A Biographical Sketch

Swami Tadatmananda (1932-2008) joined the Ramakrishna Order in 1959 at the Hollywood center, transferring to Trabuco Monastery in 1964. He took his brahmacharya (first) vows in 1965 and his sannyasa vows (vows of renunciation) in 1971.

He was born John Markovich in Detroit, Michigan, on January 16, 1932, the first of fraternal twins. At 6 months old, both infants became seriously ill with double pneumonia; and a doctor and nurse were called in to help care for them. In elementary school, John often got excused from the academic schoolwork because his teachers had discovered his artistic talent, while his sister still had to keep her nose in the books. Recognized for his artistic talent, he was directed to Cass Technical High School and later received a scholarship to the Colorado Springs School of Fine Arts in 1950. He served in the Navy from 1952 to 1956, though it was 3 years before they discovered his artistic ability, after which he drew for naval publications.

It was in the Navy that John discovered books about Ramakrishna and decided he would travel to Los Angeles and enroll in a fine art school there and attend the Vedanta Society lectures. When he decided he wanted to join the monastery, he approached his spiritual teacher, the head of the center, Swami Prabhavananda. Perturbed that he had not asked him before enrolling, the swami said that since he had started school he would have to finish, as one should not quit a course after beginning it.

Swami Tadatmananda's artwork quickly attracted notice. His paintings, drawings and sculpture are treasured and displayed in all of the branches of the Vedanta Society of Southern California and in many other locations including India. In particular, the Santa Barbara Temple shrine has several large paintings, including the central painting of Sri Ramakrishna. Perhaps his best known masterpiece is the nearly life-size painting in the Trabuco Monastery hall which depicts all the monastic disciples of Sri Ramakrishna. He was working on the final stages of another gem, a large canvas of the major lay disciples of Sri Ramakrishna.

The swami is remembered for his warmth, humility, humor, and deep spirituality. He was gracious and kind and was friend and counselor to many.

Revised from an entry in Vedanta Voices, February, 2008

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Swami Tadatmananda's artworks are also available as photographs and can be viewed at