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The Guru Dev Shankaracharya Brahmananda Sarawati Ji
Guru Dev

Guru Dev left a mark by:

  • His life story and life work, including the restablishing of the Jyotir Math in the Himalayas. This old matha (learning stronghold) is a Vedanta centre for northern India.
  • Many talks in which he expounded the Sanatan Dharma, 'Eternal Righteousness' etc., for common people.
  • Transcendental Meditation, TM, and its soundness-assisting effects and other, looming benefits. [◦Link]. As Maharishi once said, "He made me."
  • TM-aligned knowledge of the Advaita tradition.

Guru of the TM movement

Swami Brahmananda Saraswati and his teaching have been profoundly influential throughout India, beyond India and persists to this day, writes LB Shriver (2013:iii).

An important part of the transmission of Transcendental Meditation, TM, is the puja, or traditional ceremony of gratitude to the tradition of masters in the line of Sri Brahmananda Saraswati, Guru Dev. [Shriver, 2013:iv]

Maharishi explains he got the design for the puja (ceremony) in Kerala in 1955 and instituted it from then on for people who wanted to learn deep meditation. He thought: "I should design a puja to Guru Dev . . . totality of enlightenment . . . everything, Creator, Maintainer, Sustainer, everything is the guru." [Cf. ◦Guru Stotram v. 11].

He started to transfer Guru Dev's reality so that the totality of Guru Dev flowed through the puja, he says. [◦The whole transcript - Maharishi speaking, 21st October 2007]

The puja ceremony is a blessing, and involves a long tradition.

Giver of Maharishi's core ideas

A book, The Whole Thing, The Real Thing (1977) is a short Guru Dev biography by Rameswar Tiwar. The biography states its content is drawn from talks given by Guru Dev to his disciples, discourses that were written down as he spoke. "The talks which Brahmananda Saraswati gave during the course of his public career provide clear and detailed insights into the nature of his thinking and the tradition which shaped it," writes Shriver [Op cit v]

Maharishi has described how he for years sought to attune and adjust his mind to Guru Dev, to serve as his secretary. He also wrote a book of Guru Dev statements as rendered or understood by Maharishi (Mason, 2009c). Further, Paul Mason, author of the Maharishi biography (Mason, 2005), finds that Maharishi owed the bulk of his key ideas to Guru Dev.

What are those ideas? Guru Dev served as the head of Hindus (a Shankaracharya) in northern India for many years. Discourses that are recorded stem from that period. India's shankaracharyas teach Advaita Vedanta (cf. Deutsch and Dalvi, 2004) in the tradition of Adi Shankara. Advaita, or Sanatan Dharma (proper conduct, great Hinduism) is the frame of reference of Guru Dev's talks. In his introduction to The Sweet Teachings of the Blessed Sankaracarya Swami Brahmananda Saraswati. (2013), LB Shriver offers glimpses into Guru Dev's remarkable life, and 108 discourses with annotations by Professor Cynthia Ann Humes. Another version by Paul Mason reads better, but is without explanatory notes.

There is more in store

There are many hundreds of further Guru Dev discourses in Hindi, according to two posts in a recent, developing ◦usergroup. It turns out that Maharishi was not the only one to record Guru Dev talks and not the only one to draw inspiration and life guidance from them either, for Guru Dev discourses were printed (in Hindi) and distributed for years.

The recent ◦usergroup brings developing information about discourses that Guru Dev gave. One estimate is that a thousand of them have been taken care of. They may be preserved for posterity and published in Hindi and English too. That is to be hoped for. The usergroup is

a platform for all followers and devotees of Sri Brahmananda Saraswati to bring them together from all over the world, to keep the flame of His universal teachings burning and to get a deeper understanding of the real thing . . .

Buddha's teachings

A little disappointment might lie in store for those who think the TM movement - which owes TM to Guru Dev - would be eager to preserve Guru Dev's lovable teachings. But, oddly enough, "shallow adaptation to Circus USA with blinkers" could have got in the way - and those "blinding neon lights". For many TM-ers seem to be oblivious of Guru Dev's great tradition and its hoary teachings. There are many guiding words there. Some persons might be helped by them. Still, things are not so bad, according to Buddha's last words: "He honours me best who practices my teaching best." [Narada 1988;287]

Many practice TM. That is The Thing, in essence. So she honours Guru Dev best who practices TM and gets awakened fast through it. First things first, in other words.

