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8 September 1887
|Died||14 July 1963 (aged 75)|
|Founder of||Divine Life Society|
|Philosophy||Yoga of Synthesis|
Sivananda Saraswati (or Swami Sivananda; 8 September 1887 – 14 July 1963) was a Hindu spiritual teacher and a proponent of Yoga and Vedanta. Sivananda was born Kuppuswami in Pattamadai, in the Tirunelveli district of Tamil Nadu. He studied medicine and served in British Malaya as a physician for several years before taking up monasticism. He lived most of his life near Muni Ki Reti, Rishikesh.
He was the founder of the Divine Life Society (DLS) in 1936, Yoga-Vedanta Forest Academy (1948) and author of over 200 books on yoga, Vedanta, and a variety of subjects. He established Sivananda Ashram, the headquarters of the DLS, on the bank of the Ganges at Sivanandanagar, 3 kilometres (1.9 mi) from Rishikesh.
Sivananda Yoga, the yoga form propagated by his disciple Vishnudevananda, is now spread in many parts of the world through Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Centres. These centres are not affiliated with Sivananda's ashrams, which are run by the Divine Life Society.
Swami Sivananda was born Kuppuswamy on Thursday, September 8, 1887, during the first hours of the morning, with Bharani star rising in Pattamadai village on the banks of Tamraparni river in Tirunelveli district, Tamil Nadu. His father, Sri P.S. Vengu Iyer, worked as a revenue officer, and was a great Shiva Bhakta (Bhakti) himself. His mother, Srimati Parvati Ammal, was a very religious woman. Kuppuswamy was the third and last child of his parents.
As a child he was very active and promising in academics and gymnastics. He attended medical school in Tanjore, where he excelled. He ran a medical journal called Ambrosia during this period. Upon graduation he practiced medicine and worked as a doctor in British Malaya for ten years, with a reputation for providing free treatment to poor patients. Over time, a sense that medicine was healing on a superficial level grew in Dr. Kuppuswamy, urging him to look elsewhere to fill the void, and in 1923 he left Malaya and returned to India to pursue his spiritual quest.
Upon his return to India in 1924, he went to Rishikesh where he met his guru, Vishvananda Saraswati, who initiated him into the Sannyasa order, and gave him his monastic name; the full ceremony was conducted by Vishnudevananda, the mahant (abbot) of Sri Kailas ashram. Sivananda settled in Rishikesh, and immersed himself in intense spiritual practices. Sivānanda performed austerities for many years but continued to nurse the sick. In 1927, with some money from an insurance policy, he ran a charitable dispensary at Lakshman Jhula.
After a few years, Sivananda went on an extensive pilgrimage and travelled the length and breadth of India to meditate at holy shrines and came in contact with spiritual teachers throughout India. During this Parivrajaka (wandering monk) life, Sivānanda visited important places of pilgrimage in the south, including Rameswaram. He conducted Sankirtan and delivered lectures during his travels. He visited the Sri Aurobindo Ashram, and met Maharishi Shuddhananda Bharati to whom he gave the title of Maharishi. At the Ramana Ashram, he had the darshan of Ramana Maharshi on Maharshi's birthday. He sang bhajans and danced in ecstasy with Maharshi's bhaktas. He also went on pilgrimages to various places in northern India including Kedarnath and Badrinath. He visited Kailash-Manasarovar in 1931. He became known to his critics as "Swami Propagandananda" for his energetic propagation of his yoga message.
Founding the Divine Life Society
Sivananda founded the Divine Life Society in 1936 on the banks of the Ganges River, distributing spiritual literature for free. Early disciples included Satyananda Saraswati, founder of Satyananda Yoga.
In 1945, he created the Sivananda Ayurvedic Pharmacy, and organised the All-world Religions Federation. He established the All-world Sadhus Federation in 1947 and the Yoga-Vedanta Forest Academy in 1948. He called his yoga the Yoga of Synthesis, combining the Four Yogas of Hinduism (Karma Yoga, Bhakti Yoga, Jnana Yoga, Rāja Yoga), for action, devotion, knowledge, and meditation respectively.
Swami Sivananda entered Mahasamadhi (departure of a Self-realized saint from his mortal coil) on 14 July 1963 in his Kutir on the bank of the Ganges, in Sivanandanagar.
Sivananda's two chief acting organizational disciples were Chidananda Saraswati and Krishnananda Saraswati. Chidananda Saraswati was appointed president of the DLS by Sivananda in 1963 and served in this capacity until his death in 2008. Krishnananda Saraswati was appointed General Secretary by Sivananda in 1958 and served in this capacity until his death in 2001.
