Shri Brahmananda Sarasvati

Shri Brahmananda Sarasvati Udasina was one of the world’s foremost teachers on Yoga, Sanskrit and Vedanta. As a yogi, spiritual guide, physician, Sanskrit scholar, philosopher, and author, he touched many with his unfathomable love and compassion.

The man who became Shri Brahmananda Sarasvati was born Rammurti Shriram Mishra in Ratnapur, near India’s holy city of Banaras. He came from a Brahmin family, steeped in the tradition of Yoga. His mother, a Sanskrit scholar and spiritual teacher with many disciples, was his first major influence. His father, a justice in the supreme court, was a learned man with a knowledge of astrology. Together, they instilled in their young child an awareness of the higher self within.

Sanskrit Scholar and Meditator:

When he was six years old, he became very ill and was at first thought to have died. During this time, he experienced a spiritual awakening, which gave him an abiding interest in the relationship of the body, mind and spirit. Meditation became part of his daily practice; it continued to be so throughout his life.

As a youth, he was directed to learn Sanskrit as a discipline, to help curb his rebellious nature, so he said. He went on to earn a Master of Oriental Languages degree, majoring in Sanskrit at Banaras Hindu University. Two influential teachers were Dr. S. S. Radhakrishnan, a Sanskrit scholar who went on to become president of India, and Madan Mohan Malavia, founder of the university. Other teachers that impacted him were Paramhansa Paribrajkacharyya Sri Sri Sankar Pushottam Tirtha Swamiji, Baba Savan Singh, and Baba Somanath. A master of the Sanskrit language, his lifework can be considered a comprehensive and modern synthesis of these ancient teachings.

Medical Practitioner:

Rejecting his family’s plans for him to become a lawyer, he instead went on to study medicine. During these studies, he maintained the contemplative life he had begun as a young child. After meeting his sadguru, Baba Bhagavandas Bodhisattva, a world enlightened one, he experienced a deeper spiritual enlightenment. The thrust of his work from then on was to help others feel the ecstasy of Self-realization for themselves.

Abandoning a flourishing and lucrative medical practice as Chief of Service in Internal Medicine and Surgery at Podar Medical College and Hospital, he set out, first to England, then to the United States, Guyana and Canada. His thirst for knowledge took him into advanced degrees in medicine, neurosurgery, endocrinology, ophthalmology, psychiatry, ayurveda, allopathy, and acupuncture. This included residencies or staff positions at McGill’s Neurological Institute and Queen Mary Veterans Hospital, both in Montreal, Q.C., Canada; Bird S. Coler Memorial Hospital, New York University Post Graduate Medical College, Bellevue Hospital Center, and Metropolitan Hospital Center, all in New York City, N.Y.; and Rhode Island Hospital, Providence, R.I.

World Traveler:

In 1967, he relinquished his commitment to the medical model of healing and devoted himself totally to promoting holistic wellness and Self-enlightenment in the classical tradition. To promote unconditional love and peace through mutual understanding, he travelled around the world five times. He influenced the growth of many meditation centers during his travels in the United States, Canada, England, France, Germany, Italy, Guyana, South America, South Africa, and throughout the world.

Ecumenical Proponent:

The ashrams and societies he founded became ecumenical centers for spiritual research and cultural exchange. Followers of all religious persuasions — Christian, Jewish, Hindu, Buddhist, Jain, Sufi, Sikh, or Taoist — experienced a sense of unity and peace through a deeper understanding of their own faith. Representatives from many walks of life were invited to lecture and share their thoughts at these centers. His teachings brought together doctors, scientists, psychologists, philosophers, musicians and dancers for a diversified program of cultural events.

The young  R.S. Mishra, prior to meeting his sadguru Baba.
The young Doctorji poses for the Yoga Society in Ohio.
Doctorji teaches Hatha Yoga at one of the annual Convocations.
Chanting Sanskrit was taught as a spiritual practice.
Swamiji with two tools of his trade: his compass around his neck, and his helical stick in hand.
Swamiji was rarely without his helical stick.
When Swamiji cooked, the food was divine.
His face shone brighter than any clothing.
The power of his energy was a direct experience.
Nothing was able to dampen the ardor of his inner fire.

Lecturer & Teacher:

He became dedicated to the integration of Eastern and Western culture and philosophy.  Drawing from ancient and modern sciences, he presented the timeless message of meditation and Self-Awareness in contemporary form. During his travels and medical studies, he offered lectures and instruction in the philosophy and practice of Yoga and Vedanta wherever he went. Dedicated to the integration of Eastern and Western culture and philosophy, and drawing from ancient and modern sciences, he presented the timeless message of meditation and Self-Awareness in contemporary form.

