Ramakrishna Math and Ramakrishna Mission, Belur Math President, Swami Atmasthanandaji Maharaj passed away at a city hospital today after a prolonged illness.
The 98-year-old monk had been undergoing treatment for old age related ailment since February, 2015.
A statement released by the Ramakrishna Math and Ramakrishna Mission, Belur Math said, "Despite the best medical attention, his condition deteriorated over the last few days and he passed away around 5.30PM today at Ramakrishna Mission Seva Pratishthan hospital."
The cremation will take place at Belur Math tomorrow at about 9.30 pm and the gates of Belur Math will remain open tonight and throughout tomorrow till the last rites are completed, it stated.
Atmasthanandaji, born in May, 1919, at Sabajpur, near Dhaka now in Bangladesh, had received "mantra diksha" from Swami Vijnananandaji Maharaj (a monastic disciple of Ramakrishna) in 1938 and joined the Ramakrishna Order at Belur Math in January 1941 when he was only 22 years old.
In 1945, Swami Virajanandaji Maharaj, the sixth President of the Order, gave him Brahmacharya vows, and in 1949, Sannyasa vows and the name Swami Atmasthananda.
After serving the Order at Belur Math and the branches at Deoghar (Vidyapith) and Mayavati (Advaita Ashrama), Atmasthanandaji got the opportunity to serve Swami Virajanandaji Maharaj, the then President of the Order, for a long time. He spent several years in his holy company in the solitude of Shyamla Tal in the Himalayas. In 1952, he was posted to Ranchi TB Sanatorium branch as an Assistant Secretary.
In 1958, he was sent to Rangoon (Yangon) in Burma (now Myanmar) Sevashrama as its secretary.
When military rulers took over Rangoon Sevashrama, he returned to India in 1965. And was posted to Rajkot branch as its head in 1966.
He was elected a Trustee of the Ramakrishna Math and Member of the Governing Body of the Ramakrishna Mission in 1973.
In 1975, he was appointed an Assistant General Secretary of the twin organizations. Under his stewardship as Relief Secretary, the Math and Mission conducted massive relief and rehabilitation operations in various parts of India, Nepal and Bangladesh.
He became the General Secretary of the Math and Mission in 1992 and continued to be in that post for five years till 1997 when he became a Vice-President of the Order.
He was elected President of the Ramakrishna Math and Ramakrishna Mission in December 2007.
Swami Atmasthanandaji had travelled extensively in various parts of the country as well as the globe and visited many branches of the Order and some unaffiliated centres spreading messages of Ramakrishna, Sarada Devi, Swami Vivekananda and Vedanta besides, giving mantra diksha to many spiritual seekers.
He was one of the key persons to organize Pallimangal (integrated rural development) activities in Kamarpukur and Jayrambati, a youth training centre at Saradapitha (Belur) and many other social service programmes.
Meanwhile, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, who paid a visit to the ailing Maharaj earlier in the afternoon, described his passing away as "an irreparable loss to mankind".
"Saddened that Rev. Swami Atmasthanandaji, President, Ramakrishna Math & Mission passed away today at Seva Pratishthan #Kolkata," Banerjee tweeted.
"I paid my last visit to him this afternoon. A life of outstanding social & religious service. This is an irreparable loss to mankind," Banerjee said.