Lifestory and Teachings
Compiled by Paul Mason
- Guru Dev -
Shankaracharya Swami Brahmananda Saraswati
of Jyotirmath [1941-1953]
(painting by M T V Acharya)
portrait of Guru Dev
Maharishi Mahesh Yogi sitting with
The Beatles in London, England, September 1967
early 1968 The
Beatles pop group flew out to India to study philosophy and meditation
in Rishikesh and their visit immediately became front-page news across
the world. But for many it is still unclear what The Beatles actually
learned, and where the teaching originated from. However, a clue is
offered in the lyrics of 'Across the Universe', a song written by John
Lennon containing the oft-repeated refrain 'Jai Guru Deva', a Hindi phrase
meaning 'Victory to Guru Dev', sung in praise of Guru Dev (the guru
of their meditation teacher).
portrait of Guru Dev
Maharishi Mahesh Yogi sitting with
The Beatles in Rishikesh, India April 1968
Jai Guru Deva ● Jai
Guru Dev ● Jaya Gurudeva ● Jay
Gurudeva ● Jay Gurudev
to Guru Dev *
1959, when Maharishi Mahesh Yogi
first arrived in the West he
'My life truly
began 19 years ago at the
feet of my master when I learned the secret of swift and deep
meditation, a secret I now impart to the world.' 1
Shankaracharya Swami Brahmananda Saraswati, a spiritual leader famous
in Northern India, held in high esteem by his many disciples and
devotees both young and old.
It is written that on Thursday, 21 December 1871 (Vikram
Samvat 1928, Marg Shirsh Shukla Dasmi) in the
village of Gana close to Ayodhya, Rajaram Mishra was born.
After leaving home at the age of nine years old, he roamed in
the Himalayan hills and eventually found a guru
who named him Brahmachari Brahma Chaitanya. In 1904 at the age
of thirty-three years old, his guru initiated him into
monkhood as a sannyasi and gave him the name of Swami
led a solitary life, living mainly in forests and jungles, taking
shelter in natural caves. For food and drink he would
take what nature offered, and supplemented his fare with the gifts
brought to him by well-wishers who would seek him out.
In a chance meeting at
the Kumbha Mela in
Allahabad in 1930, his guru,
Swami Krishnanand Sarswati, told Swami
Brahmanand:- 'You have stayed a
long time in the jungles and mountains. Stay near the towns now, so
that some of the people can benefit."
So it was that
Swami Brahmanand Saraswati became a little more accessible, known
for his spiritual radiance
and knowledge. In fact, so high was his spiritual reputation that he
was nominated to take the most presitigious and powerful position in
Indian society, that of Shankaracharya, becoming Shankaracharya of
Jyotir Math on 1st April 1941.
in Varanasi now became the
official seat of the Shankaracharya, though he travelled widely across
sharing his wisdom and reviving the religious and spiritual traditions
wherever he visited. Fortunately, when giving spiritual talks Guru Dev
would sometimes alude to former incidents in his life, and these
precious recollections later formed the basis of his biography, which
therefore reads like an autobiography at times.
This biography has
since been carefully translated
into English, and is now published alongwith supplementary
material and photographs, as 'The
Biography of Guru Dev'.
young man named Mahesh had
become captivated by the idea of joining the
Shankaracharya's ashram, He quickly made himself busy there dealing
with Guru Dev's correspondence before becoming Guru Dev's secretary.
Indeed, he fulfilled that post for about a decade, become eventually
becoming a student monk,
when he was known as Brahmachari
as Brahmachari Mahesh
then as Maharishi Mahesh Yogi
Apparently Mahesh first
met the guru
in the city of Jabalpur in central India (this being Mahesh's hometown
where it is said he worked sometime as a clerk at the Gun Carriage
Factory). He recalls:-
was fond of visiting
saints, and when I heard there was a saint - this was in some Summer
vacation - "Some saint has come but it's very difficult to approach him
and he is far away," and all that, all that. Then I made more
enquiries; "Where is he? And what?", then I found one can only see him
about midnight or something, because no one is allowed to go there, and
you have to go in all darkness without making noise and all kinds of
things. I met some friends here and there and just we went there and,
on a small house somewhere far into the, in the forest somewhere. There
was a terrace, small terrace, and there, it was all dark, absolutely
dark. About ten or eleven we arrived there. I and someone or two more.
there was a brahmachari on the ground floor. He
said, "How you are here?" and "Who told you?" and, "You are not expected
said, "So maybe we forgot our way and we are here then, darshan
coming;. And tell us about the saint, and
we want to hear.." I said.
he said, "Don't
talk, don't talk, just sit quietly." And he disappeared and he went up
and after about half an hour he came back. He said, "Follow me very
quietly." I said, "Alright, alright." We quietly went up, there was
nothing to see, it's all dark and somehow we felt someone was sitting
on a sort of chair or something, reclining, comfortable. We sat down
quietly, we found two or three other men were also sitting. No one was
talking, whispering, it was all dark, everything. It so happened, about
maybe fifteen, twenty minutes passed and it happened that far distance
a car was coming and it showed the light on the terrace, and that was
the first sight of Guru Dev. Just on the flash of the car, maybe a mile
away from the car, but it just turned, it just turned for a moment and
I was.. it was just enough to have a glimpse of him. And then I
thought, "Yes, it seems the time has come." That one glimpse of a
flashy light and that was enough to take decisions.
I came, and I came, and I came, and I said, "Could I not be at your
said, "What you are doing?"
better finish your studies."
then, where will you be?"
you will find me somewhere."'
perhaps this was a test by the guru to test the
young man's enthusiasm to become a monk?
