Swami Brahmananda Saraswati [1] said:

“It is extremely essential to see the Blessed Lord [*] everywhere.”  [2]

For the same all-pervading Divinity, he also used the term “Paramatma” — The “great,” all-pervading Soul; The Supreme Soul.

“The Supreme Soul [**] is the dweller within…He resides in the hearts of everyone at every moment. He is watching each and every action…” [3]

“The difference between the individual soul [***] and the Supreme Soul is like the difference between paddy and husked rice. As long as the husk is still there, it is called ‘paddy rice,’ and when the husk is removed, it is called ‘husked rice.’ In this manner, as long as the individual soul is in bondage to the effects of actions [****], it is separate from the Supreme Soul. On breaking the bondage to karma, the individual soul is none other than the Supreme Soul.” [4]

Guru DevSwami Brahmananda Saraswati was the Shankaracharya of Jyotir Math.

What does that mean?

Shankar (or Shankara) was the founder of the Indian system of non-dual philosophy called “Vedanta.” He set up (4) authorities, called “acharyas,” to preserve his teachings throughout the generations. Each teacher, presiding over a “seat” called a “math” (pro-nounced “mut”), was called a “Shankaracharya” — an authoritative interpreter of Shankara’s teachings. Jyotir Math was/is one of the four seats. Thus, from 1941 to 1953, Swami Brahmananda Saraswati was one of the (4) authoritative interpreters of Indian non-dual philosophy. His authority was more than “scholarly” in an academic sense; more than a mastery of texts. It also reflected his direct, personal experience of the validity of Shankara’s teachings and their confirmation in his person. He was the teacher/master of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, who brought Transcendental Meditation to the modern world. 

As Americans, we are familiar with Vedanta as the source (in however reduced a form) of the “Transcendentalist” writings; especially those of Ralph Waldo Emerson:

The Supreme Critic on the errors of the past and the present, and the only prophet of that which must be, is that great nature in which we rest…; that Unity, that Over-soul, [i.e. Paramatma] within which every man’s particular being is contained and made one with all other…” [5]

It was also referenced by the “Beat” movement (Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, etc.), perhaps with somewhat limited understanding.

Kerouac quote
Swami Brahmananda Saraswati also reminds me very much of the great Hasidic rebbes. They were often rabbinic authorities and scholars of kabbalah, which were also confirmed in theirrav-kook persons. Rav Avraham Yitzhak Kook — the first Chief Rabbi of what was then called “mandatory Palestine,” who was both a scholarly authority and a person renowned for his spiritual experience — comes to mind, too. Like them, the Swami’s teachings emphasize personal experience of the Divine, not simply an understanding of “books” (without denying the importance that can have in the process). 

Rebbes were thought to “contain” holiness — i.e. the Shechinah/Divine Presence — the way that the Mishkan/Tabernacle and the First Temple did. In fact, one Hasidic group (it might have been the Kotzker Hasidim) customarily placed 12 loaves of challah before their rebbe. This emulated the mitzvah of placing 12 loaves before the curtain, behind which the Ark stood in the Mishkan and First Temple. It was not the Ark that was being worshipped; it was the Divine Presence that it invoked. Non-Hasidim were highly critical of this, misunderstanding it as worshipping the rebbe himself. Hasidim clearly distinguished between God and their rebbe; it was the Shechinah in and around him that they acknowledged, just as It was found in the Mishkan. 

Along the same lines, Swami Brahmananda Saraswati is referred to as “Guru Dev” — the Divine Teacher.

Is Ha-Shem “Paramatma” — the Supreme Soul that is immanent everywhere? The Talmud affirms that:

“Just as the soul fills the body, so God fills the world.” [6]

By “world,” of course, the rabbis meant the entire Creation. Nor did they or Guru Dev believe that God’s “Soul” — existence and presence — were limited to It’s immanence in Creation.

Guru Dev is teaching that the soul that (seems to fill) the body is the same “Soul” that fills all Creation.

