Shri Brahmananda Sarasvati was born into a Brahmin family as Ramamurti S. Mishra, in the North Indian state of Uttar Pradesh. His mother was a spiritual teacher with many disciples. His father was a high court judge and master of astrology and astronomy. Sanskrit was spoken in their home and from early childhood Shri Brahmananda was immersed in meditation, yoga and Sanskrit.
At age six, Ramamurti Mishra contracted a very serious illness and died. No vital signs or respiration were detected for thirty-six hours, so his family prepared to cremate him. As is customary, his father walked around the funeral pyre with a lit torch chanting holy mantras. He was about to light the pyre when the little boy sat upright. Frightened, the other people assembled ran away, thinking that a ghost had appeared. But the father moved closer and asked, “Who are you?” His son replied, “Father, it’s me.” Shri Brahmananda always considered this date, March 6th, to be his real birthday.
At an early age Shri Brahmananda saw his life’s plan and began preparations. He left home to pursue studies in Sanskrit and medicine and completed his first medical degrees in Ayurveda and Western medicine at Banares Hindu University. In 1955, Dr. Mishra left India to continue his medical studies and practice in the West, specializing in ophthalmology, endocrinology, psychiatry, and neurosurgery. He served as a resident in neurosurgery at Bellevue Hospital in New York City.
In 1964 Dr. Mishra founded Ananda Ashram, which became a very happening place during the sixties and seventies. Gurus arrived from India and controversial American spiritual figures like Timothy Leary and Richard Alpert (Ram Dass) frequented as well. Ananda Ashram, one hour and fifteen minutes outside of New York City, continues to function as a year round country retreat for spiritual practice.
Dr. Mishra resigned from his medical career in 1966 to devote himself fully to helping sincere seekers remove the cause of suffering. He was convinced that the cause of suffering was not within the realm of medical science because it is lodged neither in the body nor the mind, but in ignorance of the true Self. Suffering would be eliminated by the discovery of one’s spiritual identity, by answering the question: Who am I?
Shri Brahmananda was enthusiastically devoted to uncovering the mysteries of the mind. He encouraged the investigation of science, art, philosophy and metaphysics. He loved and supported all forms of sacred art. Shri Brahamananda left his physical body on midnight September 19, 1993, and became like the blue sky, present everywhere. His disciples, with tireless dedication and creativity, continue to teach Sanskrit, yoga, dance, music, painting, and Vedic practices all as a means to discovering the I-AM. The discovery of the I-Am is the discovery of one’s own identity as that Self which is eternal, beyond the transitory limitations of body and mind. There is only One eternal ever-present Self.
Once a student asked Shri Brahmananda, “How many enlightened beings are there?’ Guruji replied zestfully, “One! Only One!” “And how many gurus are there?” Again he replied, “One! Only One! The Self is One. Guru is your own Self.”
Then Shri Brahmananda told the following story:
Once a group of disciples asked a guru, “Sir, are you enlightened?” The guru replied, “I doubt it.” The disciples then asked, “Were Buddha, Moses or Christ enlightened?” The guru gave the same reply, “I doubt it.” “Was anybody enlightened in the past?” “I doubt it.” “Is anybody enlightened in the present?” “I doubt it.” “Will anybody be enlightened in the future?” “I doubt it.” Frustrated, finally the disciples asked the guru, “Who is enlightened?” The guru replied, “I-Am.”