Written by Siddhartha Krishna
My father, Shri Prabhuji, was born to a saint and scholar in the Nimbarka (Shukadeva) Sumpradaya tradition. Under the directive of Dr. S. Radhakrishnan, he joined the Benares Hindu University, where he completed his doctoral thesis, entitled Māyāvāda in Advaita Vedānta.
After Prabhuji met the saint Vinoba Bhave, he began working for Vinoba's cause: distributing land to the poor. He also traveled extensively throughout Asia and Europe, teaching yoga and giving discourses on the essence of the Vedas and Mahatma Gandhi’s message of nonviolence (ahimsā).
Shri Prabhuji's book Karma Yoga: The Art of Working and speeches are available for order here.
My mother, Usha Devi, came to yoga after reading about Anandamayi Ma and Paramahamsa Yogananda in her late teens. Their stories inspired her to travel overland from Switzerland to India in her twenties, where she met my father.
After we moved permanently from Switzerland and settled in Rishikesh, she became a student of the legendary BKS Iyengar.
Currently, she teaches Iyengar yoga at Patanjala Yoga Kendra.
Following my father's directions, my mother began teaching me the Bhagavad-gītā when I was four years old. My mother and I sat in padmāsana every day and learned one śloka by heart. To memorize all seven hundred ślokas took me two years. Very often, my father used to wake me up at 2 a.m. to recite the Gītā.
I would recite the Gītā in front of big audiences. I remember reciting the second chapter of the Gītā to an audience of around four hundred people at an ashram in the Himalayas, as well as in various temples, homes, and colleges.
Often, my father used to take me to meet great yogis, saints, and spiritual teachers who were in Rishikesh. Sometimes, these great saints and yogis would give me many gifts after hearing my recitation. Eventually, I also memorized Sage Pānini’s Ashtādhyāyī, the first eight Upanishads, and the Yoga Sūtras.
Paramahamsa Omkarananda Saraswati is my Sad-Guru (spiritual master). I'm deeply indebted to him for facilitating my spiritual journey in every possible way. Mahamandaleshwar Swami Vidyananda Giri was my spiritual mentor for almost twenty years. I was blessed to sit at his feet and study the scriptures in a traditional way. Swami Hamsananda Saraswati helped me in understanding the practical message of yoga and Vedanta by being an ideal himself. Swami Veda Bharati guided me on my path of meditation. Even though I have met Swami Ramananda Saraswati only a few times, I have benefited tremendously from his recorded classes on various scriptures on Vedānta, yoga and Tantra.
I am eternally grateful for and indebted to each of my teachers.
At the age of eight, I started studying at Kailas Ashram Brahma-Vidya Peetha. The hundred or so students who also studied there were monks between the ages of twenty-five and seventy-five. In fact, I was the youngest student to ever have studied at the Kailas ashram. I was primarily taught Advaita Vedānta in the tradition of Śankarācārya.
Other subjects included Sanskrit grammar, Indian logic, and Advaita Vedānta, Yoga philosophy etc. The Yoga Sūtras was taught as a practical supplement to the philosophy of Advaita Vedānta.
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