Maimonides taught that the foundation of knowledge and wisdom is to know [7] that there is a Primary Being, on the existence of Which everything else has existence at all. Thus,rambam 13.4 + illustrator all existence is Unchanging Divine Existence, in whatever form It might be temporarily appearing. Water is water, whether it’s a wave, an ocean or an iceberg. “Existence” is the essence, the “Soul” of the person or thing — whether animate or inanimate.

Rebbe Nachman of Breslav likewise begins his authoritative teachings in “Likutei Moharan” by saying that one must “contemplate” [הסתכל] the “seichel” [שכל] in everything

“…and bind himself to the wisdom and intelligence that is to be found in everything. This, in order that the wisdom which is in each matter may enlighten him, that he may draw closer to God through that very thing. For the “seichel” is a great light which shines to an individual in all of his ways…” [8]

The Hebrew/Yiddish word “seichel” literally means “wisdom.” The Rebbe did not mean it in the sense that Newton or Einstein meant it: i.e. an indication of design in Creation strongly suggesting a “Designer,” although the Designer remains separate from what has been designed. God’s “seichel” is in no way separate from God. Rebbe Nachman means for us to see that “…the Blessed Lord is present [and immanent] everywhere” — just as Guru Dev says — and to continually make the effort to see this.

The “Shema” tells us that we must lay God’s Words on our hearts. Guru Dev and all of Jewish tradition tell us the same about continually recognizing God’s Presence everywhere, in all things, in all events, at every moment. We must “place It on our hearts” — our recognition of It must supersede all knowledge and understanding based on sense perceptions alone. 


[*] original: Bhagavan
Equivalent to “Ha-Kadosh Baruch Hu” — “The Holy One, Blessed be He” which could also be translated “…Blessed be It.”
I usually translate it as “The Blessed Holy One” to sidestep debates about “Hu”
[**] original: Paramatma.
I borrowed “Supreme Soul” from Paul Mason’s translation.
I can’t think of a corresponding Hebrew designation for God, but in addition to the passage quoted, the prophet Yishiyahu/Isaiah said [6:3]: “The whole world [universe] is full of His Glory,” which was later incorporated into the liturgy. The Talmud also calls God “Ha-Makom/המקום‘ — the “Place.” God is “The Place” of the World — i.e. all Creation exists and is occurring within God, suggesting Divine Immanence, too. “Ha-Makom” is sometimes translated “The Omnipresent.” Immanence is an element of Omnipresence.
[***] original: jiva
Corresponding to “nefesh” in Hebrew. In other uses, “nefesh/ruach/neshama” represent the human “self,” while “chaya/yechidah” represent the Divine Self.
[****] original: karma
“Karma” is usually discussed in Judaism using the phrase “Midah k’neged micah” — “measure for measure.”

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brahmananda_Saraswati
[2] Shriver, LB, editor and Cynthia Ann Humes, trans.; The Sweet Teachings of the Blessed Shankaracharya Swami Brahmananda Saraswati; © 2013 by Doug Hamilton and Cynthia Ann Humes; p. 5
The same material is available in a separate, bi-lingual edition:
Mason, Paul, trans. and ed.; 108 Discourses of Guru Dev; published by Premanand; © 2009, 2016 by Paul Mason
[3] ibid. p. 50
[4] ibid. p. 56
[5] Emerson, Ralph Waldo; The Over-soul
[6] Talmud; Berachot 10a
[7] “by personal experience”:
Soloveitchik, Rabbi Joseph B.; Soloveitchik on Repentance; Pinchas Peli, ed; p. 134
[8] Rebbe Nachman of Breslav; Likutei Moharan; teaching # 1
It’s not impossible that Rebbe Nachman chose the word “seichel/wisdom” [שכל] because it is a homonym with the word [סכל], the root of “contemplate” [הסתכל]. He would thus be making a pun, a word-play, which is typical in Jewish teaching (especially Hasidic).