In 1941, after twenty years of entreaties, Swami Brahmananda Saraswati (1871-1953) agreed to be the Shankaracharya [spiritual head] of Jyotir Math in India, after the chair had been vacant for a century. His close disciple Maharishi Mahesh Yogi brought the swift meditation method TM (Transcendental Meditation) to the West in 1959, with astounding success.
At his first press conference in the USA on Wednesday, 29 April 1959, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi told he wanted to spiritually regenerate the whole world, adding:
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.
Maharishi also says, "Right from the beginning the whole purpose was just to breathe in his breath. This was my ideal". His Guru was Sri Brahmananda Saraswati, and they met when Maharishi was 23. One look at the glowing silent face of Sri Brahmananda had the young man enthralled at once. Brahmananda insisted that before he accepted Mahesh as a disciple he should complete his university studies and get parental permission before joining him.
Tuesday, 1 April 1941 Brahmananda became the Shankaracharya (head) of Jyotir Math, Badrikashram, Himalayas, and was thereafter known as Jagadguru Shrimad Swami Brahmananda Saraswati Maharaj Ji. In TM circles he is referred to as Gurudev or Guru Dev.
Paul Mason has translated, revised, rewritten and polished a Hindi biography on Guru Dev: Shri Jyotishpeethaddharaka by Shri Rameshwar Tiwari, published in 1965. Another English version of Tiwari's book has been made by Prem C. Pasricha (1977). The Mason-translated biography also contains speeches where Guru Dev speaks mostly from his own experiences (Mason 2009, Introduction).
In Utarkashi in the Himalayas Guru Dev was initiated by the high-souled Krishnananda Saraswati, a "great disciple of Shringeri Peeth". From the text:
Swami Ji [Krishnananda] was an instructor of Indian Shastras (treatises) and a perfectly accomplished ascetic of the highest order. . . .
In the book The Sweet Teachings of the Blessed Sankaracarya Swami Brahmananda Saraswati (Shriver 2013:xi) it is similarly told that "Swami Krishnanand, a Dandi Sannyasi from Sringeri Math" accepted the very young Guru Dev as his disciple. Guru Dev was a youth when he met Krishnananda and in his ashram went for a yogi way of living. [Mason 2009:50]
"A dandi sannyas (swami) of Shringeri Peeth"
Sringeri Peeth, also known as Sringeri Sharada Peetham, is a math(a), a centre of Advaita Vedanta, and founded by Adi [the First] Shankara . Its heads have been venerated as Jagadgurus, world gurus, for a long time. Moreover, the Sringeri Sharada Peetham, Jyotir Math and other Shankara maths are hubs of Smartism. The Sringeri monastery lies in Sringeri, a hill town in the Indian state of Karnataka. [WP, s.v. "Sringeri Sharada Peetham", "Advaita Vedanta", "Adi Shankara", "Jagadguru", "Smarta Tradition" and "Smartism"]
Among Hindu missions with Advaita traditions that are closely linked with the Smarta philosophy are the Ramakrishna Mission and the Divine Life Society.
A dandi swami, also known as a dandi sannyasin, is a wandering hindu monk. He carries a staff, dandi. In the Shankara tradition, to become a dandi swami, an initiation is required. Such a swami has formally renounced all major claims to social or family standing, and a whole lot ugly and worldly in life too.
Adi Shankara established seats of spiritual learning in India, with Sringeri Peeth in South India as the main seat. The head of Sringeri Peeth from 1817 till 1879 was Sri Narasimha Bharati VIII (1798-1879) - also Sri Nrusimha Bharati VIII and Sri Vruddha Nrisimha Bharati. He was the thirty-second pontiff there in an unbroken line of succession. The great yogi spent more than forty years travelling in India. [2, 3, 4]
Krishnananda and Narasimha could have been disciple and guru, or the other way round. However, "It is said that Brahmananda's guru, Krishnananda Saraswati, was associated with the Sringeri matha, but this may be due to nothing more than the traditional affiliation of the Saraswati orders with Sringeri," writes Vidyasankar Sundaresan. [5, 8].
