- Ashish, Sri Madhava
- (1920–1997)Vaishnavite guruSri Madhava Ashish was the successor to Sri Krishna PREM as head of the Uttar Brindavan Ash-ram at Mirtola village, near Almora in the foothills of the Himalayas in Uttaranchal state.Alexander Phipps was born on February 23, 1920, to Protestant parents, Lt. Col. Henry Ramsey Phipps and Lorna Campbell Phipps. His father was an artillery officer and his great-grandfather, a Scottish laird. Alexander attended Sherborne Public School and the College of Aeronautical Engineering at Chelsea, London. He was described as an avid reader but “not successful at school.” In general, he was shy and reserved. Before complet-ing a degree, he went to India to help in the World War II war effort as an aircraft engineer by repair-ing crashed planes at Dum Dum Airport, Kolkata.While in India he met Sri Ramana MAHARSHI in Tiruvannamalai. Fired by his meeting with the South Indian saint, he decided not to return to England after the war ended. He joined the Uttar Brindavan Ashram (founded in 1929) at Mirtola village in the Kumaon region of the Himalayas as a BRAHMACHARYA under his guru, Sri Krishna Prem. In 1947, Krishna Prem gave him the vows of sannyas (renunciation) under the Gaudiya Sampradaya (see GAUDIYA MAT H) and named him Madhava Ashish. The Gaudiya Sampradaya of VAISHNAVISM is associated with Sri Radha Raman Temple at BRINDABAN, the birthplace of Lord KRISHNA; it follows strict vegetarianism and devo-tion to the deity Krishna.After taking up discipleship, Ashish followed a strict Vaishnavite regimen in food, dress, con-duct, and sacramental worship. However, in 1957 he and his guru, Sri Krishna Prem, decided to simplify the rigid framework of full Vaish-navite orthodox discipline, so that it would speak directly to the seekers who increasingly visited Mirtola for spiritual guidance. They advocated a system of self-inquiry, which encouraged disciples to search for the mystery at the root of their own being and to find their essential nature apart from the psychophysical ego personality. The attempt was to merge individual consciousness with the uniting source of all life, a higher center of aware-ness accessible to all.Madhava Ashish oversaw a discipline that included MEDITATION; service in the temple; assid-uous self-inquiry through introspection, dream analysis, self-remembering, and development of a witnessing awareness in all activities in order to harmonize the inner and outer life. In addition to practices of the Vaishnavite tradition, his teaching drew on the wisdom of others, including NISAR-GADATTA Maharaj and the Greek-Armenian teacher G. I. Gurdjieff.In addition to guiding disciples at Uttar Brin-davan Ashram, Madhava Ashish served as a mem-ber of the Committee for Hill Development (of the Himalaya region) for India’s premier planning body. He was awarded the Padma Shree by the government of India in 1993 for his contribu-tion to scientific farming. He was also actively involved with environmental work, including sustainable farming, water harvesting, animal husbandry, environmental education, and efforts against deforestation.After his death on April 13, 1997, leadership of Uttar Brindavan Ashram was taken up by his disciple Dev Ashish. The ashram does not have a Web site; its address is P.O. Mirtola, Via Panwa-naula, District Almora, Uttaranchal-263 623.Further reading: Madhava Ashish, Man, Son of Man (London: Rider, 1970); ———, Man, Son of Man in the Stanzas of Dzyan (Wheaton, Ill.: Theosophical Publish-ing House, 1970); ———, Relating to Reality (New Delhi: Banyan Books, 1998); ———, Relating to Reality: Relating the Metaphysical Roots of Value to Their Applica-tions in Every Field of Human Activity (New Delhi: Ban-yan Books, 1998); Seymour B. Ginsburg, In Search of the Unitive Vision (Boca Raton, Fla.: New Paradigm, 2001); Krishna Prem and Madhava Ashish, Man, the Measure of All Things, in the Stanzas of Dzyan (London: Rider, 1969); Madhu Tandan, Faith and Fire: A Way Within (New Delhi: HarperCollins, 1997).
Encyclopedia of Hinduism. A. Jones and James D. Ryan. 2007.