Lakshmanjoo

Lakshmanjoo
(1907–1991)
   teacher of Kashmiri Shaivism
   Rajanaka Lakshmana, known as Lakshmanjoo, was a popular and widely respected scholar and yoga master in the tradition of KASHMIRI SHAIVISM. He was the last living representative of the great lineage of teachers of Kashmir Shaivism, and the only remaining repository of its oral teachings.
   Born in Srinagar, Kashmir, on May 9, 1907, Lakshmana was raised by his father, Sri Narayan-das Raina, and his mother, Shrimati Aranyamali, both of whom were devotees and disciples of Swami Ram Joo. Sri Narayandas was a well-known builder of houseboats in Srinagar who had similar aspirations for his son. Yet, in early childhood, the boy exhibited actions of a spiritual nature and appeared to be on the path of becoming a yogi. At the age of three he made a clay Shiva for his worship. He spent long hours in MEDITATION, which caused him to act oddly. Out of concern for his well-being, his parents approached the family guru, Swami Ram Joo, who assumed care for the boy’s spiritual education.
   Lakshmana learned the discipline of Shaivism first under the guidance of Swami Ram, and then, when the latter died, under Swami Mahtab Kak. His father’s illness forced him to look after the family business while still a teenager. He ended his formal education but continued to practice YOGA and study under Mahtab Kak. During this time he began to learn the Shaiva Sastras.
   Lakshmana endured great struggles with his family as his spirituality developed. At the age of 13, he refused his parents’ request for an arranged marriage. When he experienced SELF-REALIZATION for the first time at the age of 20, he became uninterested in his family’s business and felt a strong urge to practice his SADHANA (spiritual search) in solitude. He left home and traveled to Sadha-malyun Ashram in Handawara, Kash-mir. His parents searched frantically for him and eventually found him at the ashram. His father convinced him to return home only after promis-ing to build an ashram for him. Four months later he moved into an ashram located on the slopes of a mountain opposite Srinagar. Lakshmanjoo continued his studies of the Shaivite Sastras for the next seven years under the guidance of the scholar Maheshuvar Nath Razdan. During this time he accepted the daughter of Sri Jai Lal Sopori, Sharika Devi, as a student and taught her the practice of Shaivite YOGA. After she attained self-realization under his guidance, the ashram attracted other devotees.
   During the 1930s, Lakshmanjoo traveled throughout India, making the acquaintance of Mohandas Karamchand GANDHI in Sevagram, Sri AUROBINDO at Pondicherry, and RAMANA MAHARSHI at Tiruvannamalai.
   In 1957, Lakshmanjoo commissioned a new ashram, Ishvara Ashrama, in the village of Ishaber, where his public teachings attracted a large num-ber of devotees. Disciples began to call him Swami Ishvara Svarupa, a name given to him by Sharika Devi. Lakshmanjoo taught the Shaivite tantras (see TANTRISM) and other texts of the tradition to his disciples and to scholars from India and Europe. He gave Sunday talks on Shaivite yoga and received other spiritual teachers and scholars. As the last in an unbroken lineage of masters of an “oral tradition,” he dedicated his life to the sacred teachings of Kashmiri Shaivism. He also estab-lished the Ishwara Ashram Trust and, in 1982, the Universal Shaivite Trust, which served as the foundation for the Universal Shaivite Fellowship.
   Lakshmanjoo embodied the full yogic tradi-tion, on both the practice side and the theoretical side. During his life he experienced all the trans-formative disciplines of the Shaivite tradition—he was a jnani (realized sage).
   The knowledge of Kashmir Shaivism was tra-ditionally passed along by oral communication or other unseen means, directly from master to dis-ciple. Some material was written from the eighth century, but the texts were often intentionally obscure in an effort to prevent misunderstanding and misuse. The texts dealt with yogic experi-ences that are extremely individual and difficult to describe in words, and the practices involved are emotional. A living master, founded in the oral tradition, was always needed for guidance.
   To forestall the loss of these oral traditions, Lakshmanjoo published works in Sanskrit, Hindi, and English. He was universally recognized for his scholarship as well as his perfection in Shaivite yoga. He received an honorary doctoral degree in 1965 from the Varanaseya Sanskrit University for his contribution to Sanskrit and to tantra. He is best known for reviving Kashmiri Shaivism as a vital philosophy. His influence on the scholarship of Shaivism extended into Europe and the United States. He made his only trip to the United States in 1991 just months before his death on Septem-ber 27, 1991.
   Further reading: Vijnana Bhairava, The Practice of Centering Awareness: Commentary by Swami Laksman Joo (Varanasi: Indica Books, 2002); John Hughes, Self-Realization in Kashmir Shaivism: The Oral Teachings of Swami Lakshmanjoo (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1994); Swami Lakshman Jee, Awakening to the Supreme Consciousness. Edited by Jankinath Kaul (Delhi: Utpal, n.d.); ———, Kashmir Shaivism: The Secret Supreme (Albany, N.Y.: Universal Shaiva Trust, 1988); ———, Self Realization in Kashmir Shaivism. Edited by John Hughes (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1994); Shiva Sutras: The Supreme Awakening, Revealed by Swami Lakshmanjoo. Edited by John Hughes (Albany, N.Y.: Universal Shaiva Fellow-ship, 2002).

Encyclopedia of Hinduism. . 2007.

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