Next best should be to practice TM throughout life, get benefits, and not get totally enlightened through it.

There are good sides to preserving a thousand of Guru Dev's discourses for future times. Now is a fit time to go for it. His discourses are rooted in a likable tradition, an organic culture and may counteract one's getting all too footlose and unspiritual in areas where it counts to be so grounded - it could help against widespread adaptation problem that bling won't help.

As for acquiring buildings and funds, they may be deemed of second-class worth, and also in harmony with "A castle of bone is better than a castle of stone." It is a proverb. It says that a single body temple may be more worth than a casino building in Las Vegas, and biologically it is so. Granted that, buidings have their value if they serve worthwhile activities and not just grossness.

The body temple that Maharishi was, travelled widely to spread TM. He settled in housings later, but not in Las Vegas. He chose to live in continental Europe - where he settled in the end in the Netherlands after several moves. A word to the wise . . .?

Words of warning

TM is served by the spreading of TM, and also getting in contact with its well-spring, and perhaps also with fit Vedanta teachings - not too abstruse for the listeners. Guru Dev discoursed in that likable way.

As for publishing books by followers of Maharishi - oh well . . . Do they enjoy the benefits and forget Guru Dev, the Giver of TM, and are in the dark about that many of his teachings? And that hundreds of printed discourses may be rescued and published? It spells making less of Guru Dev than of North American adaptations to "business first".

There are sides to North America that Sigmund Freud disdained, loathed, and did not back up a bit after he had been there in 1907 and observed some unhealthy obsession with money. And but by the mid-1920s Freud had become a household name among Americans (Akst, 2009).

Did the same thing happen to the distinguished French thinker Jean Beaudrillard, who wrote a US travel diary, later translated as America in 1989? Not so far. He writes of impressions and thoughts from a time when actor Ronald Reagan was president and achieved to become the focal point of various forces in play. Symbiosis may not have been among them; and that is, in case, a good side to Americans, as compared to great Royalty hailers and tail-wagglers and their little neurotic half-symbioses with queens, kings and so on downward - topdogs, that is. "It is a world [of] poverty and waste, [and] violence," Beaudrillard wrote. Further, "Everything that has been dreamt on this side of the Atlantic has a chance of being realized on the other." - Everything? Somehow that rings untrue. But the TM university, MUM, was first conceived of in Mallorca, Spain, and then it was taken to Italy to some degree, and finally realised on the other side of the Atlantic. First, "a university in Spain" . . . It is in Iowa now, and is known as the university for people who train in a certain form of butt hopping on mattresses, and is called yogic flying.

We get our impressions. The American global dominance may go along with McDonaldism, a commercially tinged flattening or removal of a profit-seeking business enterprise that is half-invading a country's own roots and back-up traditions.

At any rate, the American could do well to consider if his or her flattening influence or marked openness to greed-rooted undertakings is to a fault and consider whether adapting to the world ruled to a large extent by profit-eager, multinational corporations with psychopathic traits is the best "work sale" and status giver one can get by "Money rules; marry for money, honey, and divorce for still more money if that can be had, and so on". Obviously, selling out to deranging and hard-hearted or psychopathic "business terrorism" is so little spoken of among those adapted to it. A good and decent stride against business empire crimes and terror seems remote. [WP, sv. "McDonaldization"; "The Corporation (film)"]

On the personal level, being footloose lies at the back of bling and other strutting show-off things in life, I think. One had better check if there is enough cultivated tact "from the own soil", and how far the craze for money, glamour, celebs and the rich could mask a deep lack of fit solidarity and personal stoutness where it counts.

