Shaivacharya Swami Lakshmanjoo- Life Sketch

Swami Lakshmanjoo was born on May 9, 1907. (Vaisakha  Krishna Dwadashi) at Fateh  Kadal, Srinagar, Kashmir. He was the last and one of the greatest of the saints and masters of the tradition of Kashmir Shaivism. Having a deep understanding of the philosophy and practices of Kashmir Shaivism, he was  rare jewel. 

Swami ji’s father Pt. Narayan Dass Raina, a successful business man and enterpreneur was a pious man. He introduced houseboats in Srinagar and was also called “Nav Narayan”, “Nav” in Kashmiri means a boat.

Swami Ram ji, their family Guru lived with Swami ji’s parents in separate house at Namchabal Srinagar. On hearing about Swami ji’s birth Swami Ram ji, who had crippled his legs with constant meditation suddenly got up and started dancing in joy and spontaneously started singing;

“Jai jai jai jai Devki nandanay

Ghat a chej  te gash aw chyane zyennay”

“Glory to you, son of  Devki,  glory to you. With your birth darkness has disappeared and light has come.”

On being asked what the name of the boy would be, the great saint said,“ His name has already been decided. I am Rama and so this boy is Lakshmana.”

Beginning from childhood Swami ji spent his whole life studyng and practicing the teachings of this unique sacred tradition.  Because of his intellectual power and strength of awareness,  he realized both spiritually and intellectually the reality of its thought.

Swami ji started showing his leanings towards higher life in early childhood. At the age of three, his play consisted of making a Siva-linga out of clay for worship.

At five, he would sit down for meditation and, in this condition, he would exhibit signs of abnormal behaviour, which worried his parents. They approached Swami Ram ji who said: “This boy was a great Yogi in his past life and his yoga would be consummated in this life”.

From early childhood , Swami Lakshmanjoo used to speak of Badibod (referring to God). At the age of six, Swami Lakshmanjoo’s  father  Pandit Narayan Dass  arranged “Upnayan sanskar”(Sacred Thread ceremony) for him and his other brothers.

Having entrusted the unaccomplished task of his still craving disciples and seven year-old Sri Lakshmana to the charge of his principle disciple, Swami Mahtabkak, Swami Ram ji entered his real abode, the Shiva by giving up his gross body  on 14th January, 1915

In that year itself, his father admitted , Swami Lakshmanjoo to the SP Middle school located in the Srinagar city.

In School, a teacher asked Lakshmana to participate in physical exercises as was the practice. Instead, Lakshmana gathered group of students and told them not to waste time in physical exercises and instead sing bhajans. Enraged, the teacher inflicted 25 cane strokes on him for defiance  presuming that he was not obeying his orders. From that evening itself, the teacher fell ill, had fever and was on bed for exactly twenty-five days. Later, after recovery, the teacher realised that this boy was not an ordinary student and offered his apologies to him.

At the age of 13, Swamiji’s  parents thought of arranging his matrimony as the custom of those days was of marrying quite early. But Lakshmana’s reply was in the negative, firm and emphatic. He told them:  “I am already married to God.”

Swamiji passed the 8th standard in first class. Immediately thereafter his father fell ill and he along with his brothers  was asked to look after the business. He had to give up his school. Now free from the routine work of the school, apart form looking after the houseboat construction business, he also continued to practice sadhana.

In 1926 Swami ji left his home to persue the goal of God realization and went to Sadhu Ganga, Sopore for a period of nearly 3 months. Later on persuation from his Guru and his parents he came back to Srinagar. A separtate house constructed for him at Marbal, Srinagar by his parents.

At the age of 22 years, to learn theory of Shaivism, he went along with his friend Shri Durga Prashad Kachroo (who also later became one of his first disciples), to Sh Maheshwar Nath Razdan, a professor in Sanskrit. Later Swamiji also studied Shaiva shastras like Parmarthsara, Tantraloka, Ishwar Pratibijnana and Shiv Drishti. In this way, he studied as well as performed practice of yoga for about seven years continously at this house in Marbal.

