Guru as Shiva

In this short talk, Swami Brahmananda shares his experience of living alongside Skanda Vale’s founder Guru Sri Subramanium. Swami talks about a very special moment when Guru’s Divinity was revealed – in a full and overwhelming way.

Swami Brahmananda: Who knew who Guru Sri Subramanium was?

You know, like children he took us under his wing in Skanda Vale and educated us, and nurtured us, and helped us stand on our own feet spiritually. But it wasn’t until shortly before his death that I, personally was able to understand who he was.

He was very clever, because he wore this sort of mask of humanity, in order to diffuse who he really was. Sometimes he would tell us…

“If I revealed myself to you, in my true form, you wouldn’t be able to handle it at all. You wouldn’t be able to talk to me or look at me, or relate to me – and you would just be totally in awe. And then we wouldn’t be able to have this interaction, like normal human beings.”

So he would tease us, and tickle us, and laugh and joke with us, and play the fool with us. Underlying that, you didn’t realise the greatness of the soul that you were with. If you had, you wouldn’t be able to cope.


I had this experience myself. I used to go every Wednesday – I would go shopping with Guru. He loved to go shopping because then he was anonymous. He loved to go to Swansea and go round the market there.

He had so many friends in the market – sometimes he wouldn’t even buy anything. He would just go there to entertain the shop keepers and see the store holders. They didn’t know what a Guru was. They’d never even heard the word ‘Guru’ – they didn’t know what that was.

So they just thought he was this charming Asian man, who was very sweet, who would give them chocolates and tell them stories and stuff. He loved that. He loved to be in this realm where he could just be anonymous. He could just be nobody special. So he would never miss that – he always wanted to go shopping on Wednesdays, even if he didn’t buy anything.

I spent so many years in ignorance. One day – the last time we ever went shopping, I remember we were driving to Swansea in the Range Rover and just driving along. And then all of a sudden I just felt like suddenly the car wasn’t on the road anymore.

I was going along, but it was as though we were suddenly a hundred metres above the tarmac. It was a very uncanny sort of feeling. What’s going on here?! You know, driving along, and not really knowing how to drive or control the car anymore.

And Guru would often sleep – well he wouldn’t sleep, he would just leave his body when I was driving him somewhere. So he’d just appear like he was gone. His body would just be snoring away, or not even snoring sometimes… just gone.

I looked… I glanced across, and in Guru’s seat there was Shiva. Lord Shiva was there and immediately… I couldn’t even look. I was supposed to be driving the car. It was such anandam and such overwhelming joy.

You’re driving along and suddenly you’re just in floods of tears because you’ve realised all these years you’ve been… going shopping – involved in these mundane things. Going to the market, unimportant things. And yet this is the person that you’ve been with, and you never even knew. You never realised.

I don’t know how I managed to keep driving along on the road. It was an extraordinary feeling of privilege and anandam [bliss] that this great soul had actually…


You know, what had I done? Why has this person given me so much time? And he’s accommodated me and I’ve been such an arsehole! I’ve been so involved in my own stuff. I’ve been so disrespectful. I’ve been so unaware of who I’m really with.

And yet he’s accommodated all of that because of this deep, deep unconditional love. He’s here to take you on that journey of self realisation. Of discovering that we’re not separate, that we are one. So there’s this underlying purpose.

You know, how compassionate is God? Because He accepts us, even though we’ve been rejecting Him. We’ve been pushing Him away, been abusing Him, been accusing Him of every single thing, been blaming Him for every problem that we have.

His nature is unconditional love. Eternal love. So no matter how foolish we are, He never pushes us away. Swami Brahmananda

We create karma for ourselves, but even the Lord understands that and rather than punishing us, or chastising us, He says “OK, that’s your choice, I’ll make this drama in your life, so that you can fulfil that.”

It’s overwhelming… overwhelming when you recognise that.

Later on I also saw in Guru this ancient rishi. As he became older and his faculties began to give way he lost the ability to be the human person that we knew. And so you saw through it, and behind it was this ancient rishi.

We talked about Saptarishi Cave. He’s one of them. He’s this amazing Divine soul who’s there, holding the balance in the world – looking after everyone… looking over everyone. Trying to steer humanity in a positive direction. From time to time taking birth. An ancient, ancient rishi.

You can’t come to know a person like that unless you’ve earned that privilege, that eligibility.

Living with Guru

Watch an in depth interview with another of Guru's earliest companions.