I was asked to
complete my studies. And then I did not argue with him because once I
saw him, I know he knows best and whatever he said was my action.' 2
Guru Dev was gone
back to the lonely forests. It was hard to locate from where he had
come and where he had gone, because those who knew him were strictly
prohibited to tell others his whereabouts. There was no way to keep
contact with him.'
later, I saw him in the market of a big city of north India, being
carried in a big procession. And this was when he visited the city as
Shankaracharya of north India.' 3
'He had become the Shankaracharya of
Jyotirmath. To become a Shankaracharya is a very, is a democratic
thing. All the pandits and saints and all that,
they join together and they elect the Shankaracharya. The head of.. the
custodian of Hindu religion.'
joined the guru's busy ashram
at Varanasi (Benares) and discovered dozens of learned people there:-
in the beginning, I joined the ashram, I came, and then I was amongst
thirty or forty brahmacharis, and pandits
and all that, all that. And they were very wise people, pandits
of all the six systems of philosophy, and pandits
of all the smrittis, shrutis,
and all that. The whole learning round about Shankaracharya was vast
retinue of learned people and I was absolutely insignificant. I had
some knowledge of Hindi, and some of English, and a little bit of
Sanskrit, but in that big huge learned assembly, this was absolutely
insignificant, and English, of course, it was not necessary at all.
then it was about a
week and as everyone in the morning would go and do the prostrations
and come out and then there was nothing to do. And one week passed and
then I thought. "It's ridiculous to waste all this time." Was just once
in the morning and once in the evening, go and prostrate and come out.
So I made friends with a man who was cleaning his room, something like
that, like that. Adjusting his table, this, this, this.
said, "Oh, could you not take rest? You must be feeling very tired,"
and something, something.
I said. "I could..."
he said, "You can't. You can't come in this room," and this and this.
I said, "Maybe when Guru Dev is not here, when he is taking his bath,
and I could clean or something."
he said, "Yes, that
time you can come but get out quickly, and don't disturb things." Like
that. So I started on that, some cleaning of the floor, something,
something, adjusting something.'
a temporary absence of the pandit who dealt with
the clerical work of the ashram, Mahesh saw an opportunity to assume
the role of clerk to the guru. He checked through
the incoming mail and offered to read certain of the letters out loud
to Guru Dev.
letter was there. It came for his blessing from some state in India
asking that they are going to perform a big yagya
and they want the blessings of Shankaracharya. And that letter was
there and that date was approaching, about a week was left. And that I
thought was a letter very responsible for the organisation to answer.
I asked Guru Dev, "Oh, oh, the answer of this letter?"
he would just not mind it, because in his eyes just one organisation
doesn't mean anything, or something.
I thought it's a
very great responsibility of the organisation, it's if someone wants
Shankaracharya's blessing then it's for the organisation to reply, and
reply his blessings and create goodwill and inspire that organisation.'
the following days Mahesh repeatedly attempted to solicit a response
from the guru but without result, and then went so
far as to suggest that he write something himself, He recalls:-
day I said, "It's only about four, five days left. Shall I make a draft
and read to Guru Dev, or anything?"
He said, "What you will write?" And that was the end he said.'
returned to his own room to gather his thoughts:-
said, "Now come on, I
have to write an answer to this. What? What? How to write? What to do?
Now supposing if I was a Shankaracharya? What I'll say in that letter?"
And I just imposed Shankaracharyaship on myself. And I said. "Yes, all
the religious organisations look to Shankaracharya, head of the
religion. The main thing is, that they should get inspiration from the
blessing of Shankaracharya. As an organisation doing this great yagya,
inspiring the people in the locality for religious life, so they should
have the approval of Shankaracharya for this good act of religious
value." I somehow wrote. And in the evening - it was just a very short
thing, because nothing very long has to go from Shankaracharya, who is
a great authority on religion, so very short
inspiration. I made some few lines.
the evening when I opened the door and entered and I read out that
thing, in one simple breath quickly. And it sounded so
apt, so appropriate.
then he said, "Will these people get it if you write? Then send it."
said; "Yes, they can get it, it's yet four days."
all he said.
I quickly wrote and
put on a seal of Shankaracharya and did the whole paraphernalia, and
sent it. From that day probably I gave an impression that I could write
something useful. That was the first thing. And from there, the letters
came to me for replying and I was replying and sometimes reading to
to get even closer to the guru he attempted to
attune himself to the master's thinking:-
it took about two
and a half years, and I thought two and a half years were wasted, but
it came out to be quite early to adjust myself to his feelings. And the
method that I adopted was just to sense what he wants at what time -
what he wants. I picked up activity as a means to adjust to his
thought, to his feelings.'
about two and a
half years for my thoughts to be mainly flowing in tune with his - how
much perfectly, there was no way to measure, but I knew I was making
very, very rare mistakes, no mistakes almost.'
from there on for
me the whole thing was very light and beautiful, no obstacles, clear,
everything. Then I was living around him without even feeling that I
was living. It's a very genuine feeling of complete oneness with Guru
Dev, just like that. People who have seen me moving with Guru Dev know
that I was not as if in this isolated, single body or something. '3
'Even ignorant people like me were
blessed, and this
was his great, extreme value of adaptability, He could adopt [sic]
himself to even such sheer ignorance, and raise the value. This
adaptability is what I found most useful for me, as far as Guru Dev is
concerned. Very great fortune to have found him..'
role of secretary he collated some of Guru Dev's lectures which were
published by the ashram.
- Guru Dev -
Shankaracharya Swami Brahmananda Saraswati
teaching was firmly based on traditional wisdom, shined and polished
by his own
experience. We see example of this in his reference to the central
doctrine contained in Patanjali's Yoga sutras - 'yogash-chitta-vritti-nirodhah'
is the stopping of the fluctuations of consciousness' (YogaDarshanam
Swami Brahmanand Saraswati states:-
are told the"yoga" of stopping the fluctuations of consciousness
The ultimate aim is
that by the practice of having stopped the fluctuations of the inner
to experience the Supreme form of the Self.