In the year 1933, Swamiji published his interpretation of the Bhagvad Gita from this house in Marbal.

Although Swamiji had a separate house for himself at Marbal, he was not happy as he had the disturbance of factory and family members at that place. He started looking for a secluded place at a far off place. Swamiji finally selected a place in Ishber hills and conveyed it to his father who bought ten kanals of land (5000 sq.yds). His parents constructed a bungalow at the selected site. Swamiji shifted to the new house along with his parents.

The young saint at the age of about about 30 years made a silent trip to certain places of his own choice in India. He wanted to confer with saints of high order perhaps to ascertain his attainments. He after spending a very short time with Mahatma Gandhi at Sevagram, he rushed to have a glimpse of Sri Aurobindo at Pondicherry.

Swamiji stayed in the Ramana Ashram for about a fortnight. He used to go Arunanchala hill with the Bhagwan. Bhagwan used to sit on a rock and Lakshman Joo would be seated at his feet.  It must have been the moment of Drishtidiksa-initiation by mere sight, a unique meeting of total recognition (Pratiyabhijna).

Scholars and saints from India and abroad started making their way to Kashmir in a bid to unravel the knots of this relatively unknown system of philosophy. 

Late Lilian Silburn, scholar of Tantrism at Paris, came to India for the first time in 1948 and met Swamiji in Kashmir. She  spent time in studying Shiva  Sutras, Spanda Karika and Vijyana Bhairava, Kundalini awakening, Tantraloka, Tantrasar, Parmarthsar, Parapraveshika, some of which she translated later.

Paul Reps, an American scholar of comparative religions, spent a great deal of his life in India, Norway, and Japan. He came to Kashmir to study from Swamiji and compiled a book entitled “ Zen Flesh, Zen Bones”.

In 1962, a new Ashram was constructed by Swamiji at a site between the famous Mughal Gardens (Nishat) and Guptaganga located in the foothills of the Zaberwan mountain, overseeing the majestic Dal Lake and hugging the famous Nishat Garden is this Ashram located.

The Ashram was named “Ishwar Ashram” since Swamiji was also called Ishwar Swaroop (a manifestation of God).

Swamiji shifted in this Ashram along with his disciples Sushree Sharika ji and Sushree Prabha ji. 

In 1963 Swami Muktananda, of Ganeshpuri, visited Srinagar and stayed at Smt Kamala jee Bawa’s residence (a devotee of Swamiji whose house was adjacent to Swamiji’s ashram). Swami ji went to meet the saint. As soon as Swami Muktananda saw Swamiji coming, he stood up to welcome Swami ji.

From Benaras, Pandit Rameshwar Jha and Dr Jaidev Singh travelled to his Ashram seeking a more profound understanding of Shaiva doctrine and practice. For many years both the scholars came to Kashmir to study from Swamiji. Jaidev Singh, attesting to his esteem, wrote that Swamiji ‘unsealed my eyes’. He regarded Swamiji as the ‘Doyen of Shaivagama’. In 1963, Singh dedicated his first book, Pratyabhijna Hrdayam, of Ksemaraja with the followingh words‘With profound respect to Swamiji to whom I owe whatever little-know of this philosophy’.

Acharya Rameshwar Jha was a great scholar from Mithila. He developed a profound devotion to Swamiji.  Acharya Rameshwar Jha composed “Gurustuti”, a Sanskrit poem filled with praise of Swami Lakshaman joo and his Masters. This poem is filled with expostion of effulgence of liberation.

Gurusuti” is recited even today in Ashrams as part of the Sunday pooja curriculum with great devotion by the devotees of Swamiji.

Acharya Paramhans Mishra of Benaras Hindu University had the “ Deeksha” and divine grace from Swamiji that bore for the first time the fruit of the eight volume Hindi version of Tantraloka along with the commentary by Acharya Jayaratha.

