Shankaracharya Swami Shantanand Saraswati
A Brief Biography & Bibliography
with mention of the Jyotirmath succession disputes
compiled by Paul Mason 

Swami Shantanand Saraswati [1913-1997]
Shankaracharya of Jyotir Math 1953-1980


Brief Biography

Born on 16th July 1913 (Vikrami 1970 Ashadha 13) at Achhati village in Basti district to a brahmin family. He was 3rd son of Lal Bihari Tiwari Tripathi. As a young man Shantanand was known as "Ram Ji". It is said that Ramji was the son of the sister of the Shankaracharya, Swami Brahmanand Saraswati.

Worked as book binder at Gita Press, Gorakhpur - allegedly worked for about 14 years in this capacity supporting a wife and child.

Student of Shri Swami Purnanand Tirth Ji Maharaj (Shri UDhiya Baba Ji Maharaj) in Vrindaban.

Shankarcharya Swami Brahmanand Saraswati initiated him as sannyasi (swami) in January 1951.

Installed as a Shankaracharya of Jyotir Math on 12th June 1953 at Shri Brahma Niwas ashram, Sigra, Varanasi.

His guru's parampara is of the Sringeri Peeth.

There exists a film of Swami Shantanand in which he attends a meeting with Swami Sivananda in Rishikesh.

Shankaracharya Swami Shantanand appears in this video between 03:39 and 06:20.

Swami Shantanand Saraswati [1913-1997]
Shankaracharya of Jyotir Math 1953-1980

'Om Shri Jyotirmath (A brief Introduction)' .zip file scan of leaflet

Supporter of fellow-disciple Maharishi Mahesh Yogi's teaching of Transcendental Meditation -TM

The following are exerpts from 'The Maharishi: the Biography of the Man who Gave Transcendental Meditation to the World", which includes several mentions of Shantanand Ji:-

On Tuesday, 30 May 1961, eight years to the day after his master’s death, the Shankaracharya of Jyotir Math, Swami Shantanand Saraswati graced the teacher-training course with his presence and was received with all due ceremony. Arriving at the site where the new Academy was being built, he addressed the Maharishi and the gathered meditators:

'Rishikesh is a place where so many saints and sages meditated with a view to attaining Self-realisation. Every grain of sand is vibrating forth the holy influence of saints and sages who have inhabited this part of India since ages past.'

He commended the practice of the Maharishi’s meditation, describing it as a ‘master key to the knowledge of Vedanta’ and added, ‘There are other keys, but a master key is enough to open all the locks.
from Page 58

His mission to spiritually regenerate the world seemed on the surface to be going well, but in reality a divisive undercurrent was already starting to make itself felt. At least two of his prominent followers, Leon Mclaren (1910-1994) and Dr Francis Roles (1901-1982), had became disaffected with the Movement and were already branching out on their own. Perhaps this had been their intention all along, for Dr Roles had been a follower of P.D. Ouspensky (1878-1947), who in turn had been a prominent disciple of Georges Ivanovitch Gurdjieff (c1866–1949), a notable thinker of his time. It is claimed that Ouspensky had instructed Dr Roles to seek out a simple method of finding inner stillness and offer it to those living ordinary lives. Roles had discovered an unlikely and very useful ally in no less a personage than Swami Shantanand. The venerable Shankaracharya had given a clue to his breadth of vision in his address to the participants of the teacher-training course the previous year, in which he had alluded to the many keys or paths to illumination. In time Roles seized his opportunity and happily found the Shankaracharya willing to offer his group the spiritual guidance it sought.
from Page 61

Shankaracharya Swami Shantanand, Dandi Swami Narayananand & Brahmachari Satyanand, 1978

HH Shantanand & Maharishi Mahesh Yogi
Brahmachari Satyanand, Swami Vasudevanand, Swami Shantanand Saraswati, unidentified swami, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, Brahmachari Nandkishore & Sri Sri Ravi Shankar
-  Hardwar, 1980

Maharishi Mahesh Yogi & Swami Shantanand Saraswati

Swami Shantanand Saraswati is also known as HH Shantinand Saraswati & HH Shantinanda Saraswati. Although not widely published, some of his discourses have been made available, as have some of his sayings, a taste of which can be found in this pdf of 'The Sayings of Swami Shantanand Saraswati'

A noteworthy disciple of Shantanand ji was Dandi Swami Narayananand Saraswati.