Dr. Mishra also taught at what is now the California Institute of Integral Studies, in San Francisco, C.A., as well as the Psychological Studies Institute in Palo, Alto, C.A., while he was associate director there. He lectured at many universities, including Stanford,  California’s Davis Campus, New York University, Weber College, and Esalen. For many years he served as senior vice-president at the World Yoga University, in Hardwar, India. Frequently, he was invited to give presentations on educational television and radio in New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco.

Spiritual Founder & Director:

Dr. Mishra was founder and spiritual director of many centers, called I.C.S.A., International Centers for Self Awareness. They sprang up in Rochester and Syacuse, N.Y., as well as Dayton, O.H., to name a few. However, the major centers were in New York, N.Y., and San Francisco, C.A.

The Yoga Society of New York, incorporated in 1958, offered programs at several different locations, including apartments in Kips Bay and Astoria, as well as a Yoga Center on Fulton Street in Manhattan. It’s country retreat, Ananda Ashram, founded in 1964, became his primary meditation center. It provides programs and residencies for guests, and a yearly week-long Convocation. The International Schools of East-West Unity (Gurukula), founded in 1993, promotes the Schools of Meditation, Yoga and Vedanta, Sanskrit Studies, Comparative Religion, as well as the East-West Schools of Dance, Music, Drama and Visual Arts.

During his residency in California, the Yoga Society of San Francisco was incorporated in 1971. It offers programs and residencies for guests at Brahmananda Ashram.

Early students knew Rammurti Shriram Mishra, M.D., as Doctorji. Upon taking sannyasa in the late 1970’s, when he was given the title Shri Ramamurti, they called him Swamiji. Following his stroke and final enlightenment in the 1980’s, when he was given the title Shri Brahmananda Sarasvati (Udasina was added during his last summer), they called him Guruji.

Published Author:

A recognized authority on the science, philosophy and psychology of Yoga, Dr. Mishra wrote three classics: Fundamentals Of Yoga, The Textbook of Yoga Psychology (a commentary on the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali), and Self Analysis and Self Knowledge (a commentary on Shankaracharya’s Ātma Bodha). Renowned for his mastery of Sanskrit literature, his writings ranged from translations and commentaries on the Upanishads, Vedantic texts, and Sanskrit texts, to handbooks and essays on meditation and spiritual discovery, and folklore as well. Translations include the Yoga Sutras, Atma Bodha, the Upanishads, the Bhagavad Gita, and Upadesha Saram.

A dramatic story-teller, he wrote down many of the folk tales of India. When telling these stories, he would always tells us to listen close, as “This is your story,” and afterwards explain their spiritual and psychological meaning. With humor and simplicity, his works examined the nature of the human psyche. Much of his teaching exists in recorded form as well. A full list of his writings and recordings are available from the online bookstore of the Baba Bhagavandas Publication Trust. Used copies of his books can often be found online.

Healer & Guide:

His daily correspondence included letters from students all over the world. They would write for guidance, encouragement, or healing. Their letters of gratitude are moving testimonies to the impact Shri Brahmananda had on those who studied with him.
With his varied interests and studies, Shri Brahmananda was a unique blend of the East and West, the spiritual and scientific. His students and disciples were fortunate to meet such a vibrant and dynamic force. His given name, Rammurti, translates from Sanskrit as “vibration of God.” Although he experienced several heart attacks and a stroke in later years, nothing could dampen the fire of his spirit. Up until the final evening, he continued giving programs morning and evenings, seven days a week, all year long.

A Lifetime of Giving:

Although he experienced several heart attacks, developed congestive heart failure and had a stroke, nothing could dampen the fire of his spirit. Following the stroke in November 1983, he was partially paralyzed on the right side of his body. This made his speech difficult to understand, and he required an interpreter to speak for him. His energy was boundless. For most of his life, he required little more than two hours or so for sleep. In the early days, he would often stay awake for several days, then sleep for a day. Up until the final evening, he was giving programs morning and evenings, seven days a week, all year long.

Shri Brahmananda Sarasvati Udasina passed away from heart complications on September 19, 1993, in Monroe, New York. Following his mahasamadhi, his body lay in state for two days at Ananda Ashram. During this time, following tradition, his students gathered for chanting and meditation. Cremation occurred under the auspices of Flynn-Gannon Funeral Homes, as Guruji had requested. Memorial Services were held at Ananda Ashram, with dignitaries invited from around the world.

His ashes reside in the Memorial Shrine at Ananda Ashram, built in 2014 for quiet meditation. However, his presence is still available for those who seek it. He taught us, in very tangible measures, that the body does not give us life, but it is the Self who gives the body life, and that each of us abides in that Self.