Disciples who went on to grow new organisations include:
- Chinmayananda Saraswati, founder of the Chinmaya Mission
- Jyotirmayananda Saraswati, President of the Yoga Research Foundation, Miami, USA
- Sahajananda Saraswati, Spiritual Head of Divine Life Society of South Africa
- Satchidananda Saraswati, founder of the Integral Yoga Institutes, around the world
- Satyananda Saraswati, founder of Bihar School of Yoga
- Shantananda Saraswati, founder of Temple of Fine Arts (Malaysia & Singapore)
- Sivananda Radha Saraswati, founder of Yasodhara Ashram, British Columbia, Canada
- Venkatesananda Saraswati, inspirer of Ananda Kutir Ashrama in South Africa and Sivananda Ashram in Fremantle, Australia
- Vishnudevananda Saraswati, founder of the Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Centres, HQ Canada
A prolific author, Sivananda wrote 296 books on a variety of subjects: metaphysics, yoga, vedanta, religion, western philosophy, psychology, eschatology, fine arts, ethics, education, health, sayings, poems, epistles, autobiography, biography, stories, dramas, messages, lectures, dialogues, essays and anthology. His books emphasised the practical application of Yoga philosophy over theoretical knowledge.
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- (1944) Yogic Home Exercises. Easy Course of Physical Culture for Men & Women, Bombay, Taraporevala Sons & Co.
- Siva-Gita: an epistolary autobiography. The Sivananda Publication League. 1946.
- Principal Upanishads: with text, meaning notes and commentary. Yoga Vedanta Forest University, Divine Life Society. 1950.
- Raja Yoga: theory and practice. Yoga Vedanta Forest University, Divine Life Society. 1950.
- Inspiring songs and kirtans. Yoga-Vedanta Forest University. 1953.
- Music as yoga. The Yoga-Vedanta Forest University for the Sivananda Mahasamsthanam. 1956.
- Yoga of synthesis. Yoga-Vedanta Forest University. 1956.
- Story of my tour. Yoga-Vedanta Forest University. 1957.
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- Yoga practice, for developing and increasing physical, mental and spiritual powers. D.B. Taraporevala Sons. 1966.
- Fourteen lessons in raja yoga. Divine Life Society. 1970.
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- Yoga Vedanta dictionary. Yoga Vedanta Forest Academy. 1970.
- Kundalini yoga. Divine Life Society. 1971.
- The science of pranayama. Divine Life Society. 1971.
- Ten upanishads: with notes and commentary 8th ed. Divine Life Society. 1973.
- Sivananda vani: the cream of Sri Swami Sivananda's immortal, practical instructions on the yoga of synthesis in his own handwriting. Divine Life Society. 1978.
- Practice of yoga. The Divine Life Society. 1979.
- Autobiography of Swami Sivananda. Divine Life Society. 1980.
- Japa Yoga: a comprehensive treatise on mantra-sastra. Divine Life Society. 1981.
- Science of Yoga: Raja yoga ; Jnana yoga ; Concentration and meditation. Divine Life Society. 1981.
- Moksha gita. Divine Life Society. 1982.
- Samadhi yoga. The Divine Life Society. 1983.
- Yoga samhita. Divine Life Society. 1984.
- The Brihadaranyaka Upanishad: Sanskrit text, English translation, and commentary. Divine Life Society. 1985.
- Karma yoga. Divine Life Society. 1985. ISBN 978-0-949027-05-4.
- Bhakti yoga. Divine Life Society, Fremantle Branch. 1 January 1987. ISBN 978-0-949027-08-5.
- Lord Shanmukha and his worship. Divine Life Society. 1996. ISBN 978-81-7052-115-0.
- Raja Yoga. Kessinger Publishing. December 2005. ISBN 978-1-4253-5982-9.
- Sivananda and the Divine Life Society: A Paradigm of the "secularism," "puritanism" and "cultural Dissimulation" of a Neo-Hindu Religious Society, by Robert John Fornaro. Published by Syracuse University, 1969.
- From Man to God-man: the inspiring life-story of Swami Sivananda, by N. Ananthanarayanan. Published by Indian Publ. Trading Corp., 1970.
- Swami Sivananda and the Divine Life Society: An Illustration of Revitalization Movement, by Satish Chandra Gyan. Published by s.n, 1979.
- Life and Works of Swami Sivananda, by Sivānanda, Divine Life Society (W.A.). Fremantle Branch. Published by Divine Life Society, Fremantle Branch, 1985. ISBN 0-949027-04-9.
- Sivananda: Biography of a Modern Sage, by Swami Venkatesānanda. Published by Divine Life Society, 1985. ISBN 0-949027-01-4.
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