In a guru-disciple relationship there is a teacher-student relationship. This relationship is formally recognised by a structured initiation ceremony. Sri Narasimha and Swami Krishnananda, were they guru and disciple? Their full names signify they belonged to different branches of the ancient swami order, namely the Bharati and Saraswati branches. If they had been guru and disciple, they would be of the same swami branch. Paul Mason goes into Guru Dev's lineage. [2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7]; [WP, s.v. "Guru-shishya tradition"]
Mason adds to this: "In an issue of a quarterly published by Shanti Sadan, 'Self-Knowledge' (Issue Vol. 43 No. 3), there is a description of Krishnanandji by Hari Prasad Shastri. In it he tells that Krishnanandaji was a wandering monk of the Saraswati order, thus he was known as Swami Krishnanandaji Saraswati. It is stated that Krishnanandji never answered questions about his life." 
Sringeri gurus advocate that kind of piousness that is "intentness of the soul on its own nature" and "intentness on the reality of the Self". [The First Shankara's teachings]. They keep in honour learning and knowledge, honesty and simplicity, and much else. One's life in this material world is seen as temporary, so it is wisdom to administer one's life so well that there is time to rise in meditation. Gurus at Sringeri are known for reading a wide range of secular and religious works. They are reputedly religious liberals. [WP, s.v. "Sringeri Sharada Peetham"]
Sri Krishnananda Saraswati in Guru Dev's line is also told of by Hari Prasad Shastri (1882-1956). Shastri writes that Krishnananda was a wandering monk of the Saraswati branch, and that in an aged body he once attended a meeting of rishis (holy men) in the Himalayas in 1855. One rishi at the gathering reportedly said: "The West has to live according to the Law. . . . Ambition and love of power have stifled the growth of the spirit of the West." (1948:9-10) [5, 6]
Shastri's main focus in the book cited, is a disciple of Sri Krishnananda, Sri Dada of Aligarh (1854-1910). Sanskrit Dada is Grandfather. In the book, Sri Dada mentions his gurudev Krishnananda in some dozens of places. In some he refers to him as "Guru Bhagawan". Bhagawan is Sanskrit for personal God, and "Lord" is often substituted for it. Krishna and Buddha are both told of as Bhagvans. It translates differently - "the Blesses One" is often used for "Bhagavan" (Gautama Buddha) in Buddhism.
On page 34 Sri Dada says that Krishnananda Saraswati saved many and relit the torch of holy Manava Yoga ("mankind yoga" "yoga for all"). Further, "Shri Guru Bhagavan has . . . entrusted us with the mission of carrying this light far and wide to the East and to the West." (p. 34)
There are more teachings of Krishnananda in Shastri's book. If Krishnananda of Dada and of Guru Dev is one and the same and very long-lived, the chronologies from these two lines could work together if we allow for inexact dating in what we piece together. Also worth noting, if Krishnananda was rather old when he passed away in 1936 ◦according to one source - Narasimha might not have been his guru, since the mention of Krishnananda as a disciple "of Shringeri Peeth" does not necessarily mean he was a discriple of Jagadguru Sri Narasimha Bharati VIII (1798-1879) who presided over the Sringeri Peeth from 1817. Clear-cut, exact information is, by the way, better than interesting tales in a biographical sketch. We may have to make do with a little about Krishnananda so far.
It remains to be explained how Sri Narasimha could have Sri Krishnananda for a disciple, since Sri Narasimha was a swami of the Bharati branch and Krishnananda of the Saraswati branch: By being initiated, a disciple becomes a member of the same swami branch as the guru, the spiritual father, in part as Paul Mason has pointed out. Sundaresan also leaves that relationship issue open.
A Story from the Training
After completing his study of the scriptures and having realised his inmost Self, the twenty-five years old Brahmananda accompanied his guru Krishnananda. For about a month they stopped over at the nice little village of Kajliwan near Rishikesh. They were given a rousing welcome.