Shri Jia Lal Kaul, a professor in Sanskrit in Kashmir also wrote “Sri Gurupadukastuti”, composition of Sanskrit poems in praise of Swamiji. Apart from him, many scholars from Kashmir late Pt. Jankinath Kaul (Kamal), Prof Neelkanth Gurtu and Dr Baljinath Pandit sought blessings and learnt Shaivism from Swamiji.

The late Prime Minister of India, Mrs Indira Gandhi, would visit Swamiji in the Srinagar ashram whenever she would come to the valley. Both would sit in the pavilion of the Ashram in seclusion for hours. Occasionally she would be accompanied by other family members (Mr Rajiv Gandhi, Mrs Sonia Gandhi and children).

Dr.Karan Singh, son of Maharaja Hari Singh, Ex ruler of J&K State, started coming to Swamiji’s ashram from early 1960’s along with his mother Maharani Taradevi. She and Dr Karan Singh became devout devotees of Swamiji. As the sole Trustee of the Dharmarth trust J & K, Dr Karan Singh established the “Institute of Kashmir Shaivism” at Guptganga, Nishat, Srinagar in 1969 for Swamiji’s spiritual work and discourses. Swamiji used to teach various aspects of Shaivism to his devotees on every Sunday at this venue. In addition to it he used to perform havans, in the havanshala at this place. The premises also has a Shaiva temple.

In 1964, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi came to the Kashmir valley. He had heard of Swamiji and he called upon him in his Ashram at Nishat. Maharshi Mahesh Yogi requested Swamiji to speak to his disciples to which he agreed. Later, Swamiji addressed his disciples giving them a discourse on important points in Shaivism. Over the next five years, Maharishi and his disciples made regular summer visits to Kashmir, each time making a point to have an audience with Swami Lakshman joo.

Swami ji occasionally went to Haridwar and Rishikesh. He met Swami Sivananda Saraswati of the Divine Life Society during one of his visits. Swami Sivananda would often hail Lakshman Joo as the “ Lion of Kashmir Shaivism”.

Shri Bal Mukund Dass ji, a saint of Vrindavan, visited Ishwar Ashram a number of times to meet Swami Lakshman Joo.

In the year 1964, Swamiji published the Hindi translation of Utpaldeva’s Shivastotravali.

Swami Lakshaman Joo’s contribution to the promotion of the studies in Kashmir Saivism, propagation of the Trika philosophy and growth of Kashmiri culture will be remembered for long.

In March 1965, in Varanasi, Mahamahopadhyaya Gopinath Kaviraj, one of the respected scholars of Saiva and Tantric literature on the 20th century chaired a Sanskrit conference (All India Tantra Sammelanam)  in which Swamiji delivered a lecture on the secrets of kundalini.

The Pandits of Varanasi were enthralled by the depth of his understanding of the Tantra and his experience of Kundalini. After some years the Varanasi Sanskrit Visvavidyalaya conferred upon Swamiji the degree of D. Litt. Hons., in recognition of his splendid and valuable service.  When Swami ji was informed about this, he simply gave an innocent smile and said in an expression of humour “I have become a Doctor now”.

In the spring of 1969  Maharishi Mahesh Yogi came with a group of his western students. Swami Lakshman Joo gave a discourse to this group on Kashmir Shaivism. Later in 1971, impressed by Swamiji, John Hughes came back again along with his family to learn from Swamiji the philosophy and practice of Kashmir Shaivism. Swamiji said to him. ‘I am so very glad that you have come’ ‘I have been waiting for you’. Swamiji taught him Shaivism and said that he was eager to share the wealth of Shaivism with him because he wanted to save it from being lost to future generations. John spent more than 15 years in Kashmir absorbing the wisdom of the teachings of Kashmir Shaivism from Swamiji.

In 1970, Swamiji gave consent to his devotees to publish a journal named “Malini” on Kashmir Shaivism.

