Swami Balakrishnananda Saraswati Swami was most known for his deep love for the Divine Name, for Srimad Bhagavatam, and his immense Guru bhakti towards his Guru, Sri Bhagavan Nama Bodhendra Saraswati Swami.
He was born to a 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. He found no interest in the worldly life and took up sanyasa, a renunciate’s life. His interest in Srimad Bhagavatam was so deep that he had memorized all the 18,000 slokas from Srimad Bhagavatam and would even play them in the veena.
Once in a village called Srivanchiyam in Tamil Nadu, Swami Balakrishnananda was giving a talk on Srimad Bhagavatham. He was at the part of Bhagavatham during which Akrura arrives to take Sri Krishna from Brindavan to Mathura, where the Gopis cry in immense grief, being separated from Lord Krishna. While narrating this story, Swami Balakrishnananda became one with the Gopis and began crying in pain asking Lord Krishna to stay in Brindavan. The assembled devotees were all touched by the depth of his bhakti.
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. The next morning, the lady of the house came outside to draw a kolam, she saw Swami Balakrishnananda and rushed back into her house to tell her husband that a sanyasi was at their door.
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 the man just sitting there doing nothing?”
Upon hearing this, Swami Balakrishnananda was astonished that a respectable householder would say such a thing, especially since the shastras specifically state that householders should offer immediate respects upon seeing a sanyasi. When asked, the husband stated humbly that they were devotees of Sri Bhagavan Nama Bodhendra Saraswati Swami. He said that his Guru had told them that if a sanyasi was not chanting the Divine Names of the Lord, he does not need to be prostrated to. Swami Balakrishnananda was very moved on hearing about this. He asked about Sri Bhagavan Nama Boddendra Saraswati Swami, and found that he had attained jeeva samadhi in Govindapuram village.
Immediately he went to Govindapuram, accepting Sri Bodhendra Swami as his Guru, and for the remainder of his life, he lived in Govindapuram within the precincts of his Guru’s adhishtanam. All day he would stand in front of his Guru’s samadhi and chant Rama Nama. Swami Balakrishnananda lived the rest of his life there, performing Nama Sankirtan, living off of his daily bhiksha (alms) for food.
Towards the end of his time, Swami Balakrishnananda made it clear that he wished to be with his Guru, even after attaining samadhi. Though the land around Bodhendra Swami’s adhishtanam belonged to the British Government at the time, the British judge was moved by Swami Balakrishnananda’s life and honored his last wish. Sri Balakrishnananda Swami’s adhishtanam stands in Govindapuram, right next to his beloved Guru, Sri Bodhendra Swami’s adhishtanam.
To this, our Guru Maharaj, His Holiness Sri Sri Muralidhara Swamiji, said that Swami Balakrishnananda attained, “Charana Chaayai Vaasam,” which translates to “He has attained permanent abode under the shadow of his Guru’s Holy Feet” and his wish to be the dust of his Guru’s feet has been fulfilled. Swami Balakrishnananda holds a very special place in the heart of our Guru Maharaj for being an epitome of Guru bhakti, for his deep faith and love for chanting the Divine Name, and his immense love for Srimad Bhagavatam.
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