Calm without a wave in any part of the pool of water,
that manner a person can see his own face.
That really is the method,
stopping the fluctuatations of the consciousness is really
a clear reflection of the imperishable Self in the instrument of
This indeed is "darshan" (sight)
of "atma" (self or soul).'
- from page 86 of 'Shri
Shankaracharya Vaaksudhaa' (published 1947)
- Guru Dev -
Shankaracharya Swami Brahmananda Saraswati
photo, standing, is Brahmachari Mahesh, later known as Maharishi
A small book of
quotations from Guru Dev was
produced, entitled 'Amrita
Droplets'), compiled by Brahmachari Shri Mahesh
to which he contributed a very lengthy introduction in praise of the guru.
The book of quotations was
in the Vikram year 2009 (a year of the Indian
calendar which spanned across 1952-1953). It is now translated into
English and available alongwith the original text, supplementary
material and photographs, as Guru Dev: As
Presented by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.
after the introduction of the book of quotations had been completed, a
arranged to Delhi. On Wednesday 15th October
1952 (several weeks before the guru's arrival
there) the brahmachari convened a press conference:-
Great Saint of the Himalayas is
to Shower His Blessings on the Metropolis.
Statement issued by: BAL BRAHMACHARI SHRI
convened by Shri Shankaracharya Reception Committee, Delhi on the
Oct., 1952 at 5 p.m. in the Young Man's Tennis Club Queen's Gardens,
connection with the visit of HIS HOLINESS SHRI JAGATGURU
MAHARAJ OF JYOTIRMATH.
own self in different forms.
gives me a great
pleasure to welcome you all and have your company here this
It gives me enough encouragement and support to acquaint you with
details of the mission for whose fulfilment His Holiness Shri
Shankaracharya Swami BRAHMANAND SARASWATI MAHARAJ will be visiting
city about the 12th of November 1952 and stay here for about a month
Saraswati Maharaj, the present Shankaracharya of Jyotirmath
Badarikashram (in the Himalayas) is a magnetic personality with a
amalgam of High Wisdom and Love of humanity. He combines in himself
Knowledge of the self with the mysterious powers -- the siddhis
out of yogic perfection and hard penances, which he
undergone throughout his life. He is a great living yogi and scholar
and is revered by millions of Hindus as their Supreme Religious
great Saint of
the modern age was born in U.P. in a well to do and renowned Brahman
family in 1871 and was enthroned to the seat of His Holiness
Shankaracharya in 1941 at Benares, during the ninth session of the
India Sanatan Dharma Maha Sammelan convened by the Bharat Dharma
Mahamandal in conjunction with a countrywide support of almost all
ruling princes and different socio-religious institutions all over
country. It may be recalled that it was a long persuasion of about
twenty years which could convince Param Virakt Swami Brahmanand
Saraswati to accept the great responsibility of the Shankaracharya
the age of seventy.
the tender age
of nine when he came out of his home in Search of God, till this
his life was mostly spent in the lonely hidden regions of the
Himalayas, Vindya Giris and the Amarkantakas which are rarely
frequented by men and are chiefly inhabited by wild animals. For
together he has lived in hidden caves and thick forests where even
midday sun frets and fumes in vain to dispel the darkness that may
said to have made a permanent abode there in those solitary and
today he is
easily accessible as he is now the presiding head of Shri Jyotirmath
which is the greatest religious institution of the Hindus of
India, covering all different creeds and sampradayas and branches
under the fold of Hindu Religions.
of the great Sage that distinguishes him completely from other
saints of today is that he does not accept money as gift from his
visitors or disciples.
description attempts to mirror a few hurried and short glimpses of
life journey of this great living sage who has actually transformed
into a living fact the inner latent potentiality of the soul. He has
known the great universal Truth, whose realisation is the aim of the
entire scheme of life. For him the mists of ignorance have
disappeared and having known the Divine Reality he has verily become
embodiment of the great Divinity.
aim of life, if
the life of a realised soul can be said to possess any such aim, is
broadcast the message of the Great Divine light that he has himself
realised, the Light that is the Soul of all human beings. Having
himself attained the pinnacle of Self development, he aims at
transforming the worldly minded people into the Godly minded, and
through his inner Divine touch to change the materialistic hearts of
iron into spiritual hearts of gold.
personality emanates the sweet perfume of spirituality. His race
radiates that rare light which comprises love, authority, serenity
self assuredness that comes only by righteous living and Divine
Realisation -- one feels as if some ancient Maharishi mentioned in
pages of the Upanishads has assumed human form and feels that it is
worth while leading a pious life and to strive for the realisation
teachings are simple and clear and go straight home to heart. He
strictly adheres to the course of inner development laid down by the
Systems of Indian Philosophy and ethics and he raises his voice
in opposition but always in firm support of the Truths and
contained in the Hindu Scriptures.
