Extracts from pp 257-260 'Living With The Himalayan Masters' by Swami Rama, Himalayan International Institute, 1978

 'Travelling toward the forests of Reva State, I went to the Satana forest and there met a swami who was very handsome and highly educated in the Vedantic and yoga tradition. He knew the scriptures and was a very brilliant sadhaka (spiritual practitioner). He was later nominated as Shankaracharya of Jyotirmayapitham, which is in the Himalayas on the way to Badrinath. His name was Brahmananda Saraswati.

He used to live only on germinated gram seeds mixed with a little bit of salt. He lived on a hillock in a small natural cave near a mountain pool. I was led by the villagers to that place, but I did not find anyone there and became disappointed. The next day I went again and found a few footprints on the edge of the pool made by his wooden sandals. I tried, but I could not track the footprints. Finally, on the fifth day of effort, early in the morning before sunrise, I went back to the pool and found him taking a bath. I greeted him saying, "Namo narayan," which is a commonly used salutation among swamis meaning, "I bow to the divinity in you." He was observing silence so he motioned for me to follow him to his small cave and I did so gladly. This was the eighth day of his silence and I gently spoke to him about the purpose of my visit. I wanted to know how he was living and the ways and methods of his spiritual practices. During our conversation, he started talking to me about Sri Vidya, the highest of paths followed only by accomplished Sanskrit scholars in India. 

'Swami Brahmananda was one of the rare Siddhas who had the knowledge of Sri Vidya. His authoritive knowledge of the Upanishads, and especially of Shankara's commentaries, was superb. He was also a very good speaker. Swami Karpatri, a renowned scholar, was the disciple who requested him to accept the prestige and dignity of Shankaracharya in the North, a seat which had been vacant for 300 years. Whenever he travelled from one city to another, people flocked in the thousands to hear him, and after his nomination as Shankaracharya, his followers increased. One thing very attractive about his way of teaching was his combination of the bhakti and Advaita systems. During my brief stay with him, he also talked about Madhusudana's commentary on the Bhagavad Gita.

Swami Brahmananda had a Sri Yantra made out of rubies, and as he showed it to me, he explained the way he worshipped it. It is interesting to note how the great sages direct all their spiritual, mental and physical resources toward their ultimate goal. Among all the swamis of India, I only met a few who radiated such brilliance and yet lived in the public, remaining unaffected by worldly temptations and distractions. I stayed with him only a week and then left for Uttarkashi.'


Return to Biography listing