(Last Updated on : 16/10/2014)
Swami Sivananda Saraswati, an exponent of Yoga and Vedanta, was born on 8th September 1887 in the small village of Pattamadai (Tirunelveli district) on the banks of River Tamraparni in Tamil Nadu. He is also known to be the founder of Divine Life Society located at Muni ki Reti in Rishikesh, Uttarakhand. Swami Sivananda Saraswati is also hailed as the inspiration behind the establishment of the Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Centers. Besides these Swami Sivananda Saraswati has authored several books on yoga and Vedanta.
Early Life of Swami Sivananda Saraswati
Kuppuswami or Sivananda Saraswati was born to P.S. Vengu Iyer and Parvati
Ammal. His father was a Tahsildar and a great Shiva devotee and his mother was a God fearing lady too. Sivananda, in his childhood, was bold, courageous, carefree and amiable by nature. An intelligent child, Kuppuswami earned prizes every year for academics from Rajah's High School in Ettiapuram. He passed his Matriculation Examination in 1903 from the Rajah's High School, Ettiapuram. Then he joined the S.P.G. College, Trichinopoly for further education. He actively took part in college debates and dramas. Swami Sivananda Saraswati passed out the First Arts examination and pursued his studies in medicine at Tanjore medical college. He earned the titles of M.B. and C.M. After passing out from the medical college Kuppuswami practiced as a doctor at Trichy
. It was during this time that he also published a medical journal called, 'Ambrosia.'
Swami Sivananda Saraswati as a Doctor in Malaysia
In the year 1913, he went to Malaysia and practiced there for ten years. Swami Sivananda Saraswati, as a doctor, treated the downtrodden and ran a hospital there. Often he would treat the poor without taking any fees from them. In spite of being caught up in his work he always found out time to serve the saints and beggars. He became a Member of the Royal Institute of Public Health (M.R.I.P.H.), London, a Member of the Royal Asiatic Society (M.R.A.S.), London, and an Associate of Royal Sanitary Institute
(A.R.San.I.), London. During his stay in Malaya, he published some medical books such as 'Household Remedies,' 'Fruits and Health' 'Diseases and their Tamil Terms,' 'Obstetric Ready-Reckoner,' 'Fourteen Lectures on Public Health.' Spiritual by nature, he had read the Hindu epics, Mahabharata
; the Bhagawad Gita
and other sacred scriptures. He also participated in Nandan Charitam and sang bhajans. However, after a brief encounter with an itinerant sage led Swami Sivananda Saraswati to find out the ways to heal people spiritually. To find such a path he returned back to India in 1924.
Swami Sivananda Saraswati as a Sage
On the 8th of May, 1924 Kuppuswami reached Rishikesh
. It was a fortunate association with Sri Vishwananda Saraswati on 1st June that Kuppuswami was initiated into the Sanyasi order. The monk saw an apt follower in the doctor and the doctor saw a guru in the monk. Then subsequently, Kuppuswamy was rechristened as Swami Sivananda by Guru Visvananda Saraswati and he started staying in the Swarga Ashram for performing meditations and Tapas and Japas. As per Sivananda, the lives of Yogins, Mahatmas and great men taught him a lot. The spirit of service ingrained in me enabled me to lead a smooth life of peace everywhere. The life of a mendicant during pilgrimage helped him to develop in a great measure Titiksha (forbearance), equal vision and a balanced state of mind in pleasure and pain. The preaching of Sivananda Saraswati stressed on leading a good life by following certain norms. Serving fellow human beings should be the primary aim of a person. Feelings of Maitri (friendship), Karuna (kind-heartedness), Daya (mercy), Prema (love), Kshama (Forgiveness). Another paragraph says that develop good manners, extreme politeness, courtesy, etiquette, good demeanor, nobility, gentleness, mildness should be inculcated in every person. One must abstain from taking revenge, hatred, bear insult or injury and envy and dislikes for anything or being must be removed through love and Vichara (thoughts).
Swami Sivananda renounced the worldly pleasures and lived to serve humanity. He resided in a small dilapidated kutir. In that kutir he would perform intense Tapas and meditation, and sometimes he would fast, too, for several days. He would perform intense meditation in the early winter mornings standing tall in the River Ganga
. With this intense meditation, he did not neglect his responsibilities of being a doctor and serving the sick and old; he would visit the huts of the saints carrying medicines for them. He treated the cases of cholera and smallpox. Sometimes he washed their Kutirs in case of their illness, begged on behalf of them and fed them with his own hands. Swamiji studied the scriptures and performed varied forms of yoga.
Divine Life Society, Rishikesh
The Divine Life Society was established by Swami Sivananda Saraswati in 1936 and after this he registered the Trust Deed at Ambala
. This organisation developed around the same kutir that was built by Swamiji by Ganga and served the needy. Moreover, his disciples also lived by his side. However, most of the times, they had to face a number of hardships. Hence proper living space was also desired to accommodate his growing number of followers. The ruler of Tehri-Garhwal granted a piece of land for building Divine Life Society. The main aim of this society was to spread spiritual knowledge through pamphlets, conferences, books, magazines and satsangs. Subsequently about 300 Branches were opened in all important cities. It also functioned as a charitable organisation, training centre for yoga and upheld the traditions and culture of India. Sivananda Ashram is its headquarters.
Swami Sivananda Saraswati as an Author
Sivananda Saraswati, besides being an Indian saint, was an author too. He has written several books on yoga and Hindu religion.
Some of his books include Autobiography of Swami Sivananda, Yoga of Synthesis, Lord Shanmukha and His Worship, Practice of Yoga, Lord Siva and His Worship, Karma Yoga, Brihadaranyaka Upanishad etc.
Swami Sivananda Saraswati travelled throughout India during his Parivrajaka life. He visited prominent places of pilgrimage in the south, including Rameswaram. He conducted Sankirtan and gave lectures. Swamiji went for a trip over the Kailash Mansarovar and Badrinath. On 14th of July 1963, this sacred soul entered Mahasamadhi in his kutir on the banks of Ganga River in Sivanandanagar.