Swami Sivananda, the founder of Divine Life Society, was one of the greatest spiritual leaders of India under the aegis of whom the philosophy of Yoga and Vedanta reached millions, in India and abroad. Sivananda also imparted his Yogic and Vedic knowledge in over 200 texts, compiled by him for all spiritual seekers. He founded Sivananda Ashram, which later formed the headquarters of The Divine Life Society (DLS). The spiritual edifice today stands proudly on the bank of the Ganges at Sivanandanagar, at a distance of 3 kilometers from Rishikesh.
Childhood and Youth
Swami Sivananda was born on 8th September 1887, in Pattamadai, Tamil Nadu and his childhood name was Kuppuswamy. Since quite an early age, Kuppuswamy exhibited special qualities. He was very mischievous but was a child with great intelligence. Kuppuswamy started showing signs of Tyaga (renunciation) when his peers were grappling with the nuances of worldly life. As a young boy, Kuppuswamy was extremely philanthropic by nature. He often fed the hungry and the poor. He loved distributing snacks and sweet cakes amongst his friends, pets and whoever came starving at his door. The young Kuppuswamy was a great devotee of Lord Shiva, and he loved decorating the Shiva Linga at his place with flowers and bael leaves.
Unlike other boys of his age, Kuppuswamy found the art of studying and acquiring knowledge very easy. He studied at the Rajah’s (King) High School, Ettayapuram. He always excelled in all subjects and won many accolades and prizes in school. It is worthwhile to mention that Kuppuswamy was gifted with a very sweet and tranquil voice. He was often requested to take part in public events. During one such event, Kuppuswamy sang a welcome song at the Kumarapuram railway platform to receive the then Governor of Madras, His Excellency Lord Ampthil, in 1901. The Governor was on a hunting expedition at Kuru Malai Hills and was spellbound on listening to the young boy’s beautifully sung song.
As Kuppuswamy reached his adolescence his inherent talents and skills knew no bounds and after excelling in his Matriculation examination, he joined S.P.G. College, Tiruchirapalli where he explored another aspect of his personality which was more sophisticated and refined in arts. He was always a genius when it came to expressing his thoughts and ideas to others. During his college life, Kuppuswamy also participated in various debates and dramas. In 1905, he participated in Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream where he was applauded for flawlessly playing the character of Helena.
After finishing his first Arts Examination, Kuppuswamy joined Medical School in Tanjore and studied medicine. He was extremely hard working and never visited his home, not even during holidays. He indulged laboriously in almost all the activities occurring in the hospital. Kuppuswamy’s seniors were extremely impressed with him; such was their confidence on the young boy that he was even granted permission to enter the operation theater at his own whim. Eventually, to everyone’s surprise, Kuppuswamy emerged out as a physician of the highest rank who knew even more than the most coveted and experienced doctors of his times.
After completing his studies, Kuppuswamy became a flourishing doctor and practiced at Tiruchi. He also launched an informative medical journal named The Ambrosia alongside his regular practice. The journal was launched with the financial support of his mother. Being extremely philanthropic by nature, Kuppuswamy started distributing the journal for free amongst the needy.
A call came to Dr. Kuppuswamy from Malaysia, soon after the death of his father. The adventurous spirit within Kuppuswamy compelled him to leave India. Thus, in 1913 he left India in the ship ‘S.S. Tara’. However, while on the shipboard, he faced mammoth challenge of sticking to his vegetarian fundamentals. For his long journey, Kuppuswamy was carrying with him some sweets which his mother had prepared for him. Unfortunately, midway he ran short of his food and as he belonged to an orthodox Brahmin family, he completely abstained himself from having non-vegetarian food available onboard. Kuppuswamy suffered serious health implications, though he reached Malaysia in one piece to start off with his new venture.
He worked backbreaking long hours as many patients began to call upon him for their treatment. Together with his medicines, Kuppuswamy’s humble and witty attitude helped his patients recover smoothly. People who knew him as a doctor were sure that he was blessed with some magical capacities of curing even the hopeless cases. During his stay in the foreign land, Kuppuswamy attended to the poor and charged no fees from them. However, after a certain period, he felt like resigning the job. At that point of time, Mr. Robins, his senior friend, stopped him from leaving the job.
