The birth name, birth date, and caste of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi are not known with certainty, in part because of the tradition of ascetics and monks to relinquish family connections. Many accounts say he was born Mahesh Prasad Varma महेश प्रसाद वर्मा) into a Kayastha family living in the Central Provinces of British India. A different name appears in the Allahabad University list of distinguished alumni, where he is listed as M.C. Srivastava. and an obituary says his name was “Mahesh Srivastava”.
Various accounts give the year of his birth as 1911, 1917 or 1918.Authors Paul Mason and William Jefferson say that he was born 12 January 1917 in Jabalpur, Central Provinces.The place of birth given in his passport is “Pounalulla”, India and his birth date as 12 January 1918. Mahesh’s father is identified as a local tax official in the civil service though some sources say he worked in the department of forestry, and others that he was a schoolteacher.Srivastava is the name of his nephews and cousins. Mahesh came from an upper-caste family,being a member of the Kayastha caste, a high-status caste whose traditional profession is writing.
Mahesh studied physics at Allahabad University and earned a degree in 1942.While a few sources say that he worked at Gun Carriage Factory in Jabalpur for some time,most report that in 1941, he became an administrative secretary to the Shankaracharya of Jyotir Math, Swami Brahmananda Saraswati (also known as Guru Dev) and took a new name, Bal Brahmachari Mahesh. Coplin refers to bala brahmachari as both a title and a name, and considers that it “identified him as a fully dedicated student of spiritual knowledge and life-long celibate ascetic”. The Maharishi recalls how it took about two and a half years to attune himself to the thinking of Brahmananda Saraswati and to gain “a very genuine feeling of complete oneness”. At first Brahmachari Mahesh performed common chores but gained trust and became Guru Dev’s “personal secretary” and “favored pupil”. He was trusted to take care of the bulk of Swami Brahmananda Saraswati’s correspondence without direction, and was also sent out to give public speeches on Vedic (scriptural) themes.
Brahmachari Mahesh remained with Swami Brahmananda Saraswati until the latter died in 1953, when he moved to Uttarkashi in Uttarakhand in the Himalayas. Although Brahmachari Mahesh was a close disciple, he could not be the Shankaracharya’s spiritual successor because he was not of the Brahmin caste.The Shankaracharya, at the end of his life, charged him with the responsibility of travelling and teaching meditation to the masses, while he named Swami Shantananda Saraswati as his successor.
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