Swami Avdheshanand Giri
Sri Avdheshanand Giri Maharaj, Acharya Mahamandaleshwar of the Juna Akhara, is a guru to thousands and an inspiration to millions. Swami Avdheshanand has initiated more than a hundred thousand sannyasins, transformed lives with his social activities, and leads the Juna Akhara into the 21st century.
Swamiji was born in a respectable brahmin family. As an infant, he had no interest in playing with toys or making friends. He used to be lost in the memories of the events of his previous births and quite often used to share these with his family members. He was ordained to be a saint in this life, as he put it.
At the tender age of two and a half years, he displayed an interest in becoming a wandering monk. One day, he hung a small sling bag on his shoulders and, accompanied by stray dogs and pups, he left for the onward journey. However, the family members and neighbors, after looking for him in every nook and corner, were relieved to find him near a bus stand waiting to board a bus that would take him far away. After bringing him back, his parents got worried about his flings. It was advised that if he is put on a potter’s wheel (Chak of Kumhar) and churned anti-clockwise with force, he would forget his past. So this method was tried on him so that he might behave like other ordinary village children. However, the fire in him for knowing the truth could not be extinguished with these rituals. Rather, as Swamiji mentions, eventually his remembrances of the events of his previous births became more impressionable at this juncture. Swamiji’s first encounter of witnessing the accomplishment of a Sage in the field of Yoga was when he was in ninth grade of High School. During the summer that year, he visited an Ashram to spend some time practicing spiritual studies and Yoga. At this Ashram in the middle of one night, he watched a Yogi who was levitating in the air almost one foot above the ground. When the authorities of the Ashram came to know that this young boy had seen the sadhna, the yogi was admonished. However, the Yogi retorted “What is wrong with this child watching me? He is going to become a Sadhu anyway.”
While he was in the College, he actively participated in the debates, composing and recitation of poems and Prayers. After the morning assembly, he would give the current news on topics of interest to the masses. He was fond of organizing and participating in the relief camps for mitigating the hardship of flood and famine victims, people suffering from contagious diseases and other physical ailments. He was then staying as a paying guest at the house of a local priest who used to perform on occasions the necessary rituals and puja in reverence to the Gods. When the Priest had a busy schedule, he authorized him to perform the worship and retain the dakshina given to him. From the money so received, he could to a great extent meet his expenses for education as he always wished to be independent. Once, the Principal of the local college approached the local priest to conduct a worship ceremony at his home. However, the priest had a very tight schedule and recommended the boy for the ceremony.
The young boy performed the worship with such exactness, knowledge and command over the spirit of the rituals that the principal was overjoyed and offered him Dakshina. This was his first Dakshina and from that day on, he was the most sought after priest for performing the worship of the deities. However, this was only his formal recognition as a priest and not an end to his quest for self-realization. So one day, he quit his worldly life and quietly left for the Himalayas in search of Gyana and Satya.
Meeting his Guru
Wandering for months over the lower ranges of Himalayas, he realized that he needed a God-realized guru to guide him. The young man found his Guru, Swami Avdhoot Prakash Maharaj who was both self-realized and an expert in Yoga, and versatile in knowledge about the Veda and other scriptures.
Under the master’s direct guidance, he studied the Vedas and scriptures and cultivated his knowledge of Sanskrit. Eventually he received his first formal initiation (Diksha) by observing complete celibacy (Brahmacharya). Soon after his initiation, his Guru left the mortal body, leaving the young disciple to carry on his devotion to yoga and meditation on his own. In 1985, after intense Sadhana, a great Yogi emerged from the caves of the Himalayas. He contacted Swami Satyamittranandji, founder of Bharat Mata Temple, and soon after, received initiation to enter a true monastic life. He entered Junapeeth Akhara, one of the seven Akharas. The new name given to him was Swami Avdheshanand Giri.
Until now he had been an inner explorer, free and detached from the external world. But after donning the ochre robes of a sannyasin, he learned how to make his life useful to others.
After spending some time teaching and getting involved in social work, he realized that he needed to become an instrument of social reform instead of remaining merely a medium of social help. This, he saw, had to be done through the transformation of individuals, based on the precepts and parameters laid down by the great Saints and Sages. This realization led the young Swami to become a preacher of the philosophy of Hindu religion. As the popularity of his oratory rose, so did his travel all over India and overseas. In a very short span of time, the whirlwind tours which Swamiji made earned him respect and love from seekers of truth all over the globe.
Visiting his Native Village
After an interval of over two decades of his departure from his native place, Swamiji was once addressing a congregation of aspirants in Northern India. One close relative of Swamiji who was attending the initiation ceremony spotted him. After Swamiji’s affirmation that he was indeed a child of the same family, the news of his elopement and turning into a great Sanyasi reached his village. Swamiji clearly mentioned that, being a wandering monk devoted to the monastic life as ordained by the wish of God, he had severed his past and family connections. Subject to this understanding, Swamiji agreed to a visit to his native village. When he reached his home, a large crowd with a big bandwagon accompanied him. There were high ranking government officers, ministers, and governors present. On meeting Swamiji, his father was startled to see that the little master had been truthful to his words and had mastered the art of self-realization, and had become instrumental in churning society into a new world order.