tradition from the worldly point of view, the dignity of the
Shankaracharyas throne has got to be maintained by the rich
paraphernalia around his Holiness, but those who have come in his
contact know the fact that the private life of the Sage is quite
believe that he is
a living embodiment of titanic spiritual force. If I were asked on
basis of my personal experience, about the living saints of today,
to who is the greatest amongst them, I would unhesitatingly name
Jagatguru Shankaracharya Swami Brahmanand Saraswati Maharaj of
Jyotirmath the Beacon Light of the holy sanctuaries of the
Maharaj has clear insight into the mind and the thoughts of the
age. His teaching and commandments are based on sound reasonings
are quite agreeable to any reasonable thinker. He is a great critic
prejudices and narrowmindedness arising out of irrational love of
caste, creed, nationality or any "ism". His life is a living proof
the Truth of the Vedas and Shastras. He has opened a new era of
renaissance of True Religion. He extends his recognition to anything
that is good in any religion. He is accessible to all. Everyone can
enjoy and derive benefit from his holy Darshan and elevating
to shower his blessings on the busy and restless souls of the
metropolis. I beseech you, my friends, to extend your hearty
co-operation for the great cause in the interest of each individual
our society, in the interest of our nation and in the interest of
world at large. The great Saint of the Himalayas is coming in your
midst and in the fitness of the great occasion, I appeal to your
sense to extend your valuable support so that his elevating
may reach the masses in every nook and corner of our country and
Thanking you for
giving me a pertinent hearing, I would like to say something, in
about the shrine of Jyotirmath, the prime spiritual centre of
India and the headquarter of Shri Shankaracharya Maharaj. Jyotirmath
one of four seats established by Adi Shankaracharya in this
-- two thousand and five hundred years ago. It is situated in the
of the Himalayas 173 miles up from Hardwar and only 18 miles south
Shri Badrinath and may be said to be the queen of the Himalayas for
natural beauty and spiritual values. Jyotirmath it was that the
Shankaracharya selected for his stay in Himalayas where he taught
highest philosophy of existence -- the Vedanta - to his disciples,
wrote his immortal commentaries on the eleven principle Upanishads,
Bhagavad Gita and Brahma Sutras and established a seat of Spiritual
light to function as sansorium (sic),
a supreme centre of the Eternal Religion of India to keep the Light
Pure civilisation and culture burning for all the millennium to
It is an ancient culture centre of yoga, the Light House which has
preserved and disseminated the Light of the Sanatan Dharma all the
down the ages.
'GURUDEVA WITH RASHTRAPATHI'
'Dr Rajendra Prasad, the
President of India,
enjoying the Divine Effulgence of the BEACON LIGHT
of the HIMALAYAS'
President of India Dr Rajendra Prasad, Delhi, 4th
from 'Beacon Light of the Himalayas')
Amongst those seeking audience with the
guru was the President of India, Dr Rajendra Prasad.
When the president came to Guru Dev for darshan it
seems the guru explained many things to him,
placing great emphasis on how important it is for a ruler to consult
with maharishis and yogis in
order to be able to make balanced decisions. He told him very clearly:-
जब से महार्षियों का सम्पर्क राजाओं ने छोड़ा तभी से
रसातल को चले गये।
' jaba se mahaarshhiyoM kaa samparka raajaaoM ne
chho.Daa tabhii se rasaatala ko chale gaye .'
('[Things] have gone to hell
since raajas neglected to keep the company of maharishis.')
President of India Dr Rajendra Prasad on a visit to
Guru Dev in Delhi, on 4th December 1952 attended
by Brahmachari Mahesh (later
known as Maharishi Mahesh Yogi)
The guru was by now
in his eighties and because of concerns about his health he returned to
in Varanasi and stopped touring. However, after some months a decision
was made to travel to Calcutta for a speaking engagement. Whilst
staying in Calcutta it was necessary for doctors to attend the guru
and apparently he breathed his last on Wednesday 20th
May 1953 (vaisakh shukla saptami
2009), barely a fortnight after his arrival in the city. It is said
that the cause of death was jalodara (dropsy or oedema).
The guru's body
sitting upright and cross-legged was then transported back by train
from Calcutta to Varanasi for the funeral rites of jal samadhi
(immersion in water). The lifeless body was taken to Brahmanivas Ashram
in Varanasi from where it was then taken by boat to Kedar Ghat and then
to Kedareshwar Mahadeva Mandir, from where the seated corpse, sealed in
a stone casket alongwith some personal effects, was ceremoniously
lowered into the River Ganga.
- Guru Dev -
Shankaracharya Swami Brahmananda Saraswati
is told that when
Guru Dev had initially been offered the post of Shankaracharya he was
very reluctant to accept the honour and capitulated only after
considerable persuasion. It is said that Swami Karpatri (1905-1980),
his long-time disciple since 1927, managed to persuade him and that
Guru Dev then declared:-
want to put a
lion to chains who moves about in the jungle freely. But if you so
like, I honour your words and am ready to shoulder the responsibilities
of the piiTh (monastery) management. By shouldering
responsibility, I would be serving the cause for which Adi
Shankaracharya stood. I fully dedicate myself for the mission.'
'Sadhus of India: The Sociological View' - B.D. Tripathi, Pilgrims
Publishing, 2004, p221)
went on to give more
than thirteen years of conscientious service but at no time did he name
a successor, so, when some weeks after his death a shortlist of
disciples who might succeed him was produced, questions were naturally
raised about its provenance. On the basis of the document purported to
be the will of Guru Dev a disciple named Swami
Shantanand Saraswati was
promptly enthroned as Shankaracharya of Jyotir Math, on 12th
Swami Shantanand Saraswati
Amongst Guru Dev's senior students, the
one known as Karpatri
(more properly addressed as Swami Hariharananda Saraswati), who
originally nominated Guru Dev for the office of Shankaracharya, had
refused the post himself.
to Diana L. Eck ('Darsan: Seeing the
Divine Image in India', Chambersburg: Anima, 1981. pp4-5.) "In addition
to the darsan of temple images and sacred places, Hindus also value the
darsan of holy persons, such as sants
('saints'), sadhus ('holy men'), and sannyasins
('renouncers'). When Mahatma Gandhi traveled through India, tens of
thousands of people would gather wherever he stopped in order to 'take
his darsan.' Even if he did not stop, they would
train stations for a passing glimpse of the Mahatma in his compartment.