Kuppuswamy also studied sacred scriptures like the Bhagavad-Gita, the Mahabharata, the Bhagavata, and the Ramayana with great devotion. Eventually, he started mulling over the fact that medicines can only heal the superficial part of a human being, without purifying his inner-self. This thought gradually engulfed his psyche and in 1923 he finally returned to his own nation after spending considerable time serving in Malaysia.
Guru of the Guru
After coming to India, Kuppuswamy embarked on a spiritual venture and began exploring various pilgrimage places. A turning point in his life arrived in the year 1924 when he met Swami Vishwananda Saraswati in Rishikesh. He, without any further delay, took him as his Guru. Vishwananda initiated him into Sanyasa (asceticism) and gave the name of Swami Sivananda. On an interesting note, Sivananda spent only few countable hours with Guru Vishwananda. Hence his Viraja Homa ceremony could not get completed. Nevertheless, the rest of the ceremony was completed by Swami Vishnudevananda who was the Mahant of Sri Kailas Ashram. In the year 1927, Sivananda took the initiative of setting up a charitable dispensary at Lakshmanjula, where he served the Sadhus, Sannyasins, beggars and pilgrims to a great extent.
Contribution to the Society
Swami Sivananda eventually unfolded himself into a spiritual leader of highest dignity and integrity. He brought into this world the concept of spiritual healing of mind-body-soul with the help of Yoga and spirituality. He explained that a complete spiritual healing can only take place when one engrosses himself into Yog and unites with the Divine consciousness. The Yog practice eventually helps one to achieve his goal in life.
Sivananda and his guru, Swami Vishnudevananda, encouraged the age old Vedantic technique of concentration which ultimately leads to achieving one’s goal in life with a healthy mind and spirit.
Swami Sivananda Yog
Sivananda Yog is a type of Hatha Yog, which lays special emphasis on asanas (postures), savasana (relaxation), pranayama (proper breathing), diet (vegetarian) and Vedanta and dhyana (positive thinking and meditation). These are considered as some of the biggest contributions in the field of Yoga and self-healing.
Hatha Yog is a multifaceted subject; however, the spiritual guru Swami Vishnudevananda has presented it in the simplest possible manner by stressing on the following points. He has rationally distributed the philosophy of Yog into five simple points for easy understanding of the commoner on the subject.
· Proper Exercise or Asanas – Blood circulation and muscle flexibility are of prime importance for a healthy body. Regular Asanas improve muscle elasticity and blood flow in the body.
· Proper Breathing or Pranayama – Even the deadliest of the diseases can be averted and cured with the function of deep and conscious breathing. Pranayama reduces stress and other psychological malfunctions leading to various diseases.
· Proper Relaxation – Optimum relaxation is extremely essential for the body otherwise it gets prone to fatigue syndrome or nervous breakdown.
· Proper Diet – Eating easily digestible healthy and vegetarian food accelerates one’s mental and physical wellbeing and maintains proper balance in the ecosystem.
· Positive Thinking or Vedanta; and Meditation or Dhyana – Positive thinking helps a person to take every situation of life in his stride. Meditation brings mind control and helps him to cope up with stress and the various ups and downs of life.
Books by Swami Sivananda
· All About Hinduism
· Amrita Gita
· Autobiography of Swami Sivananda
· Brahma Sutras
· Conquest of Anger
· Conquest of Fear
· Easy Steps to Yoga
· Essence of Yoga
· God Exists
· A Great Guru And His Ideal Disciple
· Guru-Bhakti Yoga
· Guru Tattva
· Hindu Fasts & Festivals
· How to Get Vairagya (Dispassion)
· Ideal of Married Life
· Karmas and Diseases
· Kundalini Yoga
· Light, Power and Wisdom
· Lord Siva and His Worship
· The Master Said …
· May I Answer That?
