Foundation of Excellence:

Lakshmanjoo

Lakshmanjoo Raina was born in Srinagar, Kashmir. By the time Lakshmanjoo’s eldest brother was eighteen, his mother had given birth to three daughters, and his parents wanted to have another boy. So they went to Swami Ram, their family Guru, and asked him for help. Ram blessed an almond and gave it to Lakshmanjoo’s mother to eat. Soon afterwards she became pregnant and in 1907 gave birth to a son. When Ram heard of the impending birth he got very excited and asked to be taken to their house right away. Ram had lost the use of his legs, but as the baby was being born, Ram started dancing around the room singing "Lakshmanjoo is coming, Lakshmanjoo is coming! I am Rama and he is Lakshmana." It was an auspicious beginning for the great saint Lakshmanjoo.

When he was six years old, Lakshmanjoo saw his older brother meditating. He was curious, and he asked his brother to teach him. His brother told him to sit and concentrate on the tip of his nose. As Lakshmanjoo tells the story in a taped conversation with Alice: "As I was a child and there were no scattering thoughts in my mind, I dived deep in nothingness, in voidness, after just five minutes, and fell down unconscious." After that time he began to faint quite often, and this naturally worried his parents. They didn’t know what to do, so they took him to Swami Ram, a great saint of the region. Swami Ram told Lakshmanjoo to sit in front of him. He sat and he fainted. Lakshmanjoo’s parents were afraid he had some disease, but Ram consoled them and told them it was no disease — that this disease he would welcome for himself, because Lakshmanjoo was slipping into Samadhi. Ram told them to put some fresh butter on Lakshmanjoo’s head and the faintness would be removed by and by.

When Lakshmanjoo was eight, his brother fell very sick. Lying on his deathbed, his brother said, "I am going to die. But I have seen everything where I have to go. There are gardens, there are flowers, there is fruit, there is everything. You come along with me." He loved Lakshmanjoo so much he wanted to take him with him. Lakshmanjoo said, "No, no, I am not going to go. I have to do so many things here yet. I have so much to do." His brother died, and fifteen days later Swami Ram died. Before he died Swami Ram had instructed his chief disciple to look after Lakshmanjoo.

Lakshmanjoo’s parents started making plans for him to marry when he was about thirteen. Lakshmanjoo said, "No, I am not going to marry. I am married to God," and he refused. But his parents persisted. One day a saint named Swami Nanakak came to his parents house and requested Lakshmanjoo’s horoscope. He then announced, "No, I think he will marry. He’ll marry." Lakshmanjoo was so upset he said, "Are you a saint or [marriage] broker? I don’t want to talk to you," and rushed away.

Later Nanakak came back to apologize, accompanied by Swami Mahatabkak. Lakshmanjoo described the first time he saw Mahatabkak: "A thrill passed in me as soon as I saw him." When Lakshmanjoo turned seventeen, it was time to begin his training with a master. His parents initially sent him to one of the disciples of Swami Ram, but Lakshmanjoo said, "I didn’t feel that excitement, which I need." So he was referred to Mahatabkak.

Lakshmanjoo described that first meeting with the man who would become his Guru: "I was so excited to be alone with my master. I thought he was something of my own, that I possessed him and he possessed me. There was some kind of spiritual oneness in both of us. And I smelled his glamour, that elevation. Then he began to teach me."

Mahatabkak taught Lakshmanjoo Shaivism and Yoga, and two years later he initiated him. By following his master’s instructions zealously, Lakshmanjoo got his first glimpse of God-consciousness in one month.

Lakshmanjoo wanted to find out the reality of what he had experienced, but this was difficult living at home. He had no money of his own, so he sold his gramophone and records and ran away to the forest, to a place he had heard of called Sadhuganga, for meditation. He left a note stuck to the teeth of a huge tiger skin on the floor of his room. The note read: "I have gone to seek the highest." His family caught up with him after a few days, but he agreed to return to Srinagar only when his master demanded it. Mahatabkak then allowed him to return to Sadhuganga for a period of time while his parents built him his own small house in a secluded corner of their property. They promised him that they would not urge him to marry. Lakshmanjoo was able to continue his studies and training undisturbed.

Lakshmanjoo represents the full tradition of the Yogic philosophy of Kashmir Shaivism, both in theory and practice. During his life Lakshmanjoo experienced all the transformative disciplines of the Shaivite tradition; he was a Jnani (realized sage). Not only was he the last living representative of the lineage of teachers of Kashmir Shaivism, he was the only remaining repository of its oral teachings. The knowledge of Kashmir Shaivism was traditionally passed only by oral communication or other unseen means, directly from master to disciple. Some material was written down starting around the eighth century, but the texts were often intentionally obscure in an effort to avoid misunderstanding and misuse. The texts dealt with Yogic experiences that are extremely individual and difficult to describe in words, and the practices involved are emotional. A living master, founded in the oral tradition, was needed for guidance.

Lakshmanjoo was a genuine scholar with profound knowledge of the ancient texts of Kashmir Shaivism and their commentaries. He could speak Sanskrit fluently, as well as English and Hindi. At age twenty-one, Lakshmanjoo published a translation of the Bhagavad Gita that included a commentary by Abhinavagupta, a great Yogic master who lived in the 9th century. Later he edited several important Sanskrit texts of the Kashmir Shaivite tradition, including the Spandakarika, Sri Kramanayadipika, and the Sivasotravali of Utpaladeva. He had a prodigious memory and could quote verse after verse from a wide range of sources.

Rama instructed Alice to go to Kashmir to finish her studies with Lakshmanjoo. She did so in 1974, and from that year until Lakshmanjoo’s death in 1992, Alice and a group of students visited Srinagar every summer.

Alice says: "One of the things I remember most fondly is his excitement whenever he talked to me about God. These conversations were a delight for him, and a lasting treasure for all of us."

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