The lineage of Jyotir Math has been contested, notably by Shankaracharya Swami Swaroopanand, who is himself a direct disciple of Shankaracharya Swami Brahmanand Saraswati, and allegedly a harsh critic of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi and the teaching of TM.

Shankaracharya Swami Swaruupanand


Information on the succession battles:-

First intimations that Succession Issues were arising
Last Will & Testament of Shankaraharya Swami Brahmanand Saraswati

'The Rivalry for Jyotir Math' by Dana Sawyer

'The Jyotirmath Sankaracharya Lineage in the 20th Century' by Vidyasankar Sundaresan

More background information on dispute:-

'Sadhus of India: The Sociological View' - B.D. Tripathi, Pilgrims Publishing, 2004

Apparently, when Swami Shantanand decided to retire, he offered Dandi Swami Narayananand Saraswati the post of Shankaracharya but, according to Dandi Swami Naranayananand, he declined and it was agreed that he should instead pursue a solitary existence.
'Dandi Swami' front cover
Dandi Swami
Tales of meetings with Dandi Swami Narayananand Saraswati,
the Guru's Will, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi
& the Shankaracharyas of Jyotir Math

 'Dandi Swami' is a book celebrating the life of Dandi Swami Narayananand Saraswati and explores the lives of others from his lineage of thinkers. Dandi Swami Narayananand Saraswati was a contempory of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, the man who popularised Transcendental Meditation. Both used to listen to the teachings of the same guru, Shankaracharya Swami Brahmanand Saraswati. When the guru died he left a Will empowering one of his disciples to take his place as Shankaracharya of Jyotir Math, in the Himalayas. Not everyone was happy with the Will, and there have been disputes over succession ever since. It appears that Dandi Swami was offered the post of Shankaracharya but declined, preferring a life of seclusion.

'Dandi Swami' presents many quotations from Dandi Swami's teacher, Swami Shantanand, providing food for thought, and spiritual solace.

'Dandi Swami' includes selected quotations from Swami Brahmanand, a guru who had the ear of the first President of India.

'Dandi Swami' explores spiritual questions through the eyes of those that meet with Dandi Swami. Accounts of visitors such as Rob H van Dijk and Paul Mason offer glimpses into the life and beliefs of this humble hermit. An interview with David Sieveking offers futher insights into the retiring personality of Dandi Swami.

170 pages colour printed, 130 illustrations
ISBN 978-0-9562228-4-8
UK £12.99    US $18.99
available at online retailers and bookshops


Swami Shantanand stepped down as Shankaracharya on 28th February 1980, in favour of Dandi Swami Vishnudevand who had been a fellow-disciple of the same guru.

Dandi Swami Vishnudevanand

Shankaracharya Swami Vishnudevanand Saraswati 1980
Maharishi Mahesh Yogi & Shankaracharya Swami Vishnudevanand Saraswati

yagya at Vedic Science Course, Mens' Tent, Noida, Delhi, India, Divali celebration,
Friday, November 7th 1980

Dandi Swami Vishnudevanand died in November 1989 and was succeeded by Dandi Swami Vasudevanand Saraswati.

Dandi Swami Vasudevanand

There is actually one more claimant to the seat of Shankaracharya of Jyotirmath. It is said that Swami Madhavashram, a disciple of Swami Krishnabodhashram, now sees himself as the 'official' Shankaracharya of Jyotirmath.

