Uttarakhand, nestled in the Himalayas, is famous for its spectacular scenery, pleasant valleys, sparkling streams and holy shrines. It is an ancient and sacred area where saints, sages and Divine Incarnations lived and practised meditation. It was here on 8th November 1900, that Satgurudev Shri Hans Ji Maharaj was born.

Even from early childhood he was inclined towards spirituality. He had mystical experiences which could not be rationally explained. Once he himself recalled his childhood saying, “I was often absorbed in samadhi and used to have divine visions. I would close my eyes and see divine light. I would say to myself, ‘Others have realized God so why can’t I?’ ” He had an unquenchable thirst to see God face to face.

As time passed, he came in contact with different sects and religious organizations. He was strongly influenced by the Arya Samaj and so was very much against superstitions, rituals and idol worship. He used to enjoy the debates between the Arya Samajis and orthodox Hindus and Muslims about the nature of God and other theological matters. However he eventually got fed up with all the text-twisting, as fundamentally he wanted a real experience of the Divine.

It was by sheer coincidence that Maharaj Ji met Swami Swarupanandji Maharaj, the saint who was to become his Guru. Due to the influence of contemporary religious movements, he didn’t really believe a Guru is necessary for spiritual development. However, the first meeting with his Guru convinced him that true self-realization is impossible without a teacher. He therefore asked to be given this Knowledge of the Self, whereupon Swami Swarupanandji replied that he should come the next day to hear more satsang, after which he would be given ‘updesh’, or initiation.

The next day Maharaj Ji left home to meet his Guru, but found that heavy rains had swollen a small stream he had to cross into flood proportions. Maharaj Ji attempted to forge the stream but was caught by its strong current and was swept away. There seemed to be little hope of rescue, and at this moment Maharaj Ji had only one regret – that he would have to leave life without having received the Guru’s knowledge. Suddenly, it seemed as if a hand had appeared and was pulling him up out of the water. The next thing he knew he was lying on the bank of the stream, safe and sound. He looked around for his rescuer, but no one could be found.

He then proceeded to the home of his Guru, who, seeing him drenched and shivering, gave him some fresh clothes and told him to change before he could hear any more satsang. Maharaj Ji was hesitant to accept the clothes from his Guru, since by tradition it is the householder who must offer and not the Guru. However, after some persuasion he took them and prepared himself. He listened to satsang and finally the four ‘kriyas’, or techniques were imparted to him.

At first, Maharaj Ji was at a loss to understand the full meaning and import of what he had received. He returned home bewildered and pondered deeply over what he had just been revealed. He picked up a copy of the Bhagavad Gita and began reading it to see if this Knowledge was in accordance with the scriptures. He discovered that suddenly the secrets and full meaning of the Gita became crystal clear to him and what was before a mystery was now obvious. Naturally he was filled with reverence for this Knowledge, which had the immediate effect of making quite plain what was once hidden.

The next morning he awoke early, bathed and sat for meditation with great resolve and devotion, intent upon experiencing the fundamental Reality. That same morning, young Maharaj Ji entered ‘samadhi’ and in that state beyond all body consciousness, he experienced the Infinite. Now, of course, his respect and reverence for the Knowledge and the Guru knew no bounds. Full of firm faith and absolute trust that what he had found was the true Knowledge, he decided to devote his life to his Guru and the dissemination of the Knowledge.

Once he had found his Guru, he underwent a radical and fundamental transformation. He went into deep meditation for many years and, by the grace of the master, achieved enlightenment. He was the perfect example of total surrender and followed his master’s guidelines in letter and spirit, meditating himself on the Holy Name and showing others how to meditate.