Swāmī Brahmānanda Saraswatī (1868–1953) was one of the greatest holy men of India. At a young age, he left home to be instructed by an enlightened teacher. Thereafter he spent about forty years in solitude, but his reputation for holiness and knowledge nevertheless spread throughout India. After repeated requests, he finally accepted an invitation to take the seat of Śhaṅkarāchārya of Jyotir Maṭh in the Himalayas, a prestigious post of spiritual leadership that had been vacant for a century and a half. From this post, he did little more than occasionally speak for at most half an hour at a time, yet this was enough to spark a revival of the ancient Vedic knowledge. This revival continues to grow in India and throughout the world.
Swāmī Brahmānanda Saraswatī was the teacher or guru of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, the founder of the Transcendental Meditation program. In this passage, Maharishi describes his beloved teacher.
Our guiding light is the ever-shining, never-setting Sun of the Divine Grace. Ever the same, constant as the northern star and bright as the mid-day sun, our Guiding Light is the Divine Grace of Śhrī Guru Deva, Mahā Yogirāj, His Divinity Swāmī Brahmānanda Saraswatī Maharāj, the most illustrious in the galaxy of the Jagad-Guru Śhaṅkarāchāryas of India.
He was Mahā Yogirāj (greatest of Yoga Teachers) in the family of the Yogis of India and was held by the Gyānīs (Realized) as personified Brahmānandam (Universal Bliss of Cosmic Consciousness), the living expression of “Pūrṇam adah, pūrṇam idam”—That Unmanifested (Brahman) is perfect and This Manifested (Brahman) is (also) perfect. The divine radiance blooming forth from His shining personality revealed the truth of “Pūrṇam idam” and His Sahaja-Samādhi (all time natural state of cosmic consciousness) brought home the truth of both—“Pūrṇam adah” and “Pūrṇam idam”. It was the perfection of this great Spiritual Master which innovated a spiritual renaissance in Northern India and wherever he travelled.
This Great Pride of India was Rājarām in his early days when he was the love of his great family and was cherished as the “rising sun” in the community of Miśhra Brāhmans of village Gana, near Ayodhya in Uttar Pradesh, North India. He was born on 20th December 1868, but his hour of nativity claimed him for the recluse order and not for that of the secular.
At the tender age of nine, when the other children of the world were mostly busy in playgrounds, he had matured in the idea of renunciation and by continuous and deep thinking was convinced of the futility and evanescence of worldly pleasures. He realized so early that real and lasting happiness cannot be had without the realization of the Divine. The joys and pleasures that are obtained from the phenomenal world are mere shadows and smudged images of the ideal happiness and bliss, that is not far from man but exists in his own heart, enveloped by the dark clouds of ignorance and illusion. When he was barely nine years old he left home and went to the Himālayas in search of God, the Light that dispels the great darkness in the human mind, the darkness that stands between man and the inner Enlightenment.
On the path of the Divine a proper guide is necessary. During the search for a perfect spiritual guide, he came across many masters and good beginners but none of them came up to the ideal that he had set for himself. He desired his spiritual master to be not only well versed in philosophic learning but also to be a person of realization; and over and above these dual achievements, he should be a life celibate, perhaps the natural and legitimate desire of an aspirant who himself had decided to maintain that high ideal for life.
In the world as it is constituted today, to find a personality combining these three conditions and attributes is difficult, if not altogether impossible, and so the young truth-seeker had to wander far and long before he arrived at the goal of his search. After about five years of wandering on the Himālayas, he reached the township of Uttar-Kāśhī. In that “Valley of the Saints,” at that small and distant Himālayan hermitage there resided in those days a great spiritual master, Swāmī Kṛiṣhṇānand Saraswatī, a sage deeply versed in philosophical lore, representing a rare and perfect blend of theory and practice, of learning and realization.
To that realized soul, the young ascetic surrendered himself for being initiated into the mysterious realms of the spirit, whose real key practices are attainable not from books and treatises, but only from perfect spiritual masters, who silently pass these top secret practices from heart to heart.
