What You See Is What You Get. This is a journal blog, an explore-blog, a bit of this and that blog. Sharing where the mood takes me. Perhaps it will take you too.

Menoculayshunal; People Peeks 4

Now it's time to share with you some of the people wearing the ochre and saffron robes - the teachers. 

The Aachaarya for the fifteenth batch at Sandeepany was Swami Advayananda. The Upaachaarya was Br. Samvid Chaitanya (now Sw. Sharadananda). Also, we benefitted from multiple visiting swamis. These two teachers are now seniors at CIF and the new University.

In this first image, you see, in the orange robes, Sw. A. To his left is Br. S. In reading the term 'upaacharya' in English, it may be tempting to think this is more senior, but, actually, the upa part of the word means 'close to,' so he was second in charge after the aachaarya. If you've been reading regularly, you will recall he was our Sanskrit tutor. He also took the chanting in the morning and most of the evening satsangs. He is also a skilled purohit, organising and performing most of the major festival ceremonies. 

Aachaarya-ji took all the Vedanta classes - when we didn't have guest speakers - and had a wonderful ability to weave word pictures as illustrations of difficult concepts. Despite the size of our class, he was constantly aware of all the levels of understanding and would not move forward until he was satisfied that all had understood. No one was to be left behind in their academic process. The spiritual process was only ever up to each individual.

My initial studies into Advaita began in Sydney - so when my dear Br. Gopal (now Sw. Shrikarananda and on the right of this image) visited, I was thrilled. He was batchmates with Br. Samvid, so it was also joyous to see them together. Also, in Sydney, The swami in charge of Australasia and the UK at the time was Sw. Swaroopananda. It was he who invited me to undertake the course in India. He visited Sandeepany regularly, and it was during the time of our fifteenth batch, Guru-ji stepped back from full involvement and handed all the international operations of the mission to Swaroopananda-ji.

I had mentioned earlier that Sw. A had sometimes to take time out from teaching. Either due to responsibilities on behalf of CIF or to his own health challenges. When the breaks were short, we might have some of the retired sadhus visit and provide us with insights into their time as students or time spent with Gurudev, and that sort of thing. For longer periods, we had suitably senior and experienced teachers step in. One such was Sw. Ishwarananda, seen here on the left. He was the aachaarya of the student twelfth batch, which held none other than Brs. Gopal and Samvid. While Sw. A was gentle and mischievous yet still maintaining discipline, Sw. I was definitely more of a disciplinarian. He commanded different respect by setting an example in bearing and presentation that was definitely more ascetic than Advayananda-ji. Not better, just different. 

As different again was Sw. Nikhilananda, who is in charge of the Delhi region mission. Aachaarya-ji had to be absent for about two months during our Vivekachoodamani study. The gap was more than ably filled by Sw. N, who is one of the mission's best presenters on the Bhagavad Gita. (Indeed, his entire presentation from an earlier time can be listened to on this link...) He is a most erudite and entertaining speaker and uses examples for illustration that are very current and 'hip.' 

Swami-ji was also keen to act closely with students, getting to know them well and taking an interest in their individual expectations. Not that aachaarya-ji was less so, but whereas we had mainly to go to him, Nikhilananda-ji came to us. An active, interested and interesting man. 

It must be noted here that, despite the variances in the personal presentation of the text, the essential points and the message given was consistent and did not in any way cause confusion or create disorder.

One of the beauties of advaitic philosophy and practice is the recognition of women as equals intellectually. There are almost as many women teachers (Brahmacharini, if in yellow, Swamini, if in orange.) One of the senior swaminis is Vimalananda-ji. It is a delight to be in the company of this lady. She was the presenter for two of the smaller texts and also took guest discourses at different times. I had the great honour of personal time with Swi. V, who helped me through some of the more difficult times concerning the effects of meno and how it was hindering my memory - and the great worry I had that I was not up to the standard of the group. 

Bless her, she totally allayed all such fear - (though to be fair, so did aachaarya-ji.) Swamini-ji is also a shining example of the practice of yoga.

