Swami Vishnudevananda (Swamiji) was born in Kerala, South India, in 1927. As a young child one of his main character traits was a strong will and determination. His mother said that whenever her son wanted something, nothing or no one could stop him. As a teenager without financial means for university, he joined the army to receive the scientific education he yearned for. During this time as he looked for a lost paper in a waste basket, his eyes fell upon a paper entitled “20 Spiritual Instructions” by Swami Sivananda. The pamphlet began: “An ounce of practice is better than tons of theory”. The practicality and inherent power of these simple words lead Swamiji to travel across India during a 36-hour leave to meet Swami Sivananda in faraway Rishsikesh in the Himalayas. This short visit left such an impression on the young boy’s mind that he resolved to return as soon as possible.
Meeting the master
On his second visit, Swamiji received a powerful lesson from Guru Swami Sivananda. Swamiji felt too timid and a bit arrogant to bow to the Guru Swami Sivananda. So the Master Swami Sivananda prostrated fully before the young student demonstrating the lesson of humility. Master Swami Sivananda invited the young man to remain at the Ashram to study and become a Yogi. Swami Vishnudevananda spontaneously replied “Yes”.
For 10 years Swami Vishnudevananda continued at the Sivananda Ashram and was trained in all aspects of Yoga by Swami Sivananda. Swami Vishnudevananda quickly became an exceptional adept in the path of Hatha-Yoga and was a very keen and tireless Karma Yogi. One day Swami Sivananda gave Swamiji a 10 Rupee note (less than a dollar!) and his blessings to travel to the West and spread the teachings of Vedanta. “People are waiting” were the words of the Master.
Swamiji as a world teacher
Swamiji’s limitless energy and profound inspiration lead him to found and direct the International Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Centers. There are now 28 Yoga centers and 9 Ashrams and many affiliated centers around the world. Swami created the first Yoga Teachers Training Course which to date has trained more than 30,000 certified teachers in the field of Yoga and spirituality. One of his brilliant touches was to summarize these ancient and vast teachings into five principles of Yoga which are easy to understand and convenient to incorporate in one’s daily practice.
The flying Swami & his peace missions
Throughout his whole life, Swamiji was deeply concerned about the wellbeing of the world and the constant disaster of wars. This led him to learn to fly and then personally pilot a small plane over several troubled areas of the world. Not only did he create discussion and awareness in the news media, but he also “bombarded” these war torn areas with flowers and peace pamphlets while repeating the peace Mantra; Om Namo Narayanaya.
Swami Vishnudevananda entered maha-samadhi (left his physical body) on November 9, 1993.
- The Complete Illustrated Book of Yoga (1959)
- The Sivananda companion to yoga
- Meditation and Mantras (1978)