After some time, with the permission and order of his master he entered a cave at Uttar-Kāśhī with a resolve not to come out before he had realized the Light Supreme. His desire to attain the Highest knowledge was not merely an ideal wish or intention; it was a mighty, overpowering determination that burned like fire in his heart. It permeated every particle of his being and bade him not to rest or stop before the complete realization of the Bliss Eternal.
Soon he arrived at the Heatless Smokeless Effulgence of the Self and realized the Divine Truth, the Cosmic Consciousness, the Ultimate Supreme Reality, Sat Chit Ānandam, the Nirvāṇa.
The greatest attainment of a saint is his life itself, the high edifice of a realized Upanishadic Living that develops under the stress of direct experience of the Reality. To understand that inner personality one must approach such realized souls with an open and receptive mind and try to visualize the great internal life that is the basis of their actual and real form of living.
At the age of 34 he was initiated into the order of Sanyās by his Master at the greatest world fair, Kumbha Melā, that is held once in twelve years at the junction of the two holy rivers, Gangā and Yamunā at Allahabad City. Then he again proceeded to blessed solitude, the only blessedness. This time he did not go to the Himālayas, but went to the Amarkantakas, the source of the holy river Narmadā in Central India.
For the greater part of his life he lived in quiet, lonely places, the habitats of lions and leopards, in hidden caves and thick forests, where even the mid-day sun frets and fumes in vain to dispel the darkness that may be said to have made a permanent abode in those solitary and distant regions of Vindhyagiris and Amarkaṇtakas (mountain ranges). He was out of sight of man but was well marked in the eyes of the destiny of the country.
For more than one and a half centuries the light of Jyotir Math (the principal monastery of Śhaṅkarāchārya) was extinct, and North India had no Śhaṅkarāchārya to guide the spiritual destiny of the people. Here was a bright light of spiritual glory well adorned by the perfect discipline of Sanātana Dharma, but it was hidden in the caves and valleys, in the thick forests and mountains of central India, as though the blessed solitude was giving a proper shape and polish to a personality which was to enlighten the darkness that had overtaken the spiritual destiny of the country, by the Flash of His mere presence.
It took a long time, twenty years, to persuade Him to come out of loneliness and accept the holy throne of Śhaṅkarāchārya of Jyotir Math in Badarikāshramam, Himalayas. At the age of 72, in the year 1941, a well marked time in the political and religious history of India, He was installed as Śhaṅkarāchārya of Jyotir Math, and that was a turning point in the destiny of the nation. The political freedom of the country dawned under His Divine Grace and He was worshipped by Dr. Rajendra Prasad, the first President of the Indian Union. At the conference of the eminent philosophers of the world during the Silver Jubilee Celebrations of the Institute of Indian Philosophers held at Calcutta in December 1950, Dr. S. Radhakrishnan, the famous philosopher and the successor of Dr. Prasad as president of the Indian Union, addressed Śhrī Guru Deva as Vedānta Incarnate (Truth Embodiment).
His policy of spiritual enlightenment was all embracing. He inspired all alike and gave a lift to everyone in his religious, virtuous, moral and spiritual life. He was never a leader of any one party. All parties found a common leader head in Him. All the differences and dissensions of various castes, creeds and sampradāyas dissolved in His presence and every party felt to be a thread in the warp and woof of society, and that all the threads make the cloth and that no thread can be taken out, with advantage, from it. Such was His Universality and all-embracing nature.
His entire personality exhaled always the serene perfume of spirituality. His face radiated that rare light which comprises love, authority, serenity and self-assuredness; the state that comes only by righteous living and Divine realization. His Darshan made the people feel as if some ancient Maharishi of upanishadic fame had assumed human form again, and that it is worthwhile leading a good life and to strive for realization of the Divine.
His spiritual teachings are simple and clear and go straight home to the heart. He strictly adhered to the courses of inner development laid down by the systems of Indian Philosophy and ethics and he raised his voice never in opposition but always in firm support of the truths and principles contained in the concept of Dharma. He gave to the people the spirit of religion and made them happy in every walk of life.