Similarly, when Swami Karpatri, a well-known sannyasin
also a writer and political leader, would come to Varanasi to spend the
rainy season 'retreat' period, people would flock to his daily lectures
not only to hear him, but to see him."
of doubts over the legitimacy of the guru's
will and concerns about the credentials of Swami Shantanand Saraswati,
Karpatri now proposed that another candidate be considered and on 25th
June 1953 Swami Krishna Bodhashram was installed as Shankaracharya of
Jyotir Math (he laid a condition that he would not involve himself in
any legal disputes, and this condition was accepted).
Swami Krishna Bodhashram
to Shankara tradition only a brahmana (brahmin)
can become a sannyasi (swami), and only a
sannyasi can be a guru and take
disciples. In a scarce Hindi book of quotations of Guru Dev entitled 'Shri
Shankaracharya UpadeshAmrita', Guru Dev is quoted upholding
परन्तु गुरु सब नहीं बन सकते। गुरुत्व केवल ब्राह्मण
ही को है।
" , parantu guru saba nahiiM bana sakate . gurutva
kevala braahmaNa hii ko hai ."
'.. But not everyone can be a guru.
Actually, only brahmanas are in the position to be
account of his Kayastha varna (caste), Brahmachari
Mahesh could never have hoped to succeed his master nor could he ever
become a guru himself.
fact, having participated in the installation of his gurubhaiee
(brother disciple) Swami Shantanand, he withdrew from ashram
life to spend time alone at a remote location in north India. Later,
when asked about the conditions there, about whether there were any
wild animals in the caves, he replied:-
and sannyasi sit in caves like that, but where I stay in a small Ashram
in Uttar Kashi, the cave is like a small basement under a room. The
entrance is through an opening only big enough for one person to enter.
Down there is quiet. No sound. Cool in summer. Warm in winter.'
is not always
needed, but when I am eating, a man comes from the village and cooks
vegetables. I do not break silence by seeing or talking to anyone.'6
he sometimes met with an elderly sannyasi to
whom he confided his desire to visit the city of Rameshwaram in
southern India. He recalls that at first the old man (identified by Swami Srikanta Bharathi, as Tat Wale Baba) discouraged him
from going there, but after six months or more, when the brahmachari
still talked about the idea, the sannyasi suggested
that it might be better for him to go, just to get rid of the desire.
back at Guru Dev's ashram, things were not going
well for Mahesh's gurubhaiee
as rivalry over the title of Shankaracharya was now turning into a
legal battle. In January 1954 those who supported Swami
Krishnabodhashram's claim to the title filed a suit in the Munsif Court
at Lucknow, while Swami Shantanand Saraswati applied for a certificate
Brahmachari Mahesh spent years in seclusion, but it is likely that he
actually stayed in Uttarkashi for no more than a matter of months
before leaving to accompany an ailing lady from Calcutta
(said to be a wealthy widow, of a family of 'zamindar' - 'landlords', - who Mahesh called 'mataji' - 'mother') to a
facility near Bangalore in southern India.
Krishna Iyer and his brother Narayana Iyer were running a small coffee
hotel in Madanapalli Town. But there was no provision for travellers to
stay overnight in that hotel. After having his meal in that hotel,
Mahesh asked the Iyers for a place to stay. Since there was no
provision for lodging, they suggested that he may sleep on the steps,
in the nearby temple. In the rain and cold of that place it was not
possible to stay outdoors. So the problem was serious. Mahesh saw a
very small room next to the kitchen of the hotel and asked for
permission to stay there. But it was stacked with firewood and was
quite uninhabitable. Somehow Mahesh prevailed upon the owners, neatly
stacked the fuel in one corner and made enough space to stretch
himself. He was quite pleased with the arrangement, and the others
sympathized with him too. During the day he would be spending time
at the hospital to look after Mathaji and later, in the evening, he
would come back to his corner at the Town Hotel.
'In Madanapalli, there
is a branch of The State Bank Of Mysore, and one Mr. T. Rama Rao was
its manager then. He was a well educated person with deep interest in
philosophy and was living a virtuous life. It was his routine, at the
end of the day's work in the Bank, to have coffee in the local hotel of
Rama Iyer and spend the evening on the steps of the temple near by,
with a few of his office colleagues , talking about various matters of
general interest and also covering religious and philosophical topics.
During that time, one evening, they saw Mahesh sitting all alone, with
a gentle smile of deep contentment. His bright eyes, the charming smile
on his lips and total composure attracted Rama Rao and his friends.
They enquired about Mahesh's identity. They were most impressed by his
smiling response, pleasing voice, gentle laughter as well as easy
handling of subjects of religious and philosophical import. Clad in
unstitched pure white silk, having long black curly hair and beard,
innocent, ever twinkling eyes, soft but very clear voice, easy
rendering of religious and philosophical subjects, at once impressed
the group. Day after day, they engaged themselves in covering topics of
righteous living based on religion and Indian philosophy. They were
eagerly looking forward to the meeting every evening. The hotel owner
brothers too joined the group. Finally they concluded that this person
was a consummate Yogi. They began to address him as
“Maharishi”. Thereafter this title became an integral part
of his name, and he became “Maharishi Mahesh Yogi” for one
and all. Later this title was tagged on to the several projects and
institutions Mahesh floated in the coming days in India, US and Europe.
'Meanwhile, at the
sanatorium, Mataji's health began to fail. In spite of the best
treatment she received there, within a few days she breathed her last.
Mahesh felt totally lost and bereaved as if he lost his own mother. He
now felt like an orphan. After fulfilling necessary obligations to the
Mother, Mahesh felt desolate not knowing where to go and what to do
next. Suddenly the old message - “Go South” flashed across
his mind. He enquired of Sri Rama Rao where and what was there in the
“South” and how far. He learnt that 200-300 miles down
south of India from Madanapalli on the east coast, there was the town
by name Rameshwaram, where there was a very large and ancient temple
dedicated to Lord Shiva established by Lord Sri Rama himself. It has
become famous over these centuries. Mahesh was thrilled to hear this
and remarked - “ Surely that is my destination. I must go there!