Among those who thronged to have a blessed glance at them was a Brahmin milkman. He used to offer milk to the holy guests that visited the place. Brahmananda arranged with him to bring half a litre of milk every day, and would boil and serve it to his gurudev every night. But one day the Brahmin's wife said to her husband, "The cow has given very little milk today. It will not be enough even for the children." The husband, however, paid no heed to her and supplied half a litre as usual to the honoured guests.
When Brahmananda warmed up the milk and served it to his Master, the latter said, "There is woe in the milk today. I shall not drink it. Please return it to milkman and tell him to stop giving it."
Brahmananda did so. About fifteen days later the milkman's son died. The whole place feared that Krishnananda was displeased with the Brahmin milkman, who therefore had lost his son. On hearing it, Krishnananda said to Brahmananda, "When the people take the boy's corpse to the cremation grounds, tell them to send for me before making the funeral pyre."
It so happened. The corpse was placed on the ground and Krishnananda came to the place. He kicked the lifeless head gently with his foot, saying, "Why do you sleep so much?" And then the boy was on his feet.
Afterward, on reaching their hut, Krishnananda said to Brahmananda, "It's better to leave this place right now before all the dead people here start pestering us for life!" And with that he left. [Retold from The Whole Thing - The Real Thing [◦Link]
"I was fond of visiting saints. I found I could visit one such saint only about midnight. Some friends went there along with me. It was all dark.
"About ten or eleven we arrived at a building. We were told by an attendant of the saint on the ground floor, 'Don't talk, just sit quietly.'
"He disappeared and came back after half an hour or so. He said, 'Follow me very quietly.'
"We quietly went up to the first floor. We felt someone was sitting on a sort of chair, reclining, comfortable. We sat down quietly, and found two or three other men were also sitting there. It was all dark, but after perhaps twenty minutes a car a long way off suddenly shed some light on Guru Dev for a moment. It was just enough to have a glimpse of him.
"Then I said, 'Could I not be at your service?'
"He said, 'What you are doing?'
"'Oh, better finish your studies.'"
"And then, where will you be?"
"'Oh you will find me somewhere.'"
"I was asked to complete my studies. Once I saw him I knew he knew best, and whatever he said was my action.
"Then Guru Dev went back to the lonely forests he had come from, and there was no way to keep contact with him. About three years later, I saw him in the market of a big city of north India, he was carried in a big procession. This was when he visited the city as Shankaracharya of North India, and thus the head custodian of Hinduism there."
Mahesh joined the guru's busy ashram at Varanasi (Banaras) and discovered there was a vast retinue of learned people around him, and that "I was absolutely insignificant."
One week passed, and Mahesh saw an opportunity to assume the role of clerk to the guru. Wishing to get even closer to the guru he attempted to attune himself to the master's thinking for two and a half years.
"The method that I adopted was just to sense what he wanted at what time - what he wanted. I picked up activity as a means to adjust to his thought, to his feelings."
[Extracted from Guru Dev as presented by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi (in Paul Mason 2009, 193-97)]
Quick Returns Required
Years later, high up in the mountains, Brahmananda in turn gave his disciple Mahesh a certain errand. He was asked to run to a place high up and far away (probably distant Tapoban) to deliver a message to a holy man who lived there. On arriving, the breathless and exhausted disciple waited for the reply. The saint, after reading the message, merely bid him return quickly to his guru.
Many times when Mahesh was a student under training he found himself on such a mission. But once he tripped and fell as a result of undue haste. After dusting himself down, he stooped to recover his guru's precious message, to find it had become unsealed. Curiosity overtook him and he read it. It said,
"Please instruct this brahmachari [student under training] to return at once."
Although more often found to be in solemn mood, the Shankaracharya could display a radiant smile and project a lively sense of fun and jollity - an enigmatic combination.
Some moments before he passed away, he told Mahesh, "What I have taught you also contains the knowledge of the technique for the householder".
On Friday, 12 June 1953, at the wish of Swami Brahmananda, his close disciple Sri Swami Shantanand Saraswati Ji Maharaj was installed as successor to the throne of Shankaracharya. And Mahesh committed himself to prolonged spells of deep silence at Gyan Mandir, Rishikesh. In a cave there "there is quiet. No sound. Cool in summer. Warm in winter."
