Karl Marx spoke about the have and the have nots. A third kind always existed in Bharat (ancient India) since time immemorial and continues to this day – those who could have anything but wanted nothing. The Məsts. Remaining always in inner ecstasy and living in complete freedom and abandon, they walked the earth to remind us of our lost glory.

These amazing Masts are a rare breed. They are complete within yet strive and burn themselves like the proverbial candle to enlighten the world. Many have wondered about what makes them tick. Why would someone want to undertake this thankless task? What makes them do what they do? What is their trip? What is their story? This book answers these questions, through the fascinating life of Atmananda Chaitanya – from his humble beginnings to his glorious end. Through Atmananda’s life story, we are afforded a glimpse into the life of a spiritual Master in action and the grand Tradition he represents – the journey on the road less travelled, the ecstasy that absorbs him fully, the purpose of his existence, his life and teachings and his message to the world.

The story unfolds with the child Vamadeva’s unquenchable thirst to meet his master. The young unflinching Vamadeva displays remarkable levels of precocity and clarity far beyond his age of eight when he insists on seeking the tutorship of the Maharishi Shantananda of Varanasi, a place that is a month of exhausting travel away from their small village. We are even more amazed by his maturity as he deftly and consummately answers the questions of the great sage Shantananda. An excerpt from the book on the divine meeting between Vamadeva and his soon-to-be-Master Maharishi Shantananda:

Vamadeva stepped forward, bowed his head and spoke, Maha Guro, I seek your discipleship.”

Maharishi Shantananda glanced at the young boy. His eyes seemed to penetrate the young boys constitution, piercing through the visible into the invisible. There was a slight movement on his elegant face, perhaps the dawn of a faint smile, maybe a recognition from another life, or maybe due to what he saw in Vamadeva. Maharishi Shantananda was a man of few words. He observed silence and spoke only when it was extremely essential to communicate through words. He inclined his head forward and asked the boy in a very deep, booming voice:

– Name?

– This param buddhu (most ignorant) is called Vamadeva, respected Master!

What do you seek?

Make me see my brightness so I can merge with the brightness, respected Master!

The path is right here within you, why not walk?

I am param buddhu. I don’t know the way, respected Master

Final destination?

– My Self, the Supreme Self, respected Master

Where shall you walk from? (read: Where will you start? When can you start?)

At your Lotus Feet. (read: Right here! Right now!)

Saying thus, he prostrated again at Shantananda’s feet


Maharishi Shantananda smiled and merely said, “Walk” (read: Come with me). Saying thus, he turned to walk the steps of the ghat and return to his gurukul[1]. Vamadeva had passed his test and was accepted!

Vamadeva stayed at Shantananda’s ashram until the age of twenty-two. His training was unique – sans any mantra (a word or sound repeated to aid concentration in meditation), yantra (a geometrical diagram, or any object, used as an aid to meditation in worship), tantra (mystical or magical text) or even any initiation into spiritual practices. Neither were there any rigid lifestyles and rules in the ashram. The students were allowed to be themselves and were transformed by the Master’s powerful presence as per their unique orientation, capacity and dispensation. This amazing system of learning has to be experienced to be believed. When Vamadeva is ready, the Master gave him the monastic name of Atmananda Chaitanya and directed him to go out in the world to carry out the divine purpose of his incarnation.

After staying with his parents for a year, Atmananda travels as a true parivrajaka (spiritual wanderer), living no more than three days in any place, traveling mostly alone and occasionally giving lectures and spiritual discourses whenever needed. His astounding experiences with siddhas (realized Masters) as well as his personal experiences connect us to a plane of consciousness where we get to see the exquisite blend of the subtle and the powerful. Then, we are shown a window into Atmananda through the eyes of his disciples – both while in the body and after he left the world. He chose to shed His mortal coils when he was only forty nine years old, in spite of being healthy and strong as His consciousness was expanding far beyond the mortal frame.

Until his passing away, Atmananda breathed, lived and walked like the quintessential Mast. absorbed in the total silence and stillness of Shiva. Benevolence and benedictions flowed uninterruptedly but only through little signs or subtle gestures. As an epitome of stillness and bliss, his life journey gives us a rare insight into the expanded state of a Məst and the infinite dimensions of the soul. It is really fascinating to find seemingly trivial directions like, “gaze into the sky” or “stare at the cows”, give birth to an extraordinary unfolding and thereby give a glimpse into what is attainable when a Master’s words and a disciple’s implicit faith are triumphantly blended! Similarly, another riveting eye opener is the soul stirring journey of Raman packed with trials and tribulations, eventually finding consummation with the grand visitation of the Master.

It gives us a peek into the grand Tradition where the Master comes in search of the seeker when the seeker is ready. The Golden Tradition of Masters take into their fold a truly aspiring, eligible soul and ensure their eternity. Only a precious few could hold on to him in this transcendental part of the journey and needless to add, they all became complete Masters. After all, when the disciple is eligible, receptive and ready, the absolute Master not only ignites the fire of eternal love but more importantly sustains and consummates to the perfect finish. Finishing the game to perfection is a true Master’s goal and Atmananda’s life is a vibrant testimony to this eternal truth.

Even though the book says that this is a work of fiction, the authenticity of the story is left to the reader’s imagination, intuition or experience – whatever we may call it – to unravel whether the mystical story is fictional, surreal or an epitome of truth.

[1] A residential school system where students live as part of the Master’s family and serve and learn under him

Author: Rajesh Kamath


Editorial Team

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