As time would have it, after 12 years that flashed by, the Manifested merged with its original, the Unmanifested, and “Brahma Leena Brahmānandam” is now appearing in the hearts of His devotees as waves of Brahmānandam (Bliss). He cast off His mortal coil, but left behind a few others in mortal coil to keep up the light of His grace and pass on the torch of His teachings from hand to hand for all the millennium to come.
Spiritual Regeneration Movement has been started under His direct inspiration that we received on the 31st December 1957, the last day of His 89th Birthday Anniversary at Madras. His Divine Plan of Spiritual Regeneration of the world is being worked out quite naturally by the stonghold of time which is found marking a change in human destiny. We only pray Him to keep on guiding us.
—Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, Love and God, p. 5–11, “Our Guiding Light”.
“The dawn comes to dispel the darkness of night, allowing us to enjoy the light of the sun, which is self-illuminating. Spiritual teachings destroy ignorance and therefore remove darkness, but they cannot throw light on the inner Self, for the Self is Light.”
—Swāmī Brahmānanda Saraswatī
“Having become a devotee of God one can never remain unhappy. This is our experience. The ego (jīva) is going on doing its work from several births; its tendency to work exists from time immemorial. Therefore, if the work is just started with a little co-operation of the mind it shall continue to go on just like the wagon moving a long way off … if it is just jerked and pushed by the engine. It is necessary to bifurcate the work of the mind as main and secondary. Apply your body mainly and your mind secondarily to you work (vyarahara).
“When your mind is mainly engaged in God, you shall receive his grace. God is all-powerful. Even a little of His grace is capable of bestowing on the ego all that is good in its entirety. The declaration of the Lord that is proved by the scriptures is this: ‘Whosoever thinks of Me with one-pointed devotion, I shall conduct his necessary work also.’ The experience of the bhaktis also goes to prove the declaration of the Lord. Accumulate wealth (artha), but in such a way that is not against transcendental wealth (param-artha). That which hinders transcendental wealth and results in accumulation in sin is not wealth but a burden, a debt (anartha).
“As is the cloth, so is the price. For carrying on the short-lived activities of the work, employ your short-lived body and wealth. Mind is a permanent thing, which remains with you always. Even in the other world it will continue to stay with you. Therefore connect it with a permanent thing. God, being the eternal existence in animate and inanimate things, is the only permanent thing of the highest order. Therefore connect your mind with Him. If the mind is satisfied with wealth, wife or children, why does it go elsewhere? Because if cannot stick onto anything. From this it is clear that it is not satisfied with anything of the mundane world. It runs after things, taking them to be good and desirable, but after a short while it leaves them.
“Nobody wants your mind in this world, and the mind is not satisfied with anything of the world. The mind is not fit for the world, or the world for the mind. When the mind realizes God, it is permanently established there and does not desire other things. From this we can understand that God alone is fit for the mind and nothing else.
“Keep this in mind: that your mind, which is not wanted by anyone else in this world, is useful to take you near God. Therefore, in this marketplace of the world, carry on work with your body and wealth, and allow your mind to go towards God. Then your work in this world will get on well, and the path to transcendental wealth will also be clear.”
—Swāmī Brahmānanda Saraswatī
One day a man who was considered to be very wealthy came to Gurudev (Swāmī Brahmānanda Saraswatī). He said to him, “I have been so happy whenever I have come to you. Would you allow me to donate something for your hermitage (āśhram)?”
“No”, said Gurudev, “I do not want your money, but I want from you what is dearest to you!”
“Do you want my estates?”
“No, your estates do not belong to you, since you have so many debts.”
Now the man was deeply frightened! Gurudev continued quietly:
“You have a little box in your pocket, what is in it? That is what I want, for that is dearest to you! For that cocaine, you have been spending all your money and have made your family unhappy. If you have to make an offering, offer not your money but your defects, so that you are redeemed and made whole.”
Trembling, the man took out of his pocket a little box and handed it to Gurudev. He prostrated before the master for a long time and then thanked him from the deepest bottom of his heart for having been cured of his addiction.