I now see how and why I have been brought here by Mataji. Thank
'Thereafter Sri Rama Rao made arrangements for Mahesh's travel to Rameshwaram.'
It is recorded that during
his sojourn in Madanapalle, sometime in June or July of 1954 he began
teaching local people to meditate, furthermore, it has even been
suggested that Mahesh drew attention to himself by putting up a sign
saying 'WHO WANTS INSTANT ENLIGHTENMENT', allegedly conferred by a blow
on the forehead! Several months later he travelled further south to
Rameshwaram and to Kanyakumari.
went to Kanyakumari -
I had a divine revelation. I left and went to Trivandrum, to the
biggest temple. I was followed by a man and he asked me to speak about
the Himalayas - he arranged a 7 day lecture program and he supplied the
topics. In 6 months I was lecturing in Delhi. At this stage I had never
initiated anyone. When I got to Hardwar the philosophy had become clear
- to turn the mind inward was easy!' 7
to my instructions and you will progress'
Bal Brahmachari Mahesh
his time in the
south, he spent several months in Kerala moving from town to town
advocating a method of meditation. The technique he taught necessitated
repetition of a mantra, a practice he claimed was
easy and very
effective at bestowing happiness. Responding to an advertisement in a
local paper, Mrs Thankamma N Menon and her husband attended a three and
a half-hour talk at Ernakulam and afterwards met with the speaker.
asked us about
our Ishta-Devata and advised us to go to him the next morning for Pada
Pooja of Guru Deva, Maha Yogi Raj Ananta Sri Vibhushith Sree
Sankaracharya Brahmananda Saraswathi Maharaj of Jyothir Math who was
going to be our Guru.' 8
others were interested in learning this easy method of meditation,
amongst them Sri C R Vaidyanathan.
Swamiji was giving initiations and if one followed his directions he
would get Bliss quickly. I was really sceptic about this "Ananda"
presented myself with
the necessary puja materials on Thursday. Swamiji made me offer puja to
Guru Deva and under closed doors gave me Mantra of the Ishta Devata I
chose and asked me to repeat the same and also gave the necessary
instructions in the new method for meditation.' 9
P S Atchuthan Pillai observed:-
talk, behaviour and
everything about him are as though he is in constant contact with his
Gurudev. That is a feature which has surprised many of us closely
moving with him. Maharshi Bala Brahmachari always acts as the messiah
between his "Gurudev" and his own disciples. He modestly claims to be
only the conduit pipe conveying the Gurudeva's blessing on to his
devotees in Kerala, or to use his own expression, he is only the "bulb
through which the spiritual electrical current from Gurudev shines in
radiating light on all".' 10
teaching in the name of his guru, the brahmachari
appears to have taken to promoting a novel philosophy of his own,
offering assurance that the quest for spiritual fulfillment does not
require one to forgo any material comforts (the theory being that only
a sannyasi can benefit from abandoning desires
whereas the householder only finds happiness in the fulfillment of
desires). He explained:-
are two ways of life, the way of the Sanyasi and the way of life of a
householder. One is quite opposed to the other. A Sanyasi renounces
everything of the world, whereas a householder needs and accumulates
through renunciation and detachment, while the other goes through all
attachments and accumulation of all that is needed for physical life.
We have two different sets of Mantras to suit the two ways of life.
Mantras for the Sanyasis have the effect of increasing the sense of
detachment and renunciation and also have the power of destroying the
objects of worldly affections, if there should survive any such objects
for him. Quite contrary to this are the Mantras suitable for the
householder which have the efficacy of harmonising and enriching the
material aspect of life also.'11
Five or six months after the library
talks in Trivandrum, a yajna religious ceremony was
celebrated at Cochin, Kerala in late October 1955 during which the brahmachari
made several speeches. The event was commemorated by the publication of
a booklet entitled 'Beacon Light of the Himalayas' containing transcripts,
photographs and a signed handwritten message which includes the
on, here is the
call of peace and joy for you. Here is an invitation, a cordial
invitation for you all to come and enjoy the Blissful Grace and All
Powerful Blessings of my Lord the Great Swami Brahmanand Saraswati, the
Great among the greats of the Himalayas. I have found a treasure in the
Dust of His Lotus Feet and now I invite you to share it with me and
make yourself happy.'
on; I invite you
to get into the Blissful Realm of His Universal Benevolence. See, the
path is straight and entry is free. Come on with faith and you will
find that the very cause of your peacelessness and misery will be
eradicated and you will be adorned with lasting peace and real
happiness in your day to day life.'
sun of Guru Deva's
Blessings is now up on the horizon. Wake up from the deep slumber of
apathy and agony and enjoy all glories of life material and divine.' 12
'Bal Brhmachari Mahsh.'
later known as Maharishi Mahesh Yogi
'His Holiness Maharshi Bala Brahmachari Mahesh Yogi
Maharaj. Uttarkasi, Himalayas.'
