Swami Pranavanand

Sometime in the year 1912 AD a pious Bengali couple named Bankim Babu and his wife Ashadevi, then childless after seventeen years of marriage, undertook a pilgrimage to the holy shrine of Kedarnath for the fulfillment of their desire for a child through the grace of Lord Shiv. Calamity struck the couple halfway down the return trail. Bankim Babu was seized by a bout of severe intestinal distress and soon collapsed. As Ashadevi sat there wailing with her husband’s head in her lap, a monk mysteriously appeared.  It is known from the written testimony of the Gurus of the parampara that this was none other than Bhagwan Lakulish himself, though of course this couple was not to know this till many years after.


He appeared in the form of a young man, clothed only in a loin cloth. He wore wooden sandals on his feet and carried a kamandal (water pot) in his hand.  His hair was matted and his body was smeared with ash. A rosary of rudraksh beads adorned his neck. He emanated a subtle brilliance.


Learning from Ashadevi the cause of her distress, he poured water from his kamandal into the palm of his hand and sprinkled it on the prone Bankim Babu. Shortly, the latter opened his eyes and, fully revived and restored, rose to his feet. Promising the couple that he would some day met them again in Calcutta, the monk departed and soon disappeared from view. The couple completed their return journey home without further incident.


Three months later the Mahatma appeared at the door of Bankim Babu’s home in Calcutta. He stayed only a day. In the course of the short stay he revealed certain mysteries concerning himself. When, at his command, given a ceremonial bath by the couple in the evening, his body dissolved in the bath water only to be found again seated in meditation in the room provided for him. He laid to rest their anxieties concerning the birth of a child and promised them such a birth exactly an year later. He also discussed with them the matter of their spiritual initiation and gave mantra diksha to both, while however promising Bankim Babu that he would be initiated into yoga when mantra recitation had sufficiently purified his body. That same night, while the couple slept, he departed from the place.


In the months following, Bankim Babu spent all his time in mantra recitation and also made arrangements for the settlement of all his worldly affairs and making provision for Ashadevi. One night, without informing anyone, he left home and never returned. His daughter, in due course named Kamlesh, was born in his absence and that child and her mother were to see Bankim Babu again only seventeen years later under very different circumstances.


1913. After leaving home Bankim Babu took sannyas diksha from Swami Prakashanandji of the Udasin sampradaya and was given the name Pranavanand. He spent the year following this event in visiting all the major pilgrimage places of India. One day at Hardwar he was sitting on a platform near the Shiv temple on the banks of the Ganges when Lord Lakulish appeared and revealed that he had come to give him yoga diksha. He took him inside the temple and gave him initiation there and instructed him to take up secluded sadhana. The purpose of his visit being over, he disappeared. 


Swami Pranavanand spent the following seventeen years in secluded sadhana in a hut in a forest near Rishikesh. His ayukarma coming to an end, he died at midnight on Yogini Ekadashi in the year 1986 of the Vikram Era, corresponding to June 1930. It was later revealed by Lord Lakulish (Rishikesh, 1949) to a future kulguru, Swami Kripalvanand, that Swami Pranavanand’s soul entered a new embryo on the same day that he gave up his body. He also said, “He has not yet taken to yoga but he will do so at the appropriate moment and will receive appropriate guidance. I have already arranged for that. He was and will remain my disciple”.


Swami Pranavanand had attained annashanvritty, a state where a yogi conquers hunger and thirst and all the vexations of duality. It was thus a highly purified body that he left behind.


1930. The moment Swami Pranavanand’s soul left his body, Bhagwan entered it simultaneously, so that there was no lapse of time between the one event and the other. Bhagwan remained in occupation of this body for a period of twenty months for fulfilling the purpose of his Divine play.


After assuming the form of Swami Pranavanand, Bhagwan retreated to the solitude of the interior Himalayas and there passed twelve days in uninterrupted sadhana to purge the body of any remaining impurity. From there he went to Hardwar and thence to Bombay. There he took under his wing a young boy from Gujarat named Saraswatichandra whom the Lord had chosen as the third kulguru in his parampara and through whom the purpose of his lila would be carried one step further.


The purpose was complex, profound and multi-faceted. It included the   worldwide propagation of the moral and ethical values and principles of sanatan dharma and the ancient science and knowledge and practice of yoga. The Lord had appeared to lay the foundations for that purpose and to create the conditions for the perfection of Swami Pranavanand’s yoga in his succeeding life so that this century would see a perfected yogi in his parampara and Swami Pranavanand’s destiny would be fulfilled.


Bhagwan was to later reveal (Rishikesh, 1949) to the next kulguru in the parampara: “I have a great resolve that cannot be realized in just a few years. The lineage of my disciples, beginning with Pranavanand, will have to advance this mission little by little over a period of many years. In this lineage certain selected souls will take birth turn by turn and enhance the mission further. They will be required to develop high spiritual powers in order to carry out this mission. In this manner not only will the mission be fulfilled, but those disciples will accomplish their own spiritual development as well”. Bhagwan revealed that four such souls have been chosen. It could not have been otherwise, for in each one of all his incarnations, there have been only four specially chosen ones.


1931.   This task was now advanced a step further when Bhagwan came from Rishikesh via Hardwar to Bombay to there find and initiate the third kulguru  of his parampara. On the day of this event, he found in a temple in Bombay a confused and disillusioned young boy from Gujarat named Saraswatichandra whom he would now by his grace elevate to the status of the greatest Yogacharya of his time and the next kulguru of the lineage. (For more, read Swami Kripalvanand).