A compact Biography of Shri Vasudevanand Saraswati Tembe Swami Maharaj

Seekers of Truth

The sincere seekers of Truth were of course much smaller in number. In the long run, all followers of Shri Swami Maharaj eventually graduated to the aspirant stage. However, this evolution can extend over more than a single lifetime. Those who came to Shri Maharaj primarily in search of God, were indeed blessed! For, what better goal can one set for oneself than the realization of Self, which is the very essence of existence. And they could not have hoped for a Master more perfect than Shri Maharaj! Well versed in the theory and the practice of the various disciplines of Indian spiritualism, he could appraise the seekers accurately as to their spiritual constitution, stage of development and inclinations and accordingly assign the appropriate path and guide them on it. Being an accomplished Master, he continuously protected them on their path and augmented their progress with his own formidable powers

Sanyasi disciples

Shri Swami Maharaj was very discriminating and conservative when it came to initiating disciples into the ascetic order of Sanyasi. He thus initiated only one of his disciples, Shri Narsimh Saraswati (Dixit) Swami Maharaj, that too after a rigorous test of his devotion. However, several of his disciples entered the order after his Mahasamadhi. Chief amongst them are Shri Yoganand Saraswati, (formerly Shri Ganda Maharaj) and Shri Shirolkar Shastri who ascended to the seats of Shankaracharya of Karvir and Sankeshwar monasteries. Besides these, Brahmananda Saraswati of Nellore was a devotee of Swami Maharaj. The Sanyasis of the various orders established by Shri Adi Shankaracharya pursue the Dnyan Yoga or the path of knowledge. The emphasis in this path is on enquiry of the Self. Only the seeker who is completely detached from sensual pleasures, quietened the turbulence of desires, acquired a control over his sense organs (Indriyas), is unreservedly devoted to his Master whom he serves and obeys implicitly and has intensely burning aspiration to realize the Self, is eligible to join this path. The Master imparts the knowledge to him through the Mahavakyas and after listening (Shravan), he contemplates (Manan) and finally meditates continually (Nididhyasan) on these till he is established fully in the Truth.

The eight-fold yoga of Patanjali

We have already seen endeavours of Shri Maharaj in this field. He has initiated many disciples into the elementary practices of purification (Shuddhi kriyas) and guided them through the advanced Asanas (positions), Pranayam (control of life force), mudras like Khechari and deeper and deeper stages of meditation (Dhyan) to Nirvikalp Samadhi, the final goal of Yoga. Some of the prominent disciples who in turn themselves became Yogic Masters include, Shri Ganda Maharaj (Shri Yoganand Saraswati), Shri Sitaram Maharaj Tembe (younger brother of Sri Maharaj), Shri Yogiraj Gulavani Maharaj, Shri Rang Avadhut Swami Maharaj (all Naishthic Brahmacharis or avowed celibates), Shri Balasaheb Vaidya, Shri Narahari Diwan of Vathar (near Kolhapur), also known as Datta Maharaj of Ashta, Shri Govind Pundit of Bhelasa (MP).three sources.

Karma Yoga

Literally translated as the path of action, this means aligning one’s life to the dictates of the Scriptures so that no new Karma (Kriyman) is generated; the Karma of the present life (Prarabdh) has to be suffered unstintingly without protest or resistance; and the accumulated balance is to be dissipated through selfless service to God manifest in the world as all living beings. The actions are classified as those ordained by Scriptures, those forbidden (Nishiddh) and those that are motivated by desires though permitted. The last two categories have to be eschewed. This is followed by gradual purification of mind that then becomes capable of realizing Self. Karma Yoga is thus not a direct means of Liberation but is an essential prerequisite for it. Obviously, a thorough knowledge of Scriptures and strict discipline are the mainstays of Karma yoga. A populist interpretation of Karma Yoga tends to validate all secular activity as Liberating, without closely examining the motivation. Thus for example doctors, lawyers and other professionals, even politicians claim to be Karma Yogis, when in fact, however perfect and dedicated their actions, these are motivated by Artha (money, wealth), Kaam (desires, sex etc.) and Lokaishana (urge to gain public adulation).
Shri Swami Maharaj expected his followers to strictly follow the religious disciplines prescribed by the scriptures in accordance with the Varna and Ashram of the individual. He considered the Vedas (Shrutis) and Smrutis to be the Divine commandments. He expected Brahmins to be particularly strict in this respect, being the highest in the Varna hierarchy. They needed to be exemplary in their religious conduct as the other Varnas would naturally look up to them and follow their lead. That is why he did not grant audience to a Brahmin sporting hair at the expense of Shikha. He insisted the Brahmins to perform the five-fold sacrifices (Panch Mahayadnyas). He accepted food offered by such a Brahmin only. He was instrumental in bringing back to religious path many Brahmin families gone astray. In fact, he brought about a great revival of Vedic religion in India.

