Pragyanand Maharaj ji : A Tribute


Narayan Naraayan Naraayan Naraayan!. To those who are regular with the daily satsang at the Art of Living International Ashram in Bangalore, it’s not just a chant of the name of the divine. It tells of a saint of unusual depth!

Sri Sri and Pragyanand Maharaj ji-5

Maharaj ji, as Gurudev called him was a very gracious being, clad in an orange robe, with a clean shaven head and white vibhuti on his forehead, with all his teeth intact and a big smile on his face! I simply loved Pragyanand Maharaj from the first time I saw him in Ashram with Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar ji. His commitment to knowledge was an inspiration for everybody.

Sri Sri and Pragyanand Maharaj ji-8

His devotion for the Lord showed in every word he spoke. I still remember, Sri Sri was in silence and Pragyanand Maharaj ji was talking in the Navratri Satsang to a crowd of about 10000+ people. Suddenly his voice started to break and tears started to roll down. I was wondering what happened, and then his intense devotion just caught on! I realized I also had tears in my eyes among so many others who felt the same!

It was very interesting to witness how Sri Sri interacted with him.  Sri Sri would praise him so much and Pragyanand Maharaj ji would respond by praising him even more. It used to be like a game of who is more humble! Guudev would praise him, by acknowledging him to be a master in Vedic scriptures. Sometimes Gurudev would say something and then would ask “Haina maharaj ji (Isn’t it Maharaj ji) ?” as if asking for his confirmation.

Sri Sri and Pragyanand Maharaj ji-2

Maharaj ji would fold his hands in front and bow down indicating, “Why are you doing this to me!”  and the crowd would laugh! Gurudev deeply loved Maharaj ji  and Maharaj ji would indicate in his talks (sometimes very clearly) that Gurudev is none other than the incarnation of Shri Krishna!

His commitment to dharma was also very inspiring. Many a times, he would be on a wheel chair but still come for the satsang and share some knowledge! In between his talks, he would always crack one or two jokes, that  would make our sides split with laughter. This sense of humour and ability to take life lightly despite possessing enormous wisdom was intact till the last moment.

Sri Sri and Pragyanand Maharaj ji-6

Once in a close group when the topic of “siddhis” was being discussed, Maharaj ji shared  that in his younger days he used to go from one village to another as a wandering monk. He would stay in one village for a few days, give discourses on scriptures and then move on to another village. Once, he happened to come across a tiger. He said, “It came near me, and stared at me. So, I also stared back at him.  And suddenly the feline ran away in the other direction.” It was only after the tiger had gone away that the villagers told him that it had picked away children from nearby villages and eaten them up. It was a Man eater !

Maharaj ji with Sri Sri at Art of Living Ashram

He always equated Divine to a loving mother, who would never fail to respond to a sincere cry from the heart.

He would always begin his discourse by chanting “Narayan” four times. This gave him the sobriquet of Naraayan Swamiji ! His understanding of advaita was so deep that no matter what one asked, he would come back to the same thing – “There is only one… there is no two.”  Very often Pragyanand Maharaj ji would speak the same thing again and again, sometimes sounding repetitive and boring. But the enthusiasm with which he would speak the knowledge would make the listeners believe that he had just discovered it and is saying it for the first time!

Sri Sri and Pragyanand Maharaj ji-4

It was such a delight to be in his presence. We would feel so calm and rejuvenated in his presence.

Our beloved Swami Pragyanand ji (90 years) peacefully left his body on 12th Feb 2013 at 12:25 pm at Art of Living Ashram and returned to the source. The last rites were held in Allahabad during the Kumb Mela in presence of Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar ji. We will always remember him for his humility, his depth of wisdom, his devotion and innocence.

–  Vishal Merani

(Vishal is an IITian and Yes Plus teacher residing at Bangalore Ashram)



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  1. Maharaj ji’s humor and humility..simply no words for it 🙂
    One of the many things about him which I admire is the skill of giving the highest knowledge in a very light way..
    Very well-written ..Jgd!

  2. Very true Vishal. His presence was always an inspiration to learn and understand scriptures in depth. His memory was so sharp and it was something that always astonished me. He could remember and quote a relevant “shlokas” from any scripture at any time even at his very old age. A great saint of our times and will be lovingly remembered and missed. – Swami Gnantej

  3. Gracefully HE Lived and Left… Gratefully You Wrote… Tearfully I Read… Lovingly Every One Will Remember.. To Live Peacefully … Narayan.. Narayan.. Narayan.. Narayan..

  4. Vishal Bhaiyya, thanks for taking out time to share this intimate note with us. It indeed made us feel the time you had spent with revered Swamiji. Indeed huge bunch of thanks.

  5. The entire crowd was waiting for their beloved Guruji, HE came and then He asked Maharaj ji to speak something. The crowd or at least I was disappointed. I was longing to hear Guruji.
    Maharaji humbly denied saying ” Sabh log aur Mein apko sunna chahte hai, yeh toh Ganga kinare Kua khodna hua” (Everyone including me wants to hear you,Guruji This is like digging a well next to the Ganga.)
    Everyone clapped in awe.
    Maharaji then spoke on how lucky we are to have Guruji in our lives. He bought tears of gratitude in everyones eyes.
    This was my first time, when I heard Maharaji and fell (rose) in love with him.

    @ Vishal Merani : So beautifully penned down. loved this one – ” it would be a competition between Guruji and Maharaji on who was more humble.”

  6. Narayan Narayan Narayan Narayan..
    Maharaj ji showed immense wisdom and I won’t forget his humor.
    Beautifully written Vishal Bhaiya

  7. dear all as i know swamiji during our advanced courses at risikeh once our famous singer in the satsang asked how to find shiva,this was soon after the rudrabishekam 1996,swamiji looked at guruji and said shiva ko samne rakh kar kyo doond rahe ho establishing faith of all the devotees present ,swamiji is fortunate to spend his days with guruji till the end and master gave him a befitting farewell during the kumbh …narayana..narayana…narayana…..narayana.

  8. It was my first visit to the Ashram. During the satsang I was deeply longing to hear some thing from guruji but instead mahraj ji spoke and the topic was “Radha’s longing for Krishna” as if he understood my plight. Jai Maharaji ji

  9. mahraj ji had touched our heart and he will live in us with his story telling skillls ,humor ,motherly presence and love and amazing surrender to divine in his talks and walk .we will miss you mahraj ji . he used a strong words in his one story addressed for a devotee, which i am not able to remove from memory and cherish from the time i heard that word is ….”thahro”…. become still and look within . wow ! i wish i could write all you told in those beautiful story to all the world .
    jai guru dev lots of love to you ,in the divine abode therein you rest .
    thank you vishal .we are fortunate we are fortunate to share
    tribute you told us so simlply……..

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