Gurudev said, “Now go and work and make your family happy!”
“The one who has come, has to go. Nobody can stay here. Every moment keep your luggage packed. Nobody knows when death will call. The warrant of death is like the arrest warrant.
“One cannot think of appealing against it. Quickly one should leave off everything and leave. Whatever is, wherever is, we have to leave and go. So, if you are ready before, there will be not much of a difficulty while leaving. The one who is always ready to leave will never be able to sin. Only by forgetting the other world, one becomes immoral and licentious. If a man remembers at every moment that, one day or the other, all will have to leave this world, then he will never be able to bring in untruth and inappropriate conduct into his life.
“Think of it—when our own father, grandfather and great-grandfather had to leave, then how can we be able to stay? Since going is certain, keep ready from the beginning, so that the travel will be comfortable. If you are not ready, then you will face difficulties. Be aware not to act in such a way that you will have to regret for it while leaving.
“If you are not cautious, you cannot escape from falling. It is the nature of the river of worldliness (samsāra); it will always try to take you downwards. Involvement with the senses makes man multifaceted. Being multifaceted and involved with the surface level of life (vāsana) makes it very difficult to have the ability to discern. So it is essential to be cautious always.
“Whatever man does while living, be it good or bad, it comes to be remembered at the moment of death. At the time of death, remembering the dreadful results of one’s evil actions, the soul starts repenting and hence becomes very sad. Therefore one should always be cautious, such that no sin happens, so that one has no regrets at the time of death.
“Attending to the Transcendental Self (Paramātmān) is highly profitable. Any amount of time spent on it will get back to you with multifold interest. It is such a type of business where there is not even a doubt of losing. Attending to the Transcendental Self is always profitable. But the fact is that one should be fortunate enough to do profitable business. The unfortunate will always involve himself in such a business, where loss is inevitable. It is surprising that people put so much of effort making day and night into one, to gain wealth and materials of comfort.
“But no effort is put forth in activities that gain the Transcendental Self, which is a natural activity and can be done with ease. What an indiscretion! The still more astonishing thing is, people are not putting attention on the Transcendental Self, who is the source of peace and happiness.
“The people struggle hard to gain valueless baubles of daily living, day in and day out. It is said: Gain one thing to gain everything—try to gain everything and you will gain nothing.
“By gaining the Transcendental Self, everything will become automatic. If you leave the Transcendental Self and try to gain everything else, you will never be able to gain anything. Whatever is gained, will look so little, that you will not feel happy.
“If you want to catch the shadow, catch the real thing and automatically the shadow will be in your hands. Leaving the real, if you run after the shadow, the faster you run, the faster it will run away from you. That is why, to run after shadowy wealth and fame is foolhardy. Catch hold of the real—the Transcendental Self—and all these will come by itself to be under your command. Remember that attending to the Transcendental Self is always highly profitable. Whatever time you put into this, you will get back with multifold interest.
“It is a waste to make much of your activity, so try to live quietly as long as you have to live.
“Even emperors like Chakravarti Daśharatha could not get all that they desired. That is why it is a great mistake to be distressed by involving oneself day and night in trying to satisfy one’s desires.
“One should not forget, one day it is certain for us to move out of here! Whatever program and in whatever condition it might be, and wherever it is we are involved in, we have to leave it as it is and go. Everyone has to travel alone. So do not be sad about things that we have no choice but to leave.
“As long as one has to live, live peacefully. It is certain; the work here can never be completed. So do not make much out of doing. Work as it is, is a waste. Lead this life with a peaceful mind, doing your duty and always attending to the Transcendental Self.
“The Creator is all-sustaining (viśhambhara). He shoulders the duty to sustain and protect us. And so, he will make arrangements. Without having faith in His support, if you depend on your intellect and cleverness, deceit and craftiness, you will lead a life of turbulence and the future path will also be darkened.
“So, lead life in such a way that you will be peaceful while living and making your future path bright as well.”
—Swāmī Brahmānanda Saraswatī