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 potterâ€™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. Swamijiâ€™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 â€œWhat is wrong with
this child watching me? He is going to become a Sadhu anyway.â€?
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 thedeities. 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 masterâ€™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 Swamijiâ€™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
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
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
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
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
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