· Mind—Its Mysteries and Control
· Parables of Sivananda
· The Philosophy and Significance of Idol Worship
· Philosophy of Dreams
· Practical Lessons In Yoga
· Practice of Brahmacharya
· Practice of Karma Yoga
· Radha’s Prem
· Satsanga and Svadhyaya
· The Science of Pranayama
· Sivananda Vani
· Thought Power
· Thus Awakens Swami Sivananda
· Thus Spoke Sivananda
· Vedanta for Beginners
· What Becomes of the Soul After Death
· Yoga in Daily Life
Message of the Guru
The message from the guru was very simple – he used to believe in simplicity; he used to lead a simple life and believed in helping people; he taught meditation; he believed in serving the needy and poor; and always maintained his spiritual stand that one survives on earth to help others in some or the other way.
In a sentence:
“Serve, Love, Give, Purify, Meditate, Realize” – Swami Sivananda.
Institutions by Swami Sivananda
Divine Life Society (1936): Sivananda founded the Divine Life Society in the year 1936, at Muni Ki Reti in Rishikesh, India. This religious organization and ashram exudes great charm and tranquility. At present, the Divine Life Society has spread its wings all across India and globe. The ardent disciples of Swami Sivananda took this pious initiative of bringing their master’s works on an international level. Today, the organization has opened up its wings in different countries including the U.S., Australia, Canada, South America, Europe, South Africa, Mauritius, and Malaysia.
Divine Life Society is an organization which disseminates knowledge on Yoga and meditation through the following methods.
- Through publication of books, pamphlets and magazines on the subjects of Yoga and Vedanta.
· Holding and arranging spiritual conferences and discourses (Satsang).
· Establishing training centers for the practice of Yoga.
· Enabling aspirants to develop their spiritual lives via systematic training in Yoga and philosophy.
· Establishing charitable organizations.
· Through the preservation of the ancient traditions and cultural practices of India.
Sivananda Ayurvedic Pharmacy (1945): Sivananda established the famous Sivananda Ayurvedic Pharmacy in 1945 in order to provide his patients a complete Ayurvedic treatment. The medical centre offers the best Ayurvedic treatment by utilizing the rare Himalayan herbs in the treatment. Usually, the centre is over flooded with patients all round the year.
All-world Religions Federation (1945): On 28th December 1945, Sivananda established the All-world Religions Federation. Owing to its great success and great demand for similar kind of association, the Swami also organized the All-world Sadhus Federation in the year 19th February 1947. The year 1947 brought a lot many developments in his spiritual mission and his works and organization sprang up in the multitude.
Yoga-Vedanta Forest Academy (1948): From the year 1947 onwards Sivananda’s success knew no bounds. In the year 1948, he decided to provide special training to his residential Sadhaks for their better spiritual upliftment. He also welcomed the visiting seekers who confide unto his teachings for gaining higher vision in life. An All-India and Ceylon (Sri Lanka) tour in 1950 was undertaken by the Swami to spread his divine message amongst the native and neighboring people. He was successful to a great extent in bringing spiritual consciousness in the hearts of many. Spiritual aspirants in thousands used to come to him for learning the art of living with subliminal consciousness. In the year 1951, the Yoga-Vedanta Forest Academy Press was established to solve the spiritual queries of his followers with the powerful means of extensive knowledge diffusion. Swamiji convened the World Parliament of Religions in 1953, at the Sivanand ashram.
The Final Phase
Swami Sivananda went into Mahasamadhi on 14th of July 1963. This Self-realized saint came to this world with a special mission and departed from his mortal coil when it was achieved. He left his mortal body at his Kutir on the bank of Ganges, in Shivanandanagar, leaving his radiating knowledge and wisdom behind, which shines immortally.
The General Secretary
THE DIVINE LIFE SOCIETY
P.O. Shivanandanagar -249 192,
District Tehri-Garhwal, Uttarakhand. India.
Phone: (91)-135-2430040 / 2431190
Fax: (91)-135-2442046 (9:00 am to 5:00 pm IST)
E-mail – [email protected]