Swami Avdheshanand Giriji was recognized as a gifted speaker soon after he became a preacher of the ideology of Hindu religion. He was able to develop a rapport and an instant relationship with the devotees. A large number of people after listening to his lectures from the scriptures become his ardent disciples and devotees, seeking to get initiation from him. Swamiji has never discouraged anybody from following the path of self realization, though he maintains that it is a difficult path; but by practice and complete devotion one can achieve the goal. His lectures on various scriptures are given in India and abroad and are televised on many T.V. channels for humanity.
Acharya of the Juna Akhara
In 1998, the Juna Akhara, representing a clan of accredited saints, formally decided to make him the head acharya, or Mahamandalashewar. A formal ceremony with necessary rituals was held in which he was commemorated with the Pattabhishekam of Mahamandeleshwar. Some time after this ceremony he was chosen as the new acharya, a spiritual preceptor. This position is designated by the assigned saints after their own intense evaluation of the spiritual heights achieved by a saint engaged in the field of spirituality. No one can ask for it and no one from outside is appointed to such a distinguished position.
As an acharya, Swami Avdheshanand also became the preceptor for several sanyassins who had become part of the order and had decided to work closely with him The fellow sanyassins realized that it was the greatness of Acharya Sri that he had open heartedly accepted them into his team. They were grateful to him because after meeting him, their life was transformed. A number of sanyassins have been associated with him for over a decade. They feel whatever sankalpa they undertake for the welfare of the society and the people is fulfilled in no time, to their satisfaction.
The Acharya has assumed the mantle of a guru for the numerous devotees. No matter where he is in the world, his doors were always open to the devotees. Swamiji plans all his itineraries well in advance, with three to four flights a month, and on an average 20 days a month away from the Ashram. Everything is meticulously scheduled, even the time allocated between each meal. It is a demanding daily routine as strenuous, yet diversified, as of the Himalayan yogi of yesterday. According to Swamiji, it is the meditation which keeps him rejuvenated; which gives him energy, vitality, peace and bliss. There is nothing more powerful than meditation if one wants to realize one's goal. When you close your eyes and sit in a steady posture energy will rise and stir every cell of your body, mind and the system. Just close your eyes and start the meditation. Swamiji says that if there is anything difficult in the world, it is to start. Once you have taken off, you have nearly accomplished the task.
Swamiji has initiated about a million devotees and sanyassins during the last ten years or so. Swamiji will not say no to an aspirant who wants to engage himself in search of truth. As an Acharya, he is the guiding spirit behind all the activities of Juna Akhada and the Hindu Acharya Sabha. Harihar Ashram in Kankhal (Hardwar) is the main Ashram and seat of Acharya. In order to inculcate amongst his devotee followers the habit of service, self study and attending to religious congregations are also necessary for upliftment and self realization. Swamiji founded Prabhu Premi Sangh, a charitable body in 1991 which has about a million members as devotees. Prabhu Premi Sangh has its registered office and headquarters at Ambala Cantt. In this Ashram is conducted daily Hawan in the morning, satsang in the evening and an akhand naam sankirtan every day. It also has Akhand Jawala. The Ashram has also a pen for the herds of cows, the service of which is rendered by the devotees of the Ashram. Many hospitals, education centres & NGOs are serving the society under the divine guidance of Swamiji.
Religion & God
Swamiji has faith and respect for all religions. The universe is one family and God is one. Swamiji affirms and expresses his belief that there is only one God who controls the whole universe. All the creations in the universe are purely out of His will and wish. Further, all human beings are children of the same Almighty. We are just like waves in the ocean longing to merge with our source of origin, that is, God whose fraction we are. We take birth again and again to bear the fruits of Karma.
Swamiji has firm belief that all the religions of the world convey the same basic message of love, peace and brotherhood. However, the ways and means for achieving God may be different due to diverse climatic, cultural, ethnic, regional factors and compulsions; but the ultimate goal is that of God-realization. Swamiji keeps an interaction with the heads of all the religions throughout the world. He is strictly opposed to the confining of religious fervour and altruism to the precincts of any sect, area or region. The entire international community must be benefitted by a religion. Swamiji says that secularism means showing respect to all religions in words and deeds. He particularly mentions that removal of illiteracy, economic backwardness and inculcation of character-building measures endowed with the feeling of affinity for all the people and religions are necessary for the harmony and peace in the society.
Swamiji is also technology-savvy and uses it to reach out to his audience. His pravachans are regularly shown on TV on the Aastha, Sanskar, Shradha channels. They are also available online in several places
- The Prabhu Premi Sangh website has a good collection of introductory videos
- You Tube contains several video clips of Swamiji making comments, performing Aarti
- Google Video contains several video clips of Swamiji as well as his rendering of Devi Bhagwat in its entirety.
- Other websites have started streaming his pravachans as well.
He also makes himself available via both cell phone and email to his disciples and devotees.
- The Juna Akhara is the largest of the thirteen akharas consisting of over 500,000 sadhus and five million sanyassis
- Swami Avdheshanand Giri Maharaj, in response to questions about his early childhood posed by devotees during satsang
- Malik, Rajiv, "Swami Avdheshananda Giri, Hindu of the Year", Hinduism Today, Jan/Feb/March 2009
- Kesari, Somnath, "Shri Juna Akhada - Physical strength, spiritual power," Organiser, August 17, 2008