In the beginning of 1970’s, Mark.S.G.Dyczkowski, a scholar of Shaivism at Sampurnananda Sanskrit University, Banaras, spent a good amount of time with Swami ji.  He said about Swami ji, “His exposition of great works of ancient Kashmiri Masters Abhinavgupta, Utpaladeva, and Khemaraja would fill us with wonder.”


Swamiji could converse fluently in English, Hindi, Kashmiri and Sanskrit. He was equally proficient with writing text in these languages.

On Every Monday Swamiji used to remain in seclusion and would not see anyone. He observed mauna (silence) on this day and often would be engrossed entirely in meditation. Very frequently, Swamiji would spent his day uphill in ‘God’s House’, the tiny cottage for meditation, built in a beautiful small garden near the Ishber Ashram at Guptganga.  On this day, his meals used to be kept outside the door and nobody would see Swamiji.

Swamiji was very much fond of snowfall and would eagerly await the first snowfall of the season every year.

Swamiji used to take care of of his devotees and would always endeavour to uplift them and take care of their difficulties. He had full knowledge of both worldly as well as spiritual affairs.

Throughout his life Swamiji taught his disciples and devotees the ways of devotion and awareness. He shunned fame and recognition and did not seek his own glory.

Throughout his life he never accepted money from anyone, nor did he charge fees or ask any compensation for his teachings. People often tried to give him gifts of money but he always refused.

Throughout his life, Swamiji was opposed to eating meat. He would specifically ask his devotees to spread the message of vegetarianism. Swamiji said “Predominant non violence is the shunning of that which is the worst of all violence, the killing of a living being, the taking of its life for the leisure of eating it. There is no greater sin than this.”

Swamiji’s devotees on his instructions often arranged religious tours to places of sanctity and natural scenery in the valley. Kirtans by disciples and discourses by Swamiji were usual features all along.

A Sunday pooja system was prevalent in Srinagar for a long time. One of Swamiji’s devotees in Jammu used to feel very bad when Swamiji would leave for Srinagar. So she was advised by another devotee to start Sunday pooja in Jammu and so this regular Sunday pooja system started in Jammu in the 1970’s and later in Delhi. After Swamiji’s mahasamadhi, Sunday poojas are regularly held in all kendras of  Ishwar Ashram Trust in Srinagar, Delhi and Jammu.

In 1976, Swamiji presided over a spiritual congregation organised by Sri Ramakrishna Ashram Srinagar. Swami Ranganathananda, world famous cultural ambassador of India, graced this occasion.

In April 1979, Swamiji  inaugurated the Shiva temple in the famous Raghunath temple premises in Jammu built by Dr. Karan Singh.. Thousands of devotees had gathered in the temple premises along with the members of the royal family.

Swamiji’s health started deteriorating in the early 1980’s, and in 1982 he began to suffer from heart pains. Subsequently after numerous tests doctors advised a pacemaker which was installed a year later at AIIMS, Delhi. Special medical arrangements were made for Swamiji during his stay in the hospital , as the Late Prime Minister Mrs Indira Gandhi was taking personal interest in his health and welfare. She regularly visited the hospital during his stay in New Delhi. Apart from Mrs Gandhi, a number of politicians, bureaucrats and other celebrities from the valley and outside the state used to come to have darshans of Swamiji.

 The most important event in the yearly calendar of the Ishwar Ashram activities at Srinagar for the devotees was Swamiji’s Birthday.

Although, Swamiji’s birthday was specially celebrated from the childhood itself, however people started flocking to him on birthdays after he came to the Ishber Ashram. The preparations for the Birthday used to start months in advance. Special buses were pressed into service on the celebration day by the government. There used to be a  fervour in the air and there was excitement all around. Devotees from all parts of the country especially Jammu and Delhi would plan in advance to attend this function .The prasad in the form of lunch, started  around 12 noon. In the entire day, more than 10,000 people were served, and till late in the evening.In the evening there used to be a bhajan and dance programme where all the devotees present used to dance and sing in front of the Swamiji who used to sit in the pavilion and watch all this with joy. Soon after this, candles were lit around the Ashram and devotees would move around the Ashram three times along with the chanting of holy mantras and shlokas to earn blessings from the Swamiji. After some years, electrical illumination used to be arranged in the Ashram premises.

