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Title: Sivananda  
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Sivānanda Saraswati
Krishnananda and Sivananda (right), circa 1945
Born Kuppuswami
(1887-09-08)8 September 1887
Pattamadai, Tamil Nadu, India
Died 14 July 1963(1963-07-14) (aged 75)
Guru Vishwānanda Saraswati
Philosophy Yoga of Synthesis
Prominent Disciple(s) Chinmayananda Saraswati, Satchidananda Saraswati, Vishnudevananda Saraswati
Quotation Be Good, do Good.

Sivānanda Saraswati (September 8, 1887 – July 14, 1963) was a Hindu spiritual teacher and a proponent of Yoga and Vedanta. Sivānanda 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 part of his life near Muni Ki Reti, Rishikesh.

He was the founder of The Divine Life Society (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 Divine Life Society (DLS), on the bank of the Ganges at Sivanandanagar, at a distance of 3 kilometres from Rishikesh.[1][2][3]

Sivananda Yoga, the yoga form propagated by him, are now spread in many parts of the world through Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Centres, which was spread by Sivānanda's disciple, Vishnu Devānanda, whom he sent to the west to spread yoga. However, these centres are not affiliated to Sivānanda's ashrams which are run by the Divine Life Society.

Early life

Sivānanda was born Kuppuswamy in Pattamadai near Tirunelveli in Tamil Nadu, India, as the third son to his parents on 8 September 1887.[4] 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 Malaya for ten years, with a reputation for providing free treatment to poor patients .[4] Over time, a sense that medicine was healing on a superficial level grew in him,[4] urging him to look elsewhere to fill the void, and in 1923 he left Malaya and returned to India to pursue a spiritual quest.


Upon his return to India in 1924, he visited Varanasi, Nashik, and then Rishikesh, where he met his Guru, Vishwānanda Saraswati. It was Vishwānanda who initiated him into the Sannyasa order, and gave him his monastic name.[4] However, since Sivānanda spent only a few hours with Vishwānanda, the full Viraja Homa ceremonies were performed later by Vishnudevānanda, the Mandaleswara of Sri Kailas Ashram .[4] After initiation, Sivānanda settled in Rishikesh, and immersed himself in intense spiritual practices. Sivānanda performed austerities for many years but he also continued to nurse the sick. With some money from his insurance policy that had matured, he started a charitable dispensary at Lakshman Jhula in 1927, serving pilgrims, holy men and the poor using his medical expertise.


After a few years, Sivānanda went on an extensive pilgrimage and traveled 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 Rameshvaram.[4] He conducted Sankirtan and delivered lectures during his travels. He visited the Sri Aurobindo Ashram, and met Maharishi Shuddhananda Bharati to which he gave the title of Maharishi. At the Ramana Ashram, he had the darshan of Ramana Maharshi on Maharshi's birthday.[5] 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.


During Sivānanda's stay in Rishikesh and his travels around India, many came to him for guidance in the spiritual path. He permitted some of them to live near him and instructed them. Sivānanda asked his students take copies of his short articles and send them for publication. Over time, large numbers of people started coming to him and his devotees started growing in numbers.

Sivānanda founded the Divine Life Society in 1936 on the banks of the Ganges River. The free distribution of spiritual literature drew a steady flow of disciples to him, such as Satyananda Saraswati, founder of Satyananda Yoga.

In 1945, Sivānanda created the Sivananda Ayurvedic Pharmacy, and organized the All-world Religions Federation. He established the All-world Sadhus Federation in 1947 and Yoga-Vedanta Forest Academy in 1948. He called his yoga the Yoga of Synthesis.


Sivānanda's two chief acting organizational disciples were Chidananda Saraswati and Krishnananda Saraswati. Chidānanda Saraswati was appointed President of the Divine Life Society by Sivānanda in 1963 and served in this capacity until his death in 2008. Krishnānanda Saraswati was appointed General Secretary of the Divine Life Society by Sivānanda in 1958 and served in this capacity until his death in 2001.

Other prominent disciples were Venkatesananda Saraswati (South Africa, Mauritius, Madagascar, Australia), Pranavanda Saraswati (Malaysia) and Sivananda Radha Saraswati (Canada). Another prominent disciple was Swami Sahajananda Saraswati (South Africa), who was directed by Sivānanda to establish the Divine Life Society of South Africa.

Disciples who went on to grow new organisations


A prolific author, Sivānanda wrote 296 books on a variety of subjects: metaphysics, yoga, religion, western philosophy, psychology, eschatology, fine arts, ethics, education, health, sayings, poems, epistles, autobiography, biography, stories, dramas, messages, lectures, dialogues, essays and anthology.[6] His books emphasized the practical application of Yoga philosophy over mere theoretical knowledge. He was known to have said, "An ounce of practice is better than tons of theory. Practice Yoga, Religion and Philosophy in daily life, and attain Self-realization."[7]


Sivānanda died on 14 July 1963 in his Kutir on the bank of the Ganges, in Sivanandanagar.[5]


Further reading

  • 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. Online


External links

  • Divine Life Society
  • DMOZ
  • Dedication to Swami Sivananda
  • Downloadable Books by Swami Sivananda, Divine Life Society

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