This is to say there are many who need help and help on many levels. Some need help out of poverty, and others need help to dispense with their riches . . . those rich guys who do not know what to do with all their money and influence

A slavish acceptance of a social-good-looking but flattened public presentation of TM and its origins in Vedanta could be something that one has to struggle against or better: wake up from. TM leaders appear to have thought little of publishing Guru Dev talks. If so, have they dropped golden nectar for the sake of fruit juice? the just footing for surface adaptations? clichés?

Let us hope not, and God save us from smugness with blinkers. At any rate, conceitedness may find many low forms other than falling into shallowness, ill-founded smugness, and lack of fit appreciation or tact. But hey, there are individual differences to reckon with too.

And coping hs many facets; some worthwhile, others hardly so, and so on. What is more, greed and ambition ride can be taken higher than mere money obsession by decent doings. Compare Maslow's pyramid of needs in the light of aiming or steering steadily for better things in life while getting grounded also.

Abraham Maslow's Pyramid of Needs +

Figure. Abraham Maslow's postulated pyramid of layered (hierarchic) needs with some "room on the top" added here - that is, room for developments.

Passengers of the human body along life's journey

Guru Dev, a Shankaracharya in Shankara's Advaita Vedanta tradition, taught Maharishi methods and told him to simplify them for householders. Maharishi did it, and brought TM to the world. He had also been taught Advaita.

After some time Maharishi rendered many key terms from Guru Dev's Advaita in English, seeking to make them well understandable among Westerners who were unfamiliar with hoary Sanskrit terms at that time. If it is difficult to discern that deep rooting, some misunderstandings and problems might be solved by Maharishi himself. In 1967 was interviewed for International Times and told he had reformulated the vocabularly of Guru Dev.

It is I who gave it the present expression, but I learnt it from him [Guru Dev] in the traditional way . . . through very old expressions of religious order. . . . Hinduism has its own vocabulary; yoga . . . Vedanta has its own approach. He taught me in the traditional way of yoga and Vedanta and Indian religious language. I gave it an expression . . . [International Times, 1967, No. 22, 15 December, p. 10-11, 13.]

To recap: The world-wide TM movement's steady, basic foundation includes Yoga and Vedanta.

Maharishi came as a disciple of Guru Dev and sought to fulfil his wish of helping common people (Dragemark, 1972). First Maharishi taught TM in India, then in Asia, Hawaii, America and further - tour after tour.

Along with meditation, Guru Dev gave brief discourses to guide Hindus in how to live. Maharishi too discoursed, partly on top of things he had learnt from Guru Dev, and accomplished to spread TM.

Vedanta and Guru Dev bring basic perspectives on life. Maharishi:

Guru Dev [was of a] far-seeing and all-encompassing nature. . . .

His whole personality always radiated serenity and true spirituality. . . . His Darshan (seeing Him) made people feel . . . it was worth while to lead a good life and to strive to realize the Divine.

His spiritual teachings are simple and clear and talk directly to the heart. He kept strictly to the way of inner development which is founded on the system and ethics of Indian philosophy. He . . . firmly supported those Truths and Principles which are contained in the concept of Dharma (The Law of Order in Existence). He [made] the people happy."

Dr. Raj R. P. Varma tells how Maharishi stayed with Guru Dev until 20 May, 1953. Guru Dev then called Maharishi, asked him to sit down and said: "One thing remains. . . . It is the usual custom that the work remaining for a guru is completed by his disciples. It is a tradition that the father's task is completed by his son and what now remains you shall complete by yourself."

"Your wish is my command," said Maharishi. "What do you wish, tell me, so that I can fulfil it."

Guru Dev then told him:

What I have taught you also contains the knowledge of the technique for the householder . . . This should now be perfected into a simple method suitable for everyone. Ask the people to sit and meditate after this method a few moments every morning and evening. Teach them to enjoy life." (Dragemark, 261-62)

To enjoy life is a lot of the art of living. There are savoury ways and all the other ways. It is solid Hinduism also, as reflected through the four main life goals of it: Wealth (Artha), desire, lust (Kama), righteous deals and deeds (Dharma), and freedom (Moksha). Sound balance or harmonic development is very much called for and not just freedom (in Self-Realisation). Also, to enjoy life encompasses more and better than just "get rid of sufferings", which is one of the marked ideas in Buddha's program.