He later emerged to spread the TM technique and what followed from it. He said about the Shankaracharya's core teachings, "His spiritual teachings are simple and clear and go straight home to the heart." The following seeks to capture the very handy teachings of Shankaracharya Brahmananda: God bless you.
1. Be cautious and learn to make full use of Bliss
One should always be cautious, so that no sin happens, so that one has no regrets at the time of death. [Mod Brahmananda]
Concentration on the unmanifest is not possible. [Guru Dev]
Keep your luggage packed. [Guru Dev] [Meaning: Let not death find you unprepared.]
Be careful and cautious.*
When the mind realizes God, it is permanently established there and does not desire other things. [Guru Dev]
Even a little of [God's] grace is capable of bestowing on the Jiva [soul] all that is good in its entirety. [Guru Dev] ◇
Mind remains with you always. Even in the other world - Therefore, connect it with Eternal Existence both in animate and inanimate things, the only permanent entity of the highest order. Connect your mind with Him. [Mod Brahmananda]
Learn to make full use of the human body. One should not waste this chance. [With Brahmananda]
The [figurative] prince will live in bliss. [Guru Dev]
Note to the picture caption: The hog plum (species: Spondias mombin) is cultivated for its edible, plumlike fruits. The large stone in each fruit bears many spines and is difficult to separate from the pulp. (EB "hog plum)
One should be fortunate enough to do profitable business. [Guru Dev]
There are three types of protection and service: The highest is like a tortoise; the middle is like fishess; and the lower is like birds.
The turtle does not keep his eggs near. The fish does not go near its eggs. The bird protects its eggs by covering them always, sitting on them.
In the manner of the tortoise, the Great Spiritual Guru helps, protects and guides his sincere disciple by concentration and observation of the behaviour of his disciples. By the blessing of the Guru the life of disciple become purposeful and develops faster on the (path of) Spiritual Progress. (Abr. Brahmananda)
Necessary control of the mind and the senses and deep concentration are essentials of true Yoga. When the mind is wholly focused you merge with Brahman (God). [Mod Brahmananda]
That which hinders transcendental wealth and results in accumulation in sin is not wealth but a burden, a debt (anartha). [Guru Dev]
2. The instructions to realize God are to be practiced to bear fruit
In our daily affairs we should adopt a strategy of quickly attending to good works and things related to the divine. And wrong action [had better] be continuously postponed. [Mod and Abr. Brahmananda] (3)
The disciple should follow the orders and instructions as given by the Guru. [Guru Dev]
Spiritual teachings . . . cannot throw light on the inner Self, for the Self is Light. [Guru Dev]
The knowledgeable and realised Guru feels that this world (is) like keeping sour hog plums in the hand and realises that Paramatma (God) is inside as well. [Mod Brahmananda]
Para[m]atma [God] has given you power to think and decide what is good and bad. [Guru Dev]
As long as one has to live, live peacefully. [Guru Dev]
By doing as much purushartha [actions consistent with the goals of human life and evolution] as possible, one can eventually become one with God. [Guru Dev] ◇
Divine union can be realised by the practice of Yoga. [Guru Dev]
To be born a human is [potentially] more fortunate than to be born a deva. [Guru Dev]
Every second in human life [can be] very valuable. If you don't value this, you will weep in the end. [With Brahmananda]
You should never consider yourself a weak or a fallen creature. [Mod Brahmananda]
Every moment is the power of the Supreme to be realised and remembered. [Guru Dev]
There is no distance or separation with Paramatma (God). [Guru Dev]
[To some:] If you have to make an offering, offer not your money but your defects [if you are allowed to, that is], so that you are redeemed and made whole. [Guru Dev]
In taking birth there is suffering; much more suffering there is at the time of dying. [Guru Dev]
The manifest [One, God]) exists for the welfare of the world. [Guru Dev]
3. The recordings of your good doings reach the Eternal also - prepare for it even now
Do good works as seems best.* (5)
Having a human body, if you don't reach God, then you have sold a diamond at the price of spinach. [With Brahmananda]
Increase your love for that ever-blissful Paramatma [Supreme Self] . . . Keep your mind free for the imperishable Paramatma, whose very essence is bliss. [Guru Dev]
A human being is like a lump of pure gold, whereas gods are like pieces of fine jewellery. [Guru Dev]
It is essential to be cautious always. [Guru Dev]
God has given you power to think - do the best possible action. [Abr Brahmananda]
[Have] devotion and trust in Paramatma alone and none else. [Guru Dev]
