- Publisher: Light of the Spirit Press
- Editor: Abbot George Burke (Swami Nirmalananda Giri)
- Edition: 2
- Available in: paperback and eBook
- ISBN: 978-1-7325266-7-9
- Published: May 6, 2019
The Life and Teachings of Sri Gajanana Maharaj of Nashik
Who was Gajanana Maharaj?
At the beginning of the twentieth century, a young crippled boy in North India met a spiritual teacher in the Nath tradition of the great teachers Matsyendranath and Gorakhnath, who imparted to him the precious knowledge of yoga meditation. The boy began to apply himself to this meditation practice and became a very unusual saint indeed.
Gajanan Murlidhar Gupte, later known as Gajanana Maharaj, led an unassuming life, to all appearances a normal unmarried man of contemporary society. Crediting his personal transformation to the practice of the Soham mantra, he freely shared this practice with a small number of disciples, whom he simply called his friends. Strictly avoiding the trap of gurudom, he insisted that his friends be self-reliant and not be dependent on him for their spiritual progress. Yet he was uniquely able to assist them in their inner development.
Gajanana Maharaj taught the ajapa-japa of the Soham mantra with the breath. In Light of Soham his teachings for success in Soham sadhana and spiritual life in general have been collected from the writings of himself and his disciples. An appendix by Abbot George Burke on the method of Soham Yoga gives detailed instruction on how to practice this method of meditation.
Here is what the author Abbot George Burke says of Gajanana Maharaj from the Foreward of Light of Soham:
Over half a century ago I was blessed and fortunate to discover Sanatana Dharma and Yoga. Two years later I discovered India as my spiritual home. I eagerly took in everything without discrimination and in the ensuing years began sifting through all I had embraced with increasing scrutiny and discrimination.
The capstone of this process was my completely accidental discovery of the contents of this book. Reading the life and teachings of Sri Gajanana Maharaj (Gajanana Murlidhar Gupte–not the famous sadhu of Maharashtra, also called Gajanana Maharaj) was a veritable revelation to me of what a true yogi and ideal master teacher should be, shorn of so much superstition, nonsense and charlatanry regarding gurus and disciples that prevail today in India and abroad–and at that time, in my own mind. There, too, I discovered the authentic Nath Yogi tradition of Soham Yoga. (See the book Soham Yoga: The Yoga of the Self for a complete explanation and exposition of Soham Yoga meditation practice.)
For over fifty years I had been reading books from India, many of which I had collected myself during my various pilgrimages to India. And during those pilgrimages I had met or seen and heard many renowned yogis and gurus–and some unknown great ones in obscure and unexpected places. Every one of them left a sacred impression in my mind and heart. Yet in reading about Sri Gajanana Maharaj I encountered a holy personality that eclipsed all others for me. I still revered the others, but in Maharaj I found the following unique features that awed me and altered my perspective on what yoga, yogis and gurus should be.
Here is a review by Dylan Grant, an early reader of Light of Soham:
★★★★★ When it comes to reading “spiritual books,” you are looking at an extremely oversaturated market, compounded by the fact that many of these books are either very obscurantist or superficial. But with Light of Soham, published by Light of the Spirit Monastery which has also published commentaries on scriptures and other works, you have a special exception.
This book cuts straight to the problem of life – our separation from the Godhead – and without dwelling too much on this immediately cuts to the solution: Meditation. Every good meditative technique comes from a guru who can demonstrate its efficacy with his own life, and that brings us to Sri Gajanana.
The crippled Sri Gajanana is unheard of in the west, as far as I know, and this makes his teachings all the more profound as you cannot go in with any expectations. He calls himself “The Broom” to his students because he says his job is to clear away the debris in the minds of his students that prevents them from realizing their oneness with God.
I was immediately charmed by the presentation of this simple spiritual teacher and his humble moniker. It is an excellent refresher from the Hindu Gurus who parade themselves as living gods and messiahs to their servile followers. There is none of this pomposity at all in Sri Gajanana, indeed his speech is always surprisingly plain, and this makes it so that there is nothing to obstruct the light of his teaching from penetrating into the mind of his students.
The best part of the book is the section where he answers the complex philosophical, theological, and metaphysical questions of his students. Each answer is like a knife cutting through so many Gordian knots.
The third and final section of the book is about as excellent a “How-to” Manual on meditation as you will find anywhere. It is a perfect way to end the book.
It took me a very long time to finish this short 150-page book because I found it kept inspiring me to put it down and start meditating. Every “spiritual” book should do this. A wise man once told me that the only purpose of a spiritual book is to inspire you to meditate and to remind you of the necessity of inner experience when it comes to the divine. If that is true, this book is first-class.
About the Editor
Swami Nirmalananda Giri (Abbot George Burke) is the founder and director of Atma Jyoti Ashram (Light of the Spirit Monastery) in Cedar Crest, New Mexico, USA. He is the author of numerous books on meditation and practical spiritual life. He writes at OCOY.org.