For one particular text, at the more advanced stage of learning, we transferred to the campus at Kolwan, Chinmaya Vibhooti (near Pune). Here, we were under the care of Sw. Advaitananda. This teacher also visited Sandeepany to cover another couple of the smaller texts. As he is life-brother to Guru-ji, there were clear similarities in his manner of presentation - but he had his own stamp also, and it was he who helped us at junctures where the spiritual uplift matched the intellectual gain. More on that in a later post. 

To complete this post, we must reach the head of mission, Guru-ji, Swami Tejomayananda. All of these teachers were themselves taught directly by Gurudev Sw. Chinmayananda,  but of them all, he passed the responsibility of his vision to our present Guru-ji. Holding this post meant a great deal of travel and administrative actions, but we were blessed to have the presence of Guru-ji for a couple of the texts and also occasional satsangs and for all the big celebrations. When he visited Sydney way back in my early explorations, I had the privilege of looking into his eyes and seeing the universe there. It became certain within me that this was my spiritual home. 

The lineage of teaching in the gurukula system is of importance. Also, where there are 'breakaways,' there needs to be an understanding of the branching. This all plays its part when seeking spiritual education and enlightenment. The teaching methodology is such that, if adhered to, it ensures that what is learned today is precisely the same as what might have been learned 800 years ago, or 8000. It is also a factor that one teaches as one is taught. All the different teachers we had over our time at Sandeepany, for all their individual ways, all spoke with mannerisms and references that they had adopted (intentionally or otherwise) from Gurudev. I can say this with authority, for we are also blessed with having many audio-video presentations made by Sw. Chinmayananda himself. His presence is through the entire mission, though he is no longer physically with us. Next week, an introduction to the Mahatma who sought to break down barriers.


  1. To have that moment of lift so long ago...

  2. Good to know that women as well as men are well represented as teachers. But I'm wondering about your statement that what is learned now is the same as 800 years ago. Has there been no evolution of the philosophy over time?
    Cheers, Gail.

    1. Hari OM
      Another good question! The answer is simple - the philosophy was so well founded that it has not required, indeed cannot be, further developed. All philosophies that have arisen since only mirror it or have been derived from one or more aspects - and indeed, modern psychology is no better at understanding human behaviour than what is provided within Vedanta. (I can say this confidently, due to having read and studied widely enough to make a comparison...) The sadhana (practice) of Vedanta at advanced levels requires all students of it to challenge it, work it... citizen science if you will. Those who can adhere to it well have themselves grown into great teachers. A little more on parampara in next week's post! Yxx

  3. YAM in all the posts about your teachers and learning while in India, I have learned one thing.
    Each person's photo is filled with peace and tranquility.
    Hugs Cecilia

  4. i have two favorite photos today, and I do love seeing the people in your archives. the first one of number 1 and his assistant if a favorite. also I love the robes on the left. 2nd is Swi. V, she is beautiful as is her robes and i too am happy to see women are teachers also.

  5. You wrote... Brahmacharini, if in yellow, Swamini, if in orange.

    I assume the 'ini' an indicator of gender? Are the colours different for men? And are there any female Swami?

    1. Hari OM
      To be Brahmacharin is to be novitiate. During that time one is Brahmachari (m) or Brahmacharini (f). The robes/sari worn are ochre (yellow).
      Once established, when deemed suitably advanced, one might take sannyasa (renunciation) and be initiated as "boss" or Swamin. If one is male, the honorific is Swami. If one is female, the honorific is Swamini. (In Hindi, further esteem is added to whoever one addresses, by adding "ji" also. This applies in all society - even within family.) The colour of the sannyasin is saffron (orange).

      Those of us who are Brahmacharin but have not taken deeksha, wear white.

      The white is for purification - a constant process. The yellow is worn for the rising sun - dawn of Realisation. The orange is worn for the setting sun - approaching or having attained Bliss.

      Pranaams, Yxx

  6. You have has some especially incredible teachers! I appreciate learning more about these people. I am impressed with their serenity and personalities. THanks for sharing!


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