Read on

Colibri serrirostris, photo by Rick elis.simpson, Detail. Guru Dev Enlightens
Guru Dev Legacy Trust
Paul Mason's Pages on Guru Dev


Guru Dev, Sri Brahmananda Saraswati, Literature  

Akst, Daniel. "One Hundred Years of Freud in America". The Wall Street Journal, 6 Aug, 2009. - Online.

Baudrillard, Jean. America. London: Verso, 1989 (Original: Amérique. Paris: Grasset, 1986).

Deutsch, Eliot, and Rohit Dalvi, eds. The Essential Vedanta: A New Source Book of Advaita Vedanta. Bloomington, IN: World Wisdom, 2004.

Dragemark, Elsa. The Way to Maharishi's Himalayas Stockholm: E. Dragemark, 1972.

Mahesh Yogi, Maharishi (presented as Maharshi Bala Brahmachari Mahesh Yogi Maharaj). Beacon Light of the Himalayas: The Dawn of a Happy New Era. Souvenir of the Great Spiritual Development Conference of Kerala, October 1955. in PDF format.

Maslow, Abraham. Motivation and Personality. 3rd ed. New York, HarperCollins, 1987.

Mason, Paul. 108 Discourses of Guru Dev: The Life and Teachings of Swami Brahmananda Saraswati, Shankaracharya of Jyotirmath (1941-53). Vol 1. Penzance, Cornwall: Premanand, 2009a.

Mason, Paul. The Biography of Guru Dev: The Life and Teachings of Swami Brahmananda Saraswati, Shankaracharya of Jyotirmath (1941-53). Vol 2. Penzance, Cornwall: Premanand, 2009b.

Mason, Paul. Guru Dev as presented by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi: The Life and Teachings of Swami Brahmananda Saraswati, Shankaracharya of Jyotirmath (1941-53). Vol 3. Penzance, Cornwall: Premanand, 2009c.

Mason, Paul, compiler. Guru Dev: Life and Teachings of Shankaracharya Swami Brahmananda Saraswati. 2012. Online. [◦Link]

Mason, Paul. The Maharishi: The Biography of the Man Who Gave Transcendental Meditation to the World. Rev. ed. Lyndhurst, Hampshire: Evolution, 2005.

Mason, Paul. Guru Dev: Life and Teachings of Shankaracharya Swami Brahmananda Saraswati. Compiled by Paul Mason. 2012. Online [◦Link]

Mason, Paul. Roots of TM: The Transcendental Meditation of Guru Dev and Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. Penzance, Cornwall, UK: Premanand, 2016. ⍽▢⍽ This compilation contains numerous quotations and rare transcripts of lectures by Guru Dev and by Maharishi. Paul Mason observed and then sought to remedy something interesting:

Surprisingly, despite the fact that Swami Brahmanand Saraswati was a prominent and influential public speaker, Maharishi's organisations share but scant information about Guru Dev's life story and disclose nothing about his teachings . . . or about the origins and history of the teaching of Transcendental Meditation.

Pasricha, Prem C. The Whole Thing, the Real Thing: A Brief Biography of Shri Gurudeva. English transcreation of the Hindi book by Rameswar Tiwari. New Delhi: Delhi Photo Company, 1977.

Shriver, LB Trusty. The Sweet Teachings of the Blessed Sankaracarya Swami Brahmananda Saraswati.. Tr. and contr. Cynthia Ann Humes. Raleigh, NC:, 2013. ⍽▢⍽ Professor Humes has translated the main text and supplied the annotations.

Tiwari, Rameswar, compiler, LB Trusty Shriver, ed, and Cynthia Ann Humes, ed. Rocks Are Melting: The Everyday Teachings of Swami Brahmananda Saraswati Fairfield, IA: Clear River Press, 2000. ⍽▢⍽ Scanned hard-copy manuscript, with annotations. Guru Dev, Bhagvan, Sri Brahmananda Saraswati, Shankaracharya Brahmananda Sarawati

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