.

Around 6 pm, I returned to the university and sat besides the pond. Few minutes later, I was called to Shreesh Maharaj's office. He did not shave for few days, due to night-outs he had to do, he told me. The entire environment felt like an IIT lab, where he used to belong. He told that some network connection was not working, which took a bit of time. I noticed a 5x5x5 Rubik's cube on his table and curiously asked if that gets solved ever. "sometimes" - he maintained. We started discussing the ongoing Maoist issues related to an abduction and he repeated the only solution pointed to by Swamiji - Education for the masses. I did know at that time that a friend of him, Sandeep Pandey, won Magsaysay for the same initiative.

Inspite of the known Indian history of renunciation with likes of Goutama Buddha and Harshavardhan, I could not fathom how Shreesh Maharaj did that practically ? Ranking 2nd in IIT, all set to make a materialistically enriching life, which millions of Indians aspire - kidding ? Throwing all the effort and government subsidies to nothing - as regular commenters on online forums will complain about. I asked him, how could he do that and his answer (see here) left me clueless.

It was getting late. I took a snap of him with me, to be uploaded later. He was radiant with a simple smile attached to his face. And if I remember that meeting, I was all smiles then and I am all smiles even now.

Well - the story did not end there. I met another monk of Ramakrishna Mission in Germany - named Swami Vaneshananda, fondly called Monitosh Maharaj. Manitosh Maharaj knew Shreesh Maharaj very closely and shared some stories about him. Like once, Shreesh Maharaj was deeply engrossed in his work and felt a pain in the stomach after some time. Suspecting something amiss, he went to the canteen (it is called Bhandar in Ramakrishna Mission) and asked the monk-in-charge - if he had actually taken lunch or not ! On another occasion, Monitosh Maharaj's computer was having some problems and he knew that Shreesh Maharaj could fix it. He called Shreesh Maharaj. Shreesh Maharaj replied that he was quite busy. Monitosh Maharaj then told that he will give him a bottle of thumbs up if he comes then. Shreesh Maharaj was excited like a child to hear that and quickly turned up. The computer got fixed but, he forgot to drink the thumbs up altogether. Monitosh Maharaj was laughing heartily when recollecting this thums up story. "Shreesh is like a kid" - he told. I was wondering myself, if Monitosh Maharaj was also not like a kid. Whoelse would otherwise think of offering a thumbs up to a grown up man and get his computer problems solved !

Some papers by Shreesh Maharaj - here.
His winning of IITK distinguished alumni award - here.


  1. sirji ... I am so overwhelmed right now that I dont find the right words to write but there are many thoughts (for/against) bubbling in my mind right now which I cant pen down. Will discuss with you next time we meet or talk. Till then .. keep the blog rolling :)

  2. We are trying to match the color of our "life`s Cube" , we don`t know the exact purpose of life.

    Did we satisfy with our achievements or we want more? we don`t know what is our exact contentment.....

    Therefore, we try to solve "life`s Cube"(Rubik's cube) rest of the life.

  3. We get afraid of to loose something but who has nothing to loose , who don`t bother about gain & of-course who has been achieved that ultimate purpose of life,,,
    can solve the "5x5x5 Rubik's cube"....

    1. to loose is wrong instead loosing will your thought are as beautiful as holy water

  4. i had the fortune of coming across such luminous persons in my life spanning 79 plus years .
    i was richer by one more.
    thank you,dearest.

  5. The Maharaj in Germany is called Mahitosh not Monitosh Mj. Anyway, Mahitosh Mj indeed also has told me the same...!..nice to see it hear.