Purohit, Swami Shri (1882–ca. 1936)
Hindu monk, poet and spiritual teacher, who greatly influenced
the poet W. B. Yeats and (through him) actress Margot
Ruddock, a close friend of Yeats in his later years. Swami Purohit
was born on October 12, 1882, at Badnera, near Amraoti in
Berar, India (Central Provinces), of a religious and wealthy
Brahmin family. His father had renounced a large fortune out
of respect for the memory of his own father. As a boy, Purohit
grew up in a devout religious atmosphere and had several encounters
with wonder-working Mahatmas.
After attending a local Anglo-vernacular school, he studied
at University of Bombay, enrolling in 1898. He went on to the
Morris College at Nagpur, where he entered the Arts course.
After passing his examination in 1901 he joined the B.A. class
and studied philosophy. After failing this examination, he took
a position as teacher at Amraoti, eventually receiving his B.A.
from Calcutta University in 1903. He went on to Poona and
studied at Deccan College, where he obtained his LL.B. degree.
However, he was more interested in obtaining spiritual experience
from yogis and mahatmas than in practicing law. He
Purce, Jill Encyclopedia of Occultism & Parapsychology • 5th Ed.
made several religious pilgrimages. At the request of his parents,
he married a sixteen-year-old girl Godu Bai, but after the
birth of two daughters and a son, he obtained his wife’s permission
to renounce the life of householder. He studied under his
guru Bhagwan Shri Hamsa and in about 1923 became a renunciate
and traveling monk. He practiced severe austerities and
made religious pilgrimages throughout India. At the request of
his guru, he traveled to Europe in 1930.
In London, he became a close friend of W. B. Yeats, then in
his sixties, and strongly influenced his outlook on Hindu philosophy
and mysticism. Yeats wrote introductions to the
Swami’s autobiography An Indian Monk (1932) and his translation
of his guru’s book The Holy Mountain (Faber, London,
In 1935, the Swami published a translation of Bhagavad-Gita
under the title The Geeta; The Gospel of the Lord Shri Krishna
(1935) which he dedicated ‘‘To my friend William Butler Yeats’’
on his seventieth birthday. In the same year, the Swami published
a translation of the Mandukya Upanishad, for which Yeats
provided an introduction. Yeats had planned to travel to India
to assist the Swami in translating the ten principal Upanishads,
but eventually the work was completed by the two friends at
Majorca in 1936.
From 1934 onward, Yeats developed a romantic friendship
with the young actress Margot Ruddock, then twenty-seven
years old. He introduced her to the Swami, who thereafter became
her spiritual adviser and influenced the poems which she
wrote. The Swami also composed many religious poems, some
of which Margot Ruddock translated into English.
The Swami featured frequently in the correspondence between
Yeats and Margot Ruddock, published as Ah, Sweet Dancer;
W. B. Yeats and Margot Ruddock edited by Roger McHugh
(1970). Yeats corresponded with the Swami for some years before
his own death. The Swami returned to India in 1936 after
receiving news of the illness of his guru, who died the same
year. The Swami died soon afterward.
Yeats’s letters to the Swami were bought privately by Claude
Driver, director of the Rosenbach Foundation, Philadelphia.
Extracts from some letters were quoted in The Later Phase of the
Development of W. B. Yeats by S. Mokashi-Punekar (1966).
Patanjali, Bhagwan Shree. Aphorisms of Yoga. London Faber,