Swami Shantananda Puri Maharaj - A Divine Beacon
Birth – 6th May 1928 | Mahasamadhi – 14th October 2014
EARLY YEARS, MEETING HIS MASTER AND SANYAS
'There are great holy persons exuding peace at all times. Having crossed the vast ocean of worldly existence, they help others too to cross the same without any selfish motive behind it. They work for the welfare of the world like the pleasure-giving spring season’.
(Adi Sankara Bhagavad Pada in Vivekachudamani - Verse 39)
Swami Shantananda Puri was such a great soul as extolled in the above verse by Sri Sankara. At the age of four, he had the fortune of coming into contact with Paramacharya of Kanchi. In 1950 after joining government service he came across the ‘Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna’ which resulted in a deep attraction to the life and teachings of Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa. In 1957, Swamiji met his Guru Sri Purushottamanada Puri Maharaj (of Vasishta Guha, Himalayas) a disciple of Swami Brahmananda (Rakhal Maharaj), the mentally adopted son of Sri Ramakrishna. In 1959 after getting mantra diksha from Swami Purushottamananda, Swamiji had to enter worldly life by establishing a family, as ordered by his Gurudev. As predicted by his Guru, he had to wait 32 years to get Sanyas. On 2nd February 1992 (Sivaratri day) Swamiji was ordained into Sanyas by his Guru Bhai Swami Shankarananda at Mangalashram, Uttar Kashi.
A week before taking Sanyas, while in meditation, Swamiji received orders from his Gurudev (Sri Purushottamananda (who had left his mortal form on February 13, 1961 - Mahasivarathri day) that he should remain as a parivrajaka, a wandering monk for at least 7 years. After visiting Vasishta Guha Swamiji started his parvrjanam and visited many places like Belur Math, Dakshineswar, Vrindavan, Naimisaranyam etc. All along his remaining life he maintained this parivrajaka dharma and never stayed permanently in any Ashram. He spent a few months at Vasishta Guha and thereafter stayed for brief periods at Manavaseva Sangh Ashram, Ashram at Malsar - Gujarat, Ghazipur, Lucknow and Haridwar. Swamiji was a person of sparse habits and had very few possessions.
Swamiji’s prodigious learning and deep devotion to the tenets of Indian philosophy and culture have reflected themselves in all his works, which are practical guides for inner personal experience and to raise oneself to a higher level of being. His invariable advice to all seekers was ‘PRACTISE, PRACTISE, PRACTISE’. Swamiji’s pathless path is beautiful, inspiring, encouraging with the most original stories and imaginative divine recipes to prepare us for the Absolute Truth. His writings reveal a gift through which he used to express complex spiritual ideas in ways accessible to even a layman. Sprinkled with interesting anecdotes Swamiji’s writings strengthened one's faith in God. Swamiji was considered as the supermarket of unalloyed happiness.
WRITINGS AND INFUENCES
Swamiji was an Advaitin of the highest order. He was a Srotriya (One who had mastered all the Vedic scriptures and understood the true purport) and Brahmanishta (One who was always established in Brahman, the Ultimate Reality). He was a scholar par excellence in Vedic scriptures, Mantra Sastra and Puranas. His deep knowledge and lucid exposition of scriptures like Srimad Bhagavatham, Ashtavakra Gita and many other scriptures made him a popular guide to spiritual aspirants. From 1998 to 2014, Swamiji wrote 33 books on various spiritual topics. Several of these books (originally written in English) were translated into various Indian languages. Swamiji was proficient in Sanskrit, English, Hindi, Bengali as well as South Indian languages. He came down to the level of a spiritual seeker in order to explain profound truths in a simple manner.
CALL FROM RAMANA
In August 1995 when Swamiji was locked up inside a house of silence (Moun Mandir), at Nadiad in Gujarat one day he heard the Divine Mother’s voice in his meditation commanding him to go to Ramanasramam and for his Sadhana and remain there for ten months. The Asramam permitted Swamiji to stay for one full year. Following this Swamiji stayed in Ramanasramam in Mouna for a year (July 2003 - June 2004) at the behest of Bhagavan Ramana in his meditation. Thereafter every year he started visiting the Asramam and staying there for few months at a time. Swamiji used to say that the culmination of his Sadhanas took place at Sri Ramanasramam by the Grace of Bhagavan Ramana, the master of all masters (Guroonam Guru).
Swamiji was uncompromising in his stand on absolute surrender and total devotion to the Lord. At the same time he was very liberal in his approach to the devotees. Eternal happiness that flowed from Swamiji’s presence magnetically pulled many from all over. Doors to his room were always open with a perennial Satsang flowing like the Holy Ganges. A stranger could walk in freely any time and have his darsan. Some were serious seekers with profound questions. Some had spiritual doubts. Some came to unburden themselves, seeking a solution to their worldly problems. He was a compassionate Sadhu who could relate to both earthly and ethereal subjects with elan. Everyone received his love and blessings in equal measure. Prasad kept by his bedside was inexhaustible. No one returned empty handed.
He had a knack for cracking jokes with subtle messages; his unique sense of humour distinguished his grand persona. He had a story to narrate for every situation. He was forever cheerful. He would often distance himself from his body, humorously referring to it as his neighbour. A joyous atmosphere pervaded his room. From his presence all came away with a profound impact on their minds, uplifted hearts and with a smile on their lips.
From the year 2009, Swamiji’s health started deteriorating. Inspite of his poor health he continued to pour his spiritual grace to all those who approached him. From September 2013 to August 2014 Swamiji stayed at Sri Ramanasramam and during this period he had to get hospitalised several times due to various health problems. His love for Bhagavan Ramana was very deep. Towards the end of September 2014 when he was in a critical condition in an ICU in a Pondicherry hospital he visited Bhagavan Ramana’s shrine one last time.
On 14th October 2014, Swamiji left his mortal shell and attained Maha Samadhi. He was absorbed into Arunachala Siva – the ever loving Eternal Reality. In that form he continues to act as a divine beacon to every sincere seeker.
All books and articles written by Swami Shantananda Puri Maharaj are available for free download on the website www.swamishantanandapurimaharaj.org