The Swamiji also used to celebrate his solar birthday on the 9th   of May every year as “Varsh”, although on a relatively small scale. Hundreds of devotees used to come on this day also to the Ashram and have prashad there and earn his divine blessings. This function marked the conclusion of the birthday celebrations.

 On 11th May, 1983, Amriteshwar Bhairava Temple (Incarnation of Lord Shiva) was formally inaugurated by the Swamiji at Ishber  in the ashram premisis. Swamiji used to perform the daily pooja at the temple every morning around 6 a.m. irrespective of the weather or the season.

In 1987, the Sanskrit Department of  the Kashmir University organized a Seminar on Kashmir Shaivism for three days. Delegates presented their papers from all over India. On the last day of the seminar all the  delegates went to Swamiji’s Ashram Swamiji presided over the gathering of the delegates. He was asked  many difficult westerns to which  he replied with great simplicity as he was himself a master of Kashmir Shaivism in the lineage of Aacharya Abhinavagupta. 

In February 1990, the Swamiji went to Nepal along with Shri I..K. Raina (Trustee/Secretary, Ishwar Ashram Trust) and some English devotees. There Swamiji translated  Bhagavad Gita along with Abhinavagupta’s unique commentary. These lectures were given in English and recorded by his disciple, Mr John Hughes. In his lectures in Nepal, Swamiji gave the following description of Shivaratri.

“Shivaratri means white night: it does not mean dark night. Shiva is white and ratri means night. So Shivaratri is that night which is bright, white brilliant and glittering. It is that night in which all things are visible. Actually, Shivaratri is a bright night for yogis and a dark night for “limited” beings because “limited” beings feel only darkness at night. Shivratri means the night when you are filled with Shaktipat (grace) of Lord Shiva. It is that night on which Shiva bestows intense Saktipat to whomsoever he pleases.”

In March, 1991, the Swamiji went to America to visit his American devotees.  But by the time Swamiji arrived in Los Angeles, he wasn’t really Lakshman Joo anymore, for often during this final two-year period he declared that he had been promoted to the state of Para Bhairava. By a feat greater than all others, by overcoming obstacles greater than all others, by heroic effort greater than all others, the master had achieved his Throne.

During Swamiji’s visit, Los Angeles was experiencing its fifth year of drought. When Swamiji heard about the drought he made plans to perform Yagna  for the purpose of bringing rain to Southern California. At the Yagna there were about twenty foreign devotees. Swamiji supervised the preparations himself. The ceremony lasted about one hour  Swamiji made it rain on a cloudless day. Local newspapers carried the record-breaking rainfall story on their front pages.

Due to failing health, the Swamiji came back to Delhi. He was treated in the AIIMS Hospital. From AIIMS, he was taken to a devotees’ residence in Noida.


The renowned Ayurvedic specialist, Brihaspatiraj Triguna came to see Swamiji during this period.  After examining  Swamiji, The Vaidya smiled and informed the devotees, “Oh, He has withdrawn his pulse himself.”

On September 27, 1991 Swamiji attained the great liberation ( Mahasamadhi )and left his physical body. The mortal remains moved in a procession to Nigambodh Ghat, Delhi from Noida  Hundreds of devotees moved along with the procession.

Swamiji considered the teachings of Kashmir Shaivism were only of God, of humanity’s relationship to God, and therefore, they were available for everyone. Kashmir Shaivism, in Swamiji’s own words was Universal thought open to all irespective of caste, colour, creed or sex.

In the words of Abhinavagupta: “Some beings are enlightened only for their own liberation, but others for the sake of redeeming the whole world. Just as a firefly shines only for itself, jewels shine for others, the stars shine for more, the moon shines for still more and the sun bestows light on the whole Universe.”  Swami Lakshmanjoo is such a Sun indeed.

   Jai Gurudev