Anantashri Swami Akhandanandji Saraswati was a great Saint of the twentieth century. He was an acknowledged authority on our ancient scriptures, famous for his easy style, simplifying the most difficult texts, and rendering them more appealing by giving examples, a delightful play of words, and interspersing his discourses with a subtle sense of humor that removed any scope for boredom. Although he was renowned for his discourses on the Shrimad Bhagwat Mahapurana, his grasp over any and every ancient text was such that learned exponents used to call him a walking library. In spite of being a true Vedanti, his renderings of the Bhakti Shastras showed a beautiful amalgamation of Bhakti and Gnan. Many of his talks were recorded and transcribed, and some 180 of them are available in print form.
‘Maharashri’, as he was popularly known, mentored innumerable people from all walks of life and all four Ashram – the Brahmachari, Grihastha, Vanaprastha and Sanyasi – including Shankaracharyas, scholars, and people from other countries and faiths.
Maharajshri’s grandfather had prayed for a grandson at the temple of Lord Shantanuvihari of Vraja. Exactly nine months later, Maharajshri was born, on Friday, 25th July, 1911, in the Pushya Nakshtra (Shravani amavasya v.s. 1968) in the village Marhai, near Varanasi. The Saryuparine Brahman family in which he took birth, named him Shantanuvihari, in acknowledgement of the Grace of the Lord his grandfather had prayed to.
The most renowned astrologers of the time stated that the shadow of an early end to Maharajshri’s mortal life was cast over his horoscope. They predicted that he would not live beyond the age of 19 years. A fear of death led Maharajshri towards his spiritual quest, and disinterest in worldly matters, during which he met many true Mahatmas. They averred that although they had no power to alter the ordained time of death, they could impart the knowledge that removes the fear of death. By the Grace of the Mahatmas, Maharajshri had a direct personal experience of the Brahman, driving away the black shadow of death. The direct personal experience of the no-dual Brahman that is the substratum of all that exists, manifests in the person who has this experience in seeing every being as his own Atma. Every person who met Maharajshri felt Maharajshri’s love pouring into him/her. Even today, decades after he left this world, those who had met him even once, recall how each felt that they were especially dear to him!
Maharashri had gone to meet Prabhudatta Brahmachariji, a well-known Saint from Jhusi, who was living at Allahabad (Prayag). That was the first time he met Shri Udiya Babaji Maharaj. He placed questions regarding Vedanta and had many conversations with Baba. Maharajshri was entranced by Baba’s identification with the Advaita (non-dual Brahman), and the extraordinary ecstasy of this Saint’s liberated life. Baba showered love and Grace on Maharajshri. It was his inspiration that impelled Maharajshri towards renunciation. He was initiated into Sanyas by His Holiness, Swami Brahmanandji Saraswati, Shankaracharya of Jyotish Math. Before being initiated into Sanyas, Maharajshri gave seven years of voluntary service to the famous Kalyana Pariwar, editing and writing many of the books printed by the Gita Press at Gorakhpur.
Maharahshri’s grandfather had arranged for Maharajshri to give a discourse on the Bhagwat when he was just ten years old! Since this first discourse, up to his last days on this earth, the Bhagwat remained Maharajshri’s constant companion. Inner rapture filled his daily discourses, which continued till he gave up his breath on November 17th, 1987 (Margashirsha Krishan Trayodashi), at about 2 a.m. At this Brahmavela, the individual merged into totality and became a pervasive force.
Even today, spiritual aspirants of all ages, in India and abroad, treasure his audio-visual CDs and books, preserved and published from the Anand Vrindavan Ashram (founded by Maharajshri’s devotees). A number of the books have been translated into English and other languages. Interested people can obtain them by ordering them from Maharajshri’s website.