Swami Atmajayananda (Harold Eugene Amundsen), affectionately known as Shanti, was the second child born to Roy and Hildur Amundsen on March 12, 1940, in Portland, Oregon. He Graduated from Ulysses S. Grant High School in Portland in 1957 and during his senior year was the captain of the ski team. In the late 1950s and early 1960s he was recognized in regional newspapers for his participation in various skiing championships and in 1960 was chosen by the Pacific Northwestern Ski Association as one of seven skiers to compete in the National Alpine Ski Championships. He attended the University of Oregon and then transferred to Oregon State University where he earned a B.A. in Architecture. In addition, he served in the Coast Guard, studied music and played several different musical instruments including the flute, enjoyed bicycling, and was an avid photographer.
In 1961, while still a student of architecture at Oregon State, he designed and helped his grandfather build his parent’s home in Gresham, Oregon. It was conceived in the style of Frank Lloyd Wright, and in 2019 was entered into the National Register of Historic Places.
Swami Atmajayananda joined the Vedanta Society of Portland in February 1960, and was initiated by Swami Aseshananda, the last direct disciple of the Holy Mother Sri Sarada Devi. Sometime in the sixties, Swami Atmajayananda came to the Vedanta Society of Western Washington in Seattle to assist Swami Vividishananda who was by himself in the Ashram. He was accepted as a probationer in the Ramakrishna Order in 1968, fulfilling Swami Vividishananda’s lifelong dream of starting a monastery.
In 1971, Jim Austin, later Swami Manishananda, joined the Vedanta Society in Seattle. This freed Swami Atmajayananda to return to the Portland Vedanta Society, and in May 1975 he took his brahmacharya vows there.
In 1974, while in Portland, he designed and constructed eight shrines at the Vedanta Society’s retreat in Scappoose, Oregon. Three of the shrines were dedicated to Sri Sarada Devi, Sri Ramakrishna, and Swami Vivekananda, while the five remaining shrines were dedicated to Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, Islam, and the Indigenous peoples.
Around 1980 he was briefly loaned back to Seattle to help in the architectural design of our proposed new building to be constructed on our newly acquired property located near the Northgate Shopping Center. He returned to Portland when this project could not be realized due to its high-cost projections and the neighborhood objections.
Swami Atmajayananda moved back to the Seattle Vedanta Society in 1993. He would stay both at Tapovan, the Society’s retreat, and in Seattle dividing his week between them. The Vivekananda Assembly Hall was being built and he helped lay the black granite tile in the main hall, as well as contributing to the maintenance and the construction of other structures. When staying at Tapovan, Swami Atmajayananda stayed in the original log cabin that was first built for holding monthly day long retreats, which he kept well maintained and upgraded over the years.
In 2000 he went to Belur Math in India, the headquarters of the Ramakrishna Math and Mission, to take his sannyasa vows. He was then given the name Swami Atmajayananda.
When at the Ashram in Seattle, he would be the doorman and usher for the Sunday morning talks, unless he himself was giving the talk, a task he was assigned after sannyasa. He also regularly gave talks in Vancouver, British Columbia at the Vivekananda Vedanta Society of British Columbia. He was very friendly, helpful, and a welcoming presence to all those attending the services.
Due to the advanced stage of his multiple myeloma, confirmed in April 2021, he declined treatment and chose to enter hospice to receive palliative care at the Vedanta Society’s retreat property. By November 2022, it was evident that he required full-time care and he was moved to the Seattle ashrama. After a long heroic struggle spanning many years he passed away on Tuesday evening at 6:30 pm, January 3, 2023.
May his soul rest in peace.