Mahesh the former ashram
secretary, who eulogised his master as maharishi
(maha=great, rishi=sage) and perfect yogi,
now made a name for himself as महर्षि महेश योगी 'Maharishi Mahesh Yogi',
publicly extolling the benefits of mantra
meditation and establishing a worldwide organisation to promote his own
Bal Brahmachari Mahesh Yogi
(universally known as Maharishi Mahesh Yogi)
appears that Guru Dev had not prepared this brahmachari
for such a mission:-
Maharishi Mahesh Yogi - 'Oh,
he must have known. He never said to me, otherwise quite a long time
would have been wasted in planning. He saved us that waste, waste of
planning. It just blossomed and blossomed and blossomed and blossomed.' 13
the great impact of
Guru Dev, in his lifetime, in bringing out so clearly and in such
simple words this technique of TM. And his blessing for this movement,
which came out much after he left his body, because there was no
occasion during his lifetime for any of his intimate blessed disciples
to go out of his presence and that's why this any such movement to
bless the world couldn't have started during his time.' 14
'And he never,
he, he never, trained me or anything, just it was living in the ashram.' 24
have paid to be taught the simple practice of Transcendental Meditation
(TM). TM has dual objectives in that one is instructed to repeat a mantra
in order to bring about a pleasanter frame of mind, but also it is
hoped that the mind will transcend thought altogether and bring about
increased peace and serenity for the meditator, a state known as Pure
Consciousness. Further, it is also taught that the repeated experience
of the transcendental leads to a permanent state of higher awareness
known as Cosmic Consciousness. Anyhow, all initiates are required to
attend a short puja ceremony celebrated in front of a
portrait of Guru Dev, so everyone is led to assume that the TM
technique comes directly from the guru. However,
meditators are told nothing about the actual teachings of Guru Dev.
Dinesh Khare recalls:-
place in front of a picture of Guru Dev and I was told that I should
consider neither my initiator nor Maharishi Mahesh Yogi as my spiritual
teacher but the Guru Dev himself. It was a thrilling experience and the
very first day my turbulent mind experienced such a serene calm that
when I got up after practising TM for the first time, I bowed my head
to the lotus feet of Guru Dev and since that day have regarded him as
my spiritual teacher and guide.' 15
Maharishi Mahesh Yogi
seated in front of a portrait of Guru Dev
Precise information about the mantras
used in TM is difficult to obtain, as initiation is conducted on a
one-to-one basis and specific details are not usually divulged. Back in
1959 Maharishi was asked to explain:-
Questioner - Maharishi, how may a person
find, you know, which of the, of the, the five materials [elements?]
are predominant in them?
Maharishi Mahesh Yogi - They,
they have their method of, uh, oh, from the tendencies they know, from
the, from the cut of the face they know. From the tendency. From the
Q - Do you take that into
consideration when you give the person a mantra?
M M Y - I don't go into all these
vibrations, botherations. I ask him "Which god you like?"
He says "Shiva" - Okay, Shiva!
[Maharishi laughs, very loudly] Where is the time to go
into complications and all that? Ask him "What he like?"
and that is it. [more laughter] And somebody
comes, "Oh my, I don't have any liking for anybody",
then I trace behind, And then, "When you were young?"
and "Which temple you were going more?" and "What
your father was worshipping?" and then he comes round. [Maharishi
resumes his laughter]
Q - How would you apply this to the
M M Y - Oh here we don't go into these
minute details. [more laughter] We get
the mantra direct and that does all good for him.
[yet more laughter] In to.. not into so much
details. (click to listen to audio file)
1967 broadcaster David Frost asked the Maharishi about the mantras
used in TM:-
Frost - 'Is that the same sound that
you give to each person?'
M M Y - 'No. Each person gets
different, but we don't have as many sounds as we have men in the
world, so they are grouped together.'
Frost - 'How many sounds are there?'
M M Y - 'Oh there are lots of sounds.'
Frost - 'I mean, hundreds, or
thousands, or ...?'
M M Y - 'You could say thousands.' 16
by one of his
students if Transcendental Meditation is exactly the same meditation
technique as that taught by Guru Dev, the Maharishi answered:-
M M Y - 'Must be using better
techniques than I am using.'
Questioner - 'Was he still using the long mantras
and all of that?'
M M Y - 'It's very difficult for me to
find out what he was using, because initiation is all in private.....
And I was never interested who was given what mantra;
I was interested in myself.....
Full of divine radiance. People don't have to do the mantra
and meditation in his presence. Just, the transformation was in his
air, so full of life.' 17
glimpse of Guru Dev's teaching style is provided by another of his
disciples, Swami Swaroopanand Saraswati, Shankaracharya of Dwarka:-
Swami Swaroopanand Saraswati
Brahmananda Saraswati Ji Maharaj strictly adhered to the varna
(caste) and ashram (four stages of life)
systems. He believed in one's varna
by birth. Whosoever came to him to become a disciple, he used to ask
him which form of God he was in love with. Whichever form the new
disciple had an interest in, that form he would explain to the new
disciple. [Guru Dev] used to explain, either you should depend on your
own inclination or else, he, after understanding your previous life and
which form of God you worshipped then, would instruct the initiate
having an ishtadevata (a personal form of God), no
one could have a mantra from him.' 19
according to the 'Smarta'
teachings of Adi Shankara which inform that
the divine is both manifest and unmanifest, and that both the form and
the formless can be accessed by the aspirant. From this viewpoint all
manifestations of the divine are treated with equal respect and
devotion, each as part of the whole divine entity. Guru Dev would
ascertain the aspect of the divine most uppermost in the mind/heart of
the initiate and then explain how to worship that aspect. Part of this
worship involves focusing the mind on the image of that 'god', and in
preparation for this contemplation the mantra
associated with that god is evoked and repeated. The teaching is that
is not just the sound associated with the deity, it is actually also
the form of the deity. And the reason that all the deities are part of
the same entity is because they are composed of the same formless
unmanifest Being. If the aspirant is suitable, then the technique is
given for directly attaining the unmanifest divinity - nirakar
- without form.
the quotations contained in 'Shri Shankaracharya Vaksudha' and 'Amrit
help us gain a fuller understanding? During the teacher training course
that The Beatles attended in early 1968, the former publication was
M M Y - 'I
have written long ago, maybe twenty or thirty years ago, I wrote a
book, a small cover, about two hundred pages, and that was in Hindi,
account of Guru Dev. But in that description, hear what I said! Not the
instances were cited, but the inferences drawn from the instances. Not
the instances make history!'
pleases me more than speaking about him all the time.... A very great
blessing to the world.' 20
journalist Lewis Lapham:-
M M Y - 'Mention my love for my master,
I consider myself only the loudspeaker.'21
in practice the Maharishi seldom speaks about the guru,
but students of TM still press for more information:-
M M Y - 'From the age of nine until the
age of seventy-one, when he became Shankaracharya, life was mostly in
deep silence, seclusion.