The Great Guru keeps himself separate from his own body. [Guru Dev]
The argument about formlessness is thoroughly useless. [Guru Dev]
If you do not know what Bhagavan is, how can you be devoted to Him? [Guru Dev]
Without Ishwar (God) it is impossible to become released. [Guru Dev]
The dawn comes . . . allowing us to enjoy the light of the sun. [Guru Dev]
The meaning of the word sadhu is this - sadhus are good-natured people with good hearts . . . avatars are for the welfare of those people. [Guru Dev]
Forgetting the other world, one becomes immoral and licentious. [Guru Dev]
The techniques of Yoga are the self-realisation. [Guru Dev] [Deducted: potential self-realization facets lie embedded in the right techniques and postures. *]
One's own final time is not to be spoiled . . . prepare for this. [Guru Dev]
Whatever man does while living, be it good or bad, it comes to be remembered at the moment of death. [Guru Dev]
The people struggle hard to gain valueless baubles of daily living, day in and day out. [Guru Dev]
Being separated from God is harsh. *
Worshipping Paramatman is highly profitable. [Guru Dev]
Paramatma never keeps separate from Atman. [Guru Dev]
Being engaged in union with God is the path of highest blissfulness. [Cf. Brahmananda] ✪
Having attained this birth, one should not act carelessly, but do the best purushartha. [Guru Dev]
If you want to catch the shadow, catch the real thing and automatically the shadow will be in your hands. [Guru Dev]
Mind is something permanent which remains with you always. Even in the other world it will continue to stay with you. Therefore connect it with someone permanent, God, being the eternal existence in animate and inanimate things. [Mod Brahmananda]
It is necessary to bifurcate [divide] the work of the mind as main and secondary. Apply your body mainly and your mind secondarily to you work (vyarabara). [Guru Dev]
Accumulate wealth, but in such a way that is not against transcendental wealth (param-artha). [Guru Dev]
Fulfilling one's own dharma while keeping faith in Paramatma is [of] purushartha. [Guru Dev]
Lead this life with a peaceful mind. [Guru Dev]
Paramatman himself will look after the well-being of the [recognised] devotee. There will be no need to pray for one's welfare: The father will not be able to see his son suffer. Even without being asked, he will do his best to get his son cured. Likewise Paramatman, without even a request, will do the needful. [Abr. Brahmananda]
When the mind is mainly engaged in thinking of God, you shall receive His grace. [Guru Dev]
That which hinders Paramartha [ultimate good] and results in accumulation of sin is not wealth (artha) but the negation of wealth (anartha). [Guru Dev]
The creator and protector of the universe is Brahman [God]. Brahman provides the efficiency in all living Beings (Jiva) to perform their own duty. [With Brahmananda]
Brahman [God] is not doing any actions but all living beings are free to perform their own actions . . . but they have to suffer the result of their action (karma) from the result of karma they are not free. [Guru Dev]
Activities that gain Paramatman . . . is a natural activity and can be done with ease. [Guru Dev]
Put enough attention on God, the source of peace and happiness. [Mod Brahmananda]
The disciple should not copy the behaviour of Guru. [Guru Dev]
The aim of life is to stop the mind from involvement with this world. [Guru Dev]
Your mind . . . can be useful to take you near God. [With Brahmananda]
There is no difficulty to go but there is difficulty to come back. [Guru Dev]
The mind . . . is not fully satisfied or satisfied for long with anything of the mundane world. [Ed. Brahmananda]
You can work to make your family happy. [Mod. Brahmananda]
By the blessing of the Spiritual Master there is an awakening Spiritual life. [With Brahmananda] (7)
Even a little of [God's] grace is capable of bestowing on the ego all that is good in its entirety. [Guru Dev]
One should not act carelessly, but should conscientiously [fulfil] one's own dharma while keeping faith in Paramatma. [And] keep the company of wise people. [Abr. Brahmananda]
The Creator will make arrangements. [With Brahmananda]
There are good and bad actions, and each and every action is divided into various subdivisions: (1) daily duty; (2) special occasional duty; (3) expiate; (4) ritual. All these karmas are described. [Cf. Brahmananda]
Try to live quietly as long as you have to live. [Guru Dev]
Lead life in such a way that you will be peaceful while living and making your future path bright as well. [Guru Dev] (8)
Mantras (sometimes) contain a mixture (of sounds including) Aum [OM] that are given for auspicious purposes. Another thing is this that women are prohibited from practising japa with a mantra conjoined with Aum. [Brahmananda, abr.] (9)
Be cautious and learn how to realize God, do good and reach toward the Eternal. That is fit.
