Today is the birthday anniversary of my paramguru (teacher’s teacher), widely known as Guru Dev. His full monastic name is His Divinity Swami Brahmananda Saraswati Maharaj (c1868-1953). My own principal teacher, His Holiness Maharishi Mahesh Yogi (c1917-2008) was Guru Dev’s favoured personal disciple for the last thirteen years of Guru Dev’s life. (Due to various traditional Indian calendars, Swami Brahmananda’s birthdate is sometimes alternately given as December 21, 1870 or 1871.)
Guru Dev was born into a traditional religiously devout family and at a very young age left home in search of a suitable spiritual teacher. At age fourteen he found his master at a remote Himalayan hermitage. Guru Dev quickly attained enlightenment and spent some years as his master’s closest disciple, then retired for the next several decades into silent solitude deep in the forests and mountains of central India. Only in his seventies did he agree to come out of silence and reclusion and begin to train disciples and teach in public.
Widely regarded as India’s greatest living Vedic sage, Guru Dev held the highest position of teaching authority in the Yoga and Vedanta philosophical tradition for the last thirteen years of his life as the senior monastic lineage-holder, or Jagadguru (world-teacher), within North India’s 2,500 year old Vedic Shankaracharya Tradition, an office somewhat parallel to that of pope in Christianity. Guru Dev gave teachings to the public, and to personal disciples alike, regardless of religious or non-religious identity. Among his initiates and devoted students were prominent scientists and philosophers, and several persons revered as living saints within India’s Muslim, Christian, Jewish, Jain, Sikh, Buddhist and other communities as well various Hindu traditions. He was also highly respected by political leaders of all parties who felt that his guidance had helped result in India’s (largely peaceful) independence from centuries of British imperialist rule.
Maharishi always taught in the name and spirit of his master, Guru Dev, who inspired him to bring Transcendental Meditation and the restored entirety of Vedic science to all interested people of the world, regardless of religious, cultural or other identification or background.
Those of us who long and closely studied and trained personally with Maharishi over the decades of his own fifty-plus years of teaching around the world, have always felt extremely close to Guru Dev, even without most of us having met or known him in an outward historical sense. By virtue of Guru Dev being Maharishi’s deeply revered and beloved master, we naturally also feel especially devoted and intimately close to Guru Dev, honouring and loving him, virtually as if, along with Maharishi, he also is our own direct personal teacher.