It's very, it's very interesting.
If I was not caught up in this whirlpool I would have been writing life
account of Guru Dev and would have been exposing the whole wisdom of
in that one narration of his life.' 22
Questioner - '"What it was that Guru Dev did
that makes him important as the source of the revival of this
M M Y - "In his ashram he
manufactured me" 23
' Meditate and Enjoy.
(Jaya Gurudeva) '
[Handwritten message from Maharishi Mahesh Yogi]
his time as
Shankaracharya, Guru Dev commanded enormous respect, enjoying the
patronage of both the President and the vice-President of India (Dr
Prasad and Dr Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan). In a speech addressed to a
gathering of eminent philosophers in 1950, Dr Radhakrishnan's
associate, Professor Paul Schilpp, stressed the importance of Guru
we are here to
do homage to his Holiness, Shri Jagatguru Shankaracharya Ananta Sri
Vibhusita Swami Brahmananda Saraswati of Jyotirmath, Badarikasram -
Superman, the seer, the sage, who is one of the few rare individuals
amongst the billions of the citizens of the world, whom we would
unhesitatingly choose if and when we would be called upon to describe
the spiritual and cultural capital of our nation, if and when the
would feel the need of evoking the part our nation can play in it, who
is beyond any controversy, one of the rare few who have contributed
can still contribute something to universal peaceful progress, who
risen by their talent and genius above their fellow countrymen, above
their fellowmen of the world and have thus gained a place for
themselves at the head of humanity, at the extreme spearhead of
here at a time
when everywhere in the world everybody feels not a little bewildered
an immense increase in the sense of human power, we can hardly
exaggerate the necessity of teachers like his Holiness the Jagatguru.
will pardon me if I
venture; at this assemblage of eminent philosophers, to refer to an
aspect of our Hindu Philosophy which seems for the time being, to be
too much belittled by the power-intoxicated world.
Vedic philosophers.... ....
today is indeed in an age of spiritual chaos, intellectual doubt and
political decadence. Civilized man today no doubt has acquired immense
scientific and mechanical resources, but seems hopelessly to lack the
wisdom to apply them to the best advantage. This is why we witness a
growing sense of frustration seizing every mind almost everywhere. The
whole world seems to be suffering from an epidemic of
do not know which way
the truth lies. Perhaps even here it will be true to say that every
truth, however true in itself, yet taken apart from others, becomes
only a snare. In reality, perhaps, each is one thread of a complex
weft, and no thread can be taken apart from the weft. But this much
seems to be certain that there is this paralysing fear and alarm
everywhere in the world-everywhere even the most powerful minds have
not succeeded in escaping it altogether. Everywhere humanity is
beginning to feel that we are being betrayed by what is false within,
we are almost giving way to find ourselves spiritually paralysed.
indeed is a deadly
malady. The patient here must first of all be brought to see that he
sick and to want to get well and to do of himself what is needed to
well. Perhaps something is away both with the heart and the brain.
philosopher-teachers like His Holiness Shri Jagatguru Shankaracharya
who can reveal the world of values and can make us realize that, that
is the real world. The world badly needs guidance to a creed of values
and ideals. The world needs a teacher who can dispel our fears and can
remove all sense of frustration or least in so far as it is only an
need a teacher who
has succeeded in gaining for himself freedom to be alone, who does not
require any power, who can cure both heart and Brain. We are in an age
in which the meeting of the traditionally alien cultures of the Orient
and the Occident has become inevitable. We need a teacher with
sufficient gift of intellectual imagination and divine inspiration who
can help the smooth working of this meeting, the working out of this
meeting in such a way that the values of each civilization complement
and re-inforce rather than combat and destroy those of the other. We
cannot avoid the sight of conflicting economic, political, religious,
artistic and other ideological doctrines and the consequent fear and
feeling of helplessness, We need a teacher who can teach us how to get
out of the crisis in valuation in this realm of conflict, who can
us how to avert the danger of spiritual paralysis facing us.
Jagatguru Shankaracharya, having gained the freedom to be alone, did
also fully realize the means of escaping from loneliness. In these
of doubts and difficulties if we can at all safely turn our eyes for
guidance to any one it should be to this superman the overpowering
influence of whose genius appears indeed in the light of divine
inspiration, the superman who has succeeded in ridding himself of any
ambition for power.
guidance from a seer like Sri Jagatguru alone can ensure an abiding
Mahesh Yogi described what it was like to be in Guru Dev's prescence:-
His words thrilled
the air with joy, the whole atmosphere was surcharged with delight as
if waves were set up in the silent ocean of Omnipresent Anandam - The
Immoveable was moved by "the Expression of the Inexpressible".' 25
Many of Guru Dev's discourses were transcribed, with
some appearing in issues of the ashram newsletter, 'Shri
Some lectures of Guru Dev were selected to form a
collection later published in their original form, in Hindi and
Sanskrit, as 'Shri Shankaracharya
Upadeshamrit.' These discourses have now been translated into
English, and together with the original text, have been published in an
illustrated volume entitled '108 Discourses of
Fortunately, some audio recordings of Guru Dev
speaking and singing, and a couple of spools of 16mm
film footage of Guru Dev at a personal appearance, also survived his
passing and these have now compiled into an audiovisual package, with
transcript and translation, and been
published as the 'Guru Dev DVD'
'The Maharishi: the Biography'
by Paul Mason
- Evolution Books
Homepage of Paul Mason