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The Struggle of My Life (Autobiography of Swami Sahajanand Saraswati)

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The Struggle of My Life (Autobiography of Swami Sahajanand Saraswati)
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The Struggle of My Life (Autobiography of Swami Sahajanand Saraswati)

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Item Code: NAP376
Author: Ramchandra Pradhan
Publisher: Oxford University Press, New Delhi
Language: English
Edition: 2018
ISBN: 9780199480364
Pages: 432
Cover: Hardcover
Other Details: 8.5 inch X 5.5 inch
weight of the book: 585 gms
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About the Book

Sahajanand Saraswati (1889-1950) was a man of many parts. Monk, scholar, freedom fighter, and leader of the peasant movement, he made an impact in all these spheres. His autobiography, Mera Jeevan Sangharsh (The Struggle of My Life'), gives an account of his life and his attempts to reform the ills besetting his country, in religion and in politics. In doing so, it sheds light on a number of significant periods in the history of India.

It is, however, the tale of the nation told from the margins, not from the perspective of the English-educated, vilayat-returned nationalist. It is written by a man with humble roots who decided to improve the life of the common masses. This is an especially relevant book in these times, when the aam aadmi has become the pivot on which election campaigns are run and won.

The Struggle of My Life chronicles the remarkable life of a man who lived in remarkable times.

About the Translator and Editor

RAMCHANDRA PRADHAN, a well-known social activist Gandhian scholar, taught at Ramjas College, University of Delhi, for several decades. As a convener of the Lokayan project and an activist- thinker of the Movement for Peace and Alternative Development he has interacted with activists and scholars from across the world Dr Pradhan has been a recipient of the Senior Fulbright Fellowship (1979) and the Indo-Canadian Shastri Fellowship (1993). He is the author of several books, including Raj to Suiaraj, Reading Reappraising Gandhi, Colonialism in India, and Integrating body Mind and Heart: The Gandhian Way. He also has books on the Bhagavad Gita and Koran Sharif to his credit. He has take to writing full-time, and is engaged in a multi-volume study on the Indian Socialist Movement. Currently, he is attached to the Institute Of Gandhian Studies, Wardha, Maharashtra.


The Indian renaissance during the nineteenth century (also known as the Bengal Renaissance) brought about a radical change in our worldview and the national outlook. Prior to that period, the dominant theme in our mind was the search for personal moksha (salvation) through the process of world negation. The theory of karma and our belief in rebirth had resulted in a kind of determinism both at the individual and social levels. Everyone was left to fend for himself/herself as he/she was supposed to pay for his/her past karma. In such a perspective, there was no scope for human intervention to relieve people from their sufferings. But our encounter with the West and its modern industrial civilization paved the way for a new awakening in India. The process that was initiated by Raja Rammohun Roy had several strands. His own leanings were more towards initiating the process of westernization of our society. Some other thinkers and spiritual leaders like Ramkrishna Paramhansa favoured modernization of our society based on our national ethos and moorings. Thus, instead of an emphasis on 'otherworldliness', the focus shifted to the need for service to fellow beings, particularly the poor and deprived sections of our society. This was reflected in all socio-religious reformist movements of the nineteenth century like Prarthana Samaj, Arya Samaj, and Ramkrishna Mission. This process took a more pronounced and concrete form in our national movement under the leadership of Mahatma Gandhi.

The movement gathered such powerful momentum that even Indian sannyasis did not remain unaffected by it. Three reformist leaders, namely, Swami Dayanand Saraswati, Swami Vivekananda, and Swami Sahajanand Saraswati, each in his own way, played a modernizing role in our socio-cultural tradition. Both Dayananda and Vivekananda established their own socio-religious sects. But they had shied away from direct involvement with the political processes of the country, though they had become a major source of inspiration for Indian nationalism. On the other hand, Sahajanand did not found any religious sect. He engaged in social work for a while. Soon, he got directly involved in the national movement and even spent a number of years behind bars. Besides, he was not only instrumental in founding the organized peasant movement in India but also later assumed the role of its putative progenitor.

For a number of reasons, Sahajanand has failed to catch the focused attention of our social scientists. As such there is no well-researched biography of Sahajanand till date by any of the prominent social scientists of India. One reason could be that he wrote mostly in Hindi. So his works did not receive the support of the elite. It is to be borne in mind that Dayanand had generously received the support of the Hindu elite of the entire of north-western region of the country. Similarly, the entire bhadralok {elite} of Bengal stood behind Vivekananda. Besides, he also wrote in English, so his works were easily accessible to emerging English-knowing middle class of India. On the other hand, Sahajanand did not go along with any political party in the course of his work. After his death, the Bihar Provincial Kisan Sabha had become dysfunctional, and the Communist Party ofIndia had appropriated the All India Kisan Sabha. Thus no organized force was left to work for the perpetuation of his memory. It was only many decades after his death that some of his works have been published. For instance, Swami Sahajanand Saraswati Rachanawali edited by Raghav Sharan Sharma and a few of his works edited by Awadhesh Pradhan have been published only a few years back. Both of them have brought these books out in Hindi. Walter Hauser and Sho Kuwajima have translated a few of Sahajanand's works. The fact that Sahajanand mostly lived and worked in the backward region of eastern United Provinces (UP) and Bihar could be another reason for his being neglected. Besides, he wrote in an idiomatic Hindi, freely using Bhojpuri colloquial words and folk sayings popular in that region. In fact, despite his vast knowledge of Sanskrit, unlike many Hindi writers, he refused to use Sanskrit zed Hindi. Perhaps this was because of his desire to identify himself with the common masses. So it is not that easy to translate his works unless one is well versed in Bhojpuri and other regional folk languages. For all these reasons, Sahajanand has failed to receive justice at the hands of the social scientists of India. My own interest in the life and legacy of Sahajanand goes back to my childhood days. I was born and grew up in a village called Dhakaich in the then Shahabad district of Bihar. Now, it is a part of Buxar district. Along with Simri, Surtapur, and a number of other villages, Dhakaich was one of the main centres of Sahajanand's activities. Off and on, he would come and reside at our village school. A number of my co-villagers were actively involved in his movement. As a child of nine or ten, I had watched him moving around the streets of my village, seeking support and contributions from people. He might have resorted to madhukari uriti (taking food from one's palm) at Kashi as a Sanskrit scholar and as a Dasnami Sannyasi (one of the ten sects of Sankar's sannyasis) but by the time we saw him in the late 1940s, he had emerged as the topmost leader of the peasant movement with a commanding voice. Right now, I can recall his face and body language marked by Brahmatej (aura of brahm) , while addressing the meeting of the Bihar Provincial Kisan Sabha at my own village with a thundering voice and with all sincerity at his command. That presidential address has been so important that it is known as 'Dhakaich ka Bhasan' and has been published in several places. We children used to engage in slogan shouting in favour of the Kisan Sabha and Swamiji, as he was known among his followers. Later, when I was growing up, I came across a number of his followers who used to visit my village in connection with the Kisan Sabha work. They used to relate various stories regarding his life and work.


