SWAMI PREMANANDA – HIS LIFE
From a very young age Swami Premananda totally devoted his life to spirituality. He always expressed his spiritual aspiration through service to anyone requesting his help and especially to the poorest and most disadvantaged in society.
Prem Kumar (later known as Swami Premananda) was born into a simple merchant family in Matale, Sri Lanka, in 1951. By the age of 17, Prem Kumar made the unusual decision to dedicate his entire life to serving humanity, by helping people in their mental distress and physical poverty. He further stated that his goal was to show the existence of God to as many as he possibly could in his lifetime. He became a monk and from then on he was called Swami Premananda – Prema means pure love and Ananda means divine joy.
As the years went by more and more people were drawn to Swami Premananda. People in all kinds of distress came to him for guidance and help and genuine spiritual aspirants gathered around him. He solved many people’s problems and cured their illnesses. In 1972 he started his first Ashram in Matale. He also started to take care of homeless and unwanted children in this Ashram. People from all walks of life came there to enjoy the spiritual environment. He was invited all over the world and toured the United Kingdom three times and visited Singapore, Malaysia and The Philippines.
In 1983 Sri Lanka was rocked by ethnic riots. As he always advocated peace and unity, Swami Premananda was a prime target for troublemakers and the beautiful Ashram was firebombed and burnt to the ground. Subsequently, Swami Premananda, accompanied by some of the devotees and children from the orphanage, came to India. He settled down in Trichy and soon started a new Ashram near Tiruchirappalli (Trichy), Tamil Nadu. In 1989 the Indian Ashram was officially inaugurated in the presence of many spiritual leaders from all over South India and was called “Sri Premananda Ashram”. Over the next five years the Ashram flourished. Thousands used to visit the Ashram on weekends to have a private interview with Swami Premananda and listen to his spiritual discourses. Several hundreds of destitute children were living and studying in the Ashram free of cost. An increasing number of spiritual seekers from India and abroad came, finding their spiritual master and guide towards Self-realization in Swami Premananda.
As his good reputation spread, as devotees from all over the world came to receive his blessings and advice, and as his social services were reaching out to help ever more needy people, there was a simultaneous bid to blacken his name. In November 1994, after an extensive defamatory media campaign, he and six other Ashram residents were arrested. Swami Premananda was remanded until his trial in 1997 after which he and the others were convicted and given long prison sentences. Despite the false charges and to the great consternation of those who knew he was innocent, Swami Premananda was kept in prison. Yet he always smiled patiently saying, “I have never committed any crime. I have surrendered totally to divine will. Truth will ultimately win.”
The activities of the Ashram and the Sri Premananda Centres that had been started worldwide carried on and continue to do so.
Swami Premananda passed away on 21st February 2011. His body is now interred in a temple in the Sri Premananda Ashram in India according to how saints in India are traditionally buried. The number of devotees who believe in his innocence continues to increase, as do the social services that he inspires.