Swami Balakrishnananda Saraswati Swamigal was most known for being reincarnated by nama and for showing the path necessary for Guru-Bhakti. He was born to a Brahmin family that followed the path of Bhagavatha Dharma and was brought up in Kaalaiyar Kovil in Tamil Nadu. Even from a young age, Swami Balakrishnananda’s love for Srimad Bhagavatham and Bhagavatha Dharma was evident, especially as he found no interest in the worldly aspects of life. His interest was so deep that he had even memorized 18,000 slokas from Srimad Bhagavatam and began playing them in the veena.
One day in Srivanchiyam, Swami Balakrishnananda was giving a lecture on Srimad Bhagavatham. He was at the part of Bhagavatham during which Akrurar arrives to bring Sri Krishna from Brindavan to Mathura, where the Gopis cry of being separated from Lord Krishna. At this time, Swami Balakrishnananda abruptly stopped his lecture and entered into a trance. Just like the Gopis, he began crying in pain asking Lord Krishna to stay in Brindavan. As a result, many were able to understand the depth of his bhakti and what sort of life one must lead in the path of Bhagavata Dharma.
Another time, while he was in Tanjore, seeing as the sun had already set, Swami Balakrishnananda decided to rest at the porch of a nearby house for the night. While the wife of the house came outside to draw a Kolam, she saw Swami Balakrishnananda and rushed back into her house to tell her husband. When she explained that Swami Balakrishnananda was sitting on their porch and that they should offer their respects to him, her husband loudly questioned, “Is the saint sitting outside chanting the Divine Nama or is he just sitting there doing nothing?” Upon hearing this, Swami Balakrishnananda was shocked that a Grahastha would say such a thing, especially since the shastras specifically state that Grahasthas are required to offer immediate respect upon seeing a sanyasi. When questioned, the husband stated that his Guru, Sri Bagavan Nama Bhodendra Saraswati Swamigal, advised him that if a sanyasi is not saying the Divine Names of the Lord, he does not need to be prostrated to. At that very moment, Swami Balakrishnananda became the disciple of Sri Bhagavan Nama Bhodendra Saraswati Swamigal.
For the remainder of his life, Swami Balakrishnananda lived with nothing but Nama Sankirtan, living off of his daily bhiksha, or alms, for food. Often times, he would be found on the banks of the river Kaveri in Govindapuram, singing the holy names of the Lord. Due to his devotion to Sri Bhagavan Nama Bhodendra Saraswati Swamigal, Swami Balakrishnananda never left Govindapuram.
Towards the end of his time, Swami Balakrishnananda made it clear that he wished to be with his Guru, even after attaining mukthi. Though the land belonged to the British Government at the time, they honored his wish and erected a plaque which stated,
To fulfill the last wish of the Hindu Monk.” To this, our Guru Maharaj, His Holiness Sri Sri Muralidhara Swamigal, said, “Charana Chaayai Vaasam,” which translates to refuge under the Holy Feet and the wish to be the Guru’s dust.
From the divine life of Sri Balakrishnananda Saraswati Swamigal, we are given the opportunity to learn about the importance of Nama, Guru Bhakti, and humility.
Story by Mahima Murali, 17 years Richmond VA,
Illustration by Madhuri Murali, 11 years Richmond VA