The Life and Legacy of Swami Sahajanand Saraswati Sahajanand, known as Navrang Rai in his childhood, was born on the day of Mahashivaratri in rhe year 1889 in the village Deva of Ghazipur district of the then United Provinces (U.P.). His father's name was Beni Rai. His family background was that of a middle-class peasant. His mother died when he was hardly three years of age. His mausi (his morher's sister), married to his uncle (his father's brother), brought him up. By tradition, the Rai families of Deva belonged to the Jujhauriya branch of Brahmins. 1 There was not much of a congenial atmosphere either in the family or in the surrounding areas for school education. Navrang was a precocious child. From his very childhood, he displayed great interest in study and ideas. Hence, the family decided to let him have an opportunity for schooling. By the time he joined a primary school, he was already ten yeats old. But he was so bright in his studies that he completed his six years of primary education just in three yeats, finishing it in the yeat 1902. Subsequently, he passed his middle school in 1904, securing a very high position that entitled him for a scholarship. Thereupon, he got admission in the German Mission High School at Ghazipur. Navrang displayed a rare spiritual bent of mind from his childhood. His close contact with one of his teachers at the German Mission School, who was a great devotee of Lord Shiva, created a spiritual interest in him. Navrang started worshipping Lord Shiva as he was living in one of the rooms of the Shiva temple. It was a coincidence that the temple was frequently visited by sannyasis, mostly from Kashi. In one of his interactions with these sannyasis, Navrang got the address of Aparnath Math of Kashi, which had a large number of sannyasi inmates. He was so obsessed with his spiritual quest that in 1906 he secretly left home to go to the Himalayas in search of an accomplished yogi. But he broke his journey on the way and he came back without letting anyone know his intention. The family did have some inkling of his spiritual obsession. Navrang's co-villager Hari Narayan also became a source of inspiration for his spiritual awakening. All this prompted the family to tie Navrang up with worldly responsibility. In 1905, he was married to a girl from a neighbouring village. But she died soon. The family tried to arrange his second marriage with the sister of the deceased wife. Navrang escaped from worldly entanglement and went to Aparnath Math at Kashi. He took diksha (training with mantras) from Swami Achyuranand of Aparnath Math and was given a new name of Swami Sahajanand. Thus he became a sannyasi at the age of eighteen in 1907.

Sahajanand was not one who could be satisfied by merely wearing a saffron garb. He had an intense desire to search for the ultimate reality, namely, God, and the ultimate purpose of life, namely, moksha. He had a companion in his co-villager Hari Narayan, who was also an ardent traveller of the same path. They were so determined that the lack of resources could hardly deter them. Their greatest asset was their youth and the intensity of their spiritual quest. They decided to do pariuarjana (the long journey with spiritual quest) on foot. In their search for an accomplished yogi, they moved to places like Allahabad, Jhansi, Chitrakut, and the Malwa region, overcoming all kinds of physical hurdles on the way. But they were disappointed as their search for an adept yogi was nowhere near to be accomplished. Thus, they decided to go to the Himalayas to continue their mission. They reached Rishikesh via Mathura, but the search for a yogi continued to prove elusive. They moved towards Urtarkashi, but on the way, Hari Narayan dropped out from the journey ahead. Swami continued and went up to Badri and Kedar. Swami had virtually spent a year in search of a yogi who could lead him to the ultimate goal of God realization, but he was nowhere near achieving his mission. He came back and tried to live in a math at a village called Bharauli in Ghazipur district. But he had a bitter experience with the head of the math who, despite being a sannyasi, was primarily interested in making money rather than in his spiritual quest. Disappointed, Swami went back to Kashi and took residence in Aparnath Math. All these disappointing experiences set him on a new path. He decided to devote his time for a close and critical study of scriptures and books on various schools of Indian philosophy and grammar. He thought that these shastric studies would give him enough strength to pursue his mission. He was fortunate enough to sit at the feet of some of the most reputed and outstanding teachers of his times in different areas of learning. He studied Sanskrit grammar, Nyaya, Mimamsa, yoga, and Vaisheshika, both at Kashi and Darbhanga. From all these studies, Sahajanand emerged as a scholar of vast learning, mostly in the Indian traditional forms of vidya (knowledge).

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