The Great Master: Swami Pranavanandaji Maharaj

guru swami pravananda maharaj image

 

‘Saints are not produced, like accountants, every semester’ — Swami Sriyukterwar Giri 

Lord Krishna says in the Bhagavad Geeta that out of millions of souls hardly one strives to become a saint. Out of those few, who through intense sadhana, become saints, hardly one understands totally the mysteries of God. 

Swami Pranavanandaji Maharaj (pictured above), the great founder of Bharat Sevashram Sangha, is a unique spiritual saint who falls in the latter category—a fully illumined master.

His birth

Bishnucharan Das was a wealthy landowner in Bengal. He was a very pious man and a great devotee of Lord Shiva. His wife also was a superlative devotee of Lord Shiva. 

As so often happens in life, however, Bishnucharan was facing very trying times and all his material possessions and his very future were in jeopardy. Unfavorable circumstances generally force the devotee away from God but not so Bishnucharan Das. His trials had the opposite effect: he resolved to seek God with greater intensity. 

He took a very difficult vow: for one year he would spend the entire night every night in meditation and worship of Lord Shiva. Bishnucharan’s resolution was strong and despite the difficulty of his sadhana, he persevered. Coming towards the end of the year of his sadhana, Lord Shiva appeared in his meditation, and blessed him. The great Lord assured Bishnucharan that his misfortunes would soon be a thing of the past and that by His grace a divine son would be born to Bishnucharan and his wife, Sarada Devi. That same night of Bishnucharan’s vision, Sarada Devi had a very vivid dream where she saw the light coming from a nearby sacred Shiva shrine entering her womb. 

In the course of time, a wonderful child was born. He was beloved by all. However, as he entered childhood, a remarkable difference could be noted in him. Whereas other children of his age were attracted by play and toys, this uncommon boy used to crawl to the altar and sit in meditation on Lord Shiva. Everyone was amazed to see the yogic nature of this young child and loved him all the more. 

Sadhana (Penance)

As he approached his teen years, he was meditating more than twelve hours every day. At school, the teachers used to love this quiet, dignified and disciplined boy who had a distinct spiritual bent. 

Even at school, sometimes he would be lost in samadhi, and when he would come to worldly consciousness, school had long been dismissed and everyone had already left for home. He would then slowly walk home, his mind still immersed in bliss. 

At nights he would study in a small separate thatched building that his father had constructed for him. He studied using a kerosene lamp to illuminate his room. Yet many nights, the pattern was the same: as soon as he opened his books to study, his spiritual mind would forcibly enter the state of samadhi and his body would be locked in the yogic pose. He spent the entire night like this. One night, one of his older sisters, peeked through a hole in the thatched building and was amazed to see her little brother in deep meditation, his youthful form levitating several feet above his bed! 

Sometimes at nights, he would go to the nearby cremation grounds to meditate in its profound stillness. Holding a skull in his hand, he would reason with his mind this way: “O mind, this is the final state of the human body. Rich or poor, healthy or sick, powerful or not, the body must perish one day. Therefore o mind, seek that alone which is real. Seek only God.” Thinking this way he would plunge into greater spiritual ecstasy. 

Trishul Purnima

Even though he had plumbed uncommon spiritual depths, the attainment of that final irrevocable union with God, still seemed elusive. He took a desperate measure: it was Trishul Purnima or Powshi Purnima—the full moon night in the Hindu Month of Powsh (around January in the English calendar). He resolved that he would never sleep again until he attained the highest spiritual illumination! He was then only about 14 years old. 

His will power was developed to such an extent that he commanded his body to obey his every wish. It was painfully hard to stay awake for twenty-four hours a day month after month, year after year, but he persisted. About three years into this superhuman tapasya of going without sleep, he met his Guru, the Yogiraj Baba Gambhirnathji, a peerless master. Under the guidance of this incomparable saint, Binode’s (Swami Pranavanandaji’s pre-monastic name) sadhana grew in even greater intensity. It was six long years since he last slept. To the skeptic, this sounds impossible to go without sleep for so long, since the body would surely perish. However, a highly advanced spiritual being defies the physical laws. Ramakrishna Paramhansa went without sleep for many years and so did Ramgopal, the sleepless saint, mentioned in Paramhansa Yogananda’s “Autobiography Of A Yogi”. 

By the grace of Baba Gambhirnathji, Binode was a master of all the yogic siddhis. 

It was Maghi Purnima in the year 1916, when Binode entered into that final irrevocable union with God Shiva in the highest nirvikalpa samadhi

In 1917, he formed the Bharat Sevashram Sangha, a monastic organization dedicated to serving suffering humanity. 

Every year, during the period Trishul Purnima to Maghi Purnima, the spiritual power
of the great Guru is especially manifest and easily available to all sincere devotees.

This guest article, written by Swami Shiveshwarandaji Maharaj, originally appeared in print in the January 7, 2017 edition of The West Indian. It is reproduced here with permission.