Many Westerners are dazed and confused about what a Swami is. Simply, Swami is a title bestowed upon a member of India's most ancient monastic order. The word 'swami' is sanskrit and means 'he who is one with the Self'. A Swami usually takes formal vows of celibacy and renunciation of worldly ties and ambitions, but can also be a householder, having the responsibility of a family. Although renunciation has many challenges to be faced, the life of a Spiritual Householder has just as many (if not more) obstacles and distractions which need to be overcome on the Journey to Spirit. The 'job' of a Swami includes devotion to meditation and other spiritual practices as well as unconditional service to humanity. There are ten classificatory titles of the venerable Swami Order including Giri, Bharati, Tirtha and Saraswathi. Swami Shankarananda belongs to the Giri, or Mountain, Order.

Swami Shankarananda is also known as a Guru, a term often incorrectly used today to refer to any well-informed teacher or instructor - in any field. The word guru actually means 'one who leads from darkness (gu) to light (ru)' and, as such, is one qualified to lead the spiritual aspirant on their way to Divine realization. A God-illumined guru is one who has attained mastery of the Self and has realized his identity with the Omnipresent Spirit. Such a Master is Swami Shankarananda although, in his humility, He will not openly admit to this.

When an individual seeks in desperation to experience God, they are sent a Guru for guidance along the path to Self-realization. A true Guru is not an ordinary teacher, but is a human vehicle used by God as a channel to guide seeking and lost souls back to their Universal Home.

It is important to bear in mind that not all Swamis are Gurus and not all Gurus are necessarily ordained in the Swami Order.

Although Swami has a really long name: Jadatharaya Gurudasamani Swami Shankarananda, being only part of it, most refer Him as Swami Shankarananda, (shankarananda means 'bliss of Shiva'), Swamiji, or just 'Guru'.

Swami Shankarananda is a householder, having a dedicated wife and a family of four children. He is a qualified electrical engineer by trade (having studied in America), has received an honorary degree in Vedic Astrology, is an honorary Reiki and Lighterian Master, a Justice of the Peace and a Commissioner of Oaths. Nevertheless, all of these titles mean nothing to Swami, and He never acknowledges or even discusses them, preferring to place God ahead of His every achievement.

Swami lives in the town of Verulam in the province of kwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, where He runs a small ashram and Gayathri temple (focusing on the Mother, or female, aspect of God), conducting spiritual counselling, yoga and meditation classes, Vedic maths lessons, full-moon ceremonies and other prayers. He travels to Johannesburg every month to give interactive discourses and workshops on Spirituality, and He also travels to Sri Lanka and India at least four times a year to visit His other ashrams there.