Shri Keshavrao

One vaccinator named Shri Keshavrao of Sarangpur provides an illustrative case. During the first year of taking ochre robes, Shri Maharaj spent a few days in Sarangpur on way to Brahmavart. Keshavrao, at the instance of his mother, came to Shri Maharaj to invite him for Bhiksha (food). Noting that Keshavrao did not display any marks of Brahminhood, Shri Maharaj declined the invitation. Keshavrao explained that he was a Karhade Brahmin from Pune and though not regularly practicing any Brahmakarma, he assured that he would see that some Brahmin completed the rituals the next day. This only further upset Shri Maharaj who asserted that he would shun his very sight leave alone accept his food. As Keshavrao left, the onlookers told Shri Maharaj that Keshavrao was an evil person and wouldn’t return. However Shri Maharaj only said, “wait and see! Keshavrao has to return”. Stung by the harsh censure from Shri Swami Maharaj, Keshavrao reached home and narrated the happening. His mother, rather than sympathising, scolded him further and considered the refusal of Shri Maharaj to partake their food a blot on their Brahminhood. This caused Keshavrao to repent and return to Shri Maharaj with folded hands. Prostrating before Shri Maharaj, he begged forgiveness for his conduct and beseeched him to accept their food, promising to obey Shri Maharaj in future and to observe the daily religious services. His mother followed him and entreated Shri Maharaj to train her son in Brahmakarma. Shri Maharaj relented and undertook to teach Keshavrao and after he learnt and began religiously practicing the duties of a Brahmin, partook food at Keshavrao’s place.

Vedas and Scriptures

He taught Vedas and Scriptures to all sincere seekers and left behind a plethora of literature for the posterity. This has been described in more detail separately. Once two Vedic Brahmins at Pathri, expressed their desire to study Aranyakas, Shri Swami Maharaj spent 17 days with them and imparted the scriptures to them. Shri Ram Shastri Prakashkar of Shinor (Gujarat) was a disciple of him who was trained by Shri Maharaj in the eight styles (Vikruti) of Vedic incantation. A learned scholar Shri Jogalekar shed his pride of expertise in sacrificial altars (kundas) after being corrected by Shri Maharaj with citations from scriptures.


Shri Maharaj propagated the path of devotion and Love on the largest scale. In this path, the seeker establishes an emotional relationship with the Lord and progressively focuses his mind on to the Divine. The relationship can be any, e.g., Father, Mother, Son, Brother, Master, Lover, Husband, etc. As the seeker advances, this relationship grows in intensity and obscures all other relationships. Finally, the whole world becomes unreal and the seeker’s mind gets immersed in the Divine and finally merged into it. This path can be followed by all human beings and has the maximum latitude in terms of conduct. What matters is the intensity of Love for the Divine and unconditional surrender to the Divine will. Actually, in most cases, the path of Bhakti starts as supplication to the Divine for some desire or longing (Sakaam Bhakti), Thus, the above-described instances of relief from distress or fulfilment of desire are actually examples of Sakaam Bhakti. This will intensify the faith of the seeker propelling him on to the Path of Devotion sans desire (Nishkaam Bhakti). As mentioned earlier, this path is open to all, men and women, irrespective of caste, creed, religion, race, education or the lack of it. In Puranas, there are examples of even non-human Bhaktas. A few examples will suffice to illustrate the point.
Jagala: -
When in Shinor, Shri Swami Maharaj was stopped by a fisherman, named Jagala, who had run away from home immediately after his marriage was arranged. He was staying in Shinor for two years. He was totally indifferent to physical discomforts and harsh climatic variations. Shri Maharaj just looked at him once and said, “So you are staying here? Come to Markandeya temple at nightfall” and proceeded with his routine. He then called the devotees in Shinor and told them that from that night, he will give discourses on Gita. At the nightfall, the people gathered for the discourse. Jagala too came and sat in a corner. The nightly discourses continued and Jagala attended those regularly. After the penultimate chapter (Ch.17) of Gita, he said that he did not want to listen any more and return. Jagala died two months later.

Saraswati Bai: -
A prostitute named Saraswati Bai repented and came to stay in Narsobawadi. She used to sing Karunatripadi before the Padukas on instructions of Shri Dixit Swami Maharaj. Once she sang the prayer before Shri Maharaj. Pleased by her sincerity and devotion, Shri Maharaj composed a hymn in praise of Shri Guru (Gurustotra) for her and imparted some training in meditation. The lady spent the rest of her life pursuing the path of devotion and leading a pious life.