May 2015 - News concerning Swami Vasudevanand's claim:-

Swami Madhavashram

Curiously several of the sites that have proclaimed news and views of Swami Madhavashram have recently disappeared, including the site referred to above, but, according to this snippet at least,  it appears Swami Madhavashram is still about :-

"I was very happy from the last one week because of the upcoming birthday of My Guruji Brahmrishi Shri Kumar Swami ji Maharaj. And also there was a great Programme for the celebration of 'Jyoti Diwas' as birthday of Pujya Brahmrishi Shri Kumar Swami Ji at Bhagwan Shri Lakshmi Narayan Dham, Vill. Mohri, Distt Ambala. This programme of Birthday of Guruji was continued for four days i.e. from 22.01.2010 to 25.01.2010. On this occasion, huge number of Saints, Akhara Pramukh, Chairmen of various societies & Ashrams, Mandaleshwars, Mahamandaleshwars and moreover Anant Shree Vibhushit Jyotirmathpeethadhishwar Jagadguru Shankaracharya Shri Madhavashram Ji Maharaj were also present there to welcome and spread the rain of their blessing to Guru ji."


Swami Shantanand Saraswati [1913-1997]
Shankaracharya of Jyotir Math 1953-1980

Apparently,  after his retirement, Swami Shantanand was persuaded by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi to travel abroad and involve himself in promoting Maharishi's meditation technique (Transcendental Meditation, TM). In 1982 Swami Shantanand visited Hong Kong, China (Shanghai, Nanking, Beijing), Moscow and Seelisberg, Switzerland. Again, in March 1983, he travelled to Africa; visiting Kenya (Nairobi  Mombasa, Kisumu, Nakuru and Eldoret) and Zambia (Lusaka and Livingstone).
[Any further information of these visits, including photographs etc, would be most welcome - ]


Left-click mouse on link below to hear recording of Swami Shantanand

Left-click mouse on link to hear recording of Swami Shantanand

(Left-click here to see rough translation of this recording - if anyone can supply a fuller transcription or/and translation, please email)

Swami Shantanand Saraswati

- Swami Shantanand Saraswati passed away on 7th December 1997


Selected Bibliography

'Good Company' - His Holiness Shantanand Saraswati, Element, 1992
An Anthology of sayings, stories and answers to questions

'The Man Who Wanted to Meet God: Myths and Stories That Explain The Inexplicable' - His Holiness Shantanand Saraswati, Element, 1996

* Hamaare Gurudeva *
Shri Swamii Shantanand Saraswati Ji Maharaj

'Hamaare Gurudeva' - Dandi Swami Vasudevanand Saraswati, 1983
Hindi biography of Swami Shantanand Saraswati
scan of book 15MB appx 
NB An English translation has been undertaken & is likely to be published in the not too distant future.

'The Orange Book: A Method of Self Realisation - Study Society, 1981
Question and answers with HH Shantanand Saraswati in early 1970's

'Birth and Death' - The Study Society, 1993
A compilation of the sayings of His Holiness Shantanand Saraswati

'Prayer' - The Study Society, 2001
A compilation of the sayings of His Holiness Shantanand Saraswati on prayer

'Who Am I? What is my Soul?' - Study Society, 2005
Questions and answers taken from talks by His Holiness Shantanand Saraswati

'Darshan' - Frank Papentin
Photobook which contains some shots of Swami Shantanand at Rishikesh in 1961

'Darshan' is available from

 Additional related publications
A practical guide to spiritual meditation. Available from
The White Book:
A companion for seekers of Truth on the spiritual path. Available

All above English editions (other than 'Darshan') are available from Study Society at:-


For Hindi books enquire at:-
Shri Shankaracharya Ashram,
Brahmanivas, 15, Alopibag,
Uttar Pradesh, 211 006

Swami Vasudevanand Ashram,
Jyotir Math, Joshimath,
Uttaranchal, 246 443


 other books available from site

 Message from the Guru Dev Legacy Trust
The Guru Dev Legacy Trust is planning to expand its Board further! As we are continuing to expand our projects, more help is needed. Some of our ongoing projects include: 
(1) English translations of Guru Dev's Hindi Discourses (especially 'Shri Shankaracharya Vaaksudhaa' ('The Nectar Words of Shri Shankaracharya'), compiled by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, whilst a young man; 
(2) writing & publishing; 
(3) locating unpublished material. If you cherish Guru Dev's words and can invest reasonable time (or resources) towards achieving our goals, we would like to hear from you.

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