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, 2009. ⍽▢⍽ Paul Mason has done a wonderful job in gathering and publishing material about Guru Dev, and also of Guru Dev. I recommend his very rewarding books.
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, 2009.
⸻. 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, 2009.
⸻. The Maharishi: The Biography of the Man Who Gave Transcendental Meditation to the World. Rev. ed. Lyndhurst, Hampshire: Evolution, 2005.
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.
Shastri, Hari Prasad. Shri Dada Sanghita: The Heart of the Eastern Mystical Teaching. London: Shanti Sadan, 1948.
Shriver, LB Trusty. The Sweet Teachings of the Blessed Sankaracarya Swami Brahmananda Saraswati.. Tr. and contr. Cynthia Ann Humes. Raleigh, NC: Lulu.com, 2013. ⍽▢⍽ Professor Humes supplied the annotations.
Tiwari, Rameswar, compiler. The Whole Thing, The Real Thing: A Brief Biography of Shri Gurudeva, Shri Jyotishpeethodwarak Brahmleen Jagadguru Bhagwan Shankaracharya Shrimad Swami Brahmanand Saraswatiji Maharaj of Jyotirmath, Badrikashram. New Delhi: Delhi Photo Company, 1977.
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. May be tried as a companion to Paul Mason's 108 Discourses of Guru Dev.
WP: Wikipedia articles: "Advaita", "Smartism", "Shankara", "Sringeri Math Peetnam", etc.
Yogi, Maharishi Mahesh (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. ◦PDF and Paperback. ⍽▢⍽ This richly illustrated work marks the start of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi's global spreading of what was first named Deep Meditation, and later Transcendental Meditation. The souvenir contains an interesting biographical sketch by Maharishi of his teacher, Guru Dev, and transcripts of Maharishi's discourses during the conference, along with insightful contributions by others. 168 pages.
The extracts are from "Gurudev Satsang" by Paul Mason, with kind permission: [◦Link]
Many thanks to Paul Mason for supplying Guru Dev pictures and a picture of his gurudev Krishnananda. Thanks to www.shrigurudevji.com for an eariler permission to publish a close-up (detail) of Krishnananda's picture too. Today it is replaced by the whole photo modified by me toward a sepia-like tone. Biography parts are from Paul Mason's insightful book Maharishi Mahesh Yogi: The Biography of the Man Who Gave Transcendental Meditation to the World (1st ed, Element Books, 1994. The second, revised edition from 2005. It is in the list above with a revised title). [◦About].
[Maharishi Mahesh Yogi] claimed his life only truly began . . . when [as a young student] he learned the secret of 'swift and deep meditation' . . . Swami Brahmanand had instructed him in a technique of meditation. - Paul Mason, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi (1st ed)
Picture noteOn the topmost picture and in several other pictures, there is white ash, Bhasma, across Guru Dev's forehead to the end of the eyebrows. This ash is made from burnt wood. The favoured symbol is of Vedic origin, and is called Tripundra. [Cf. WP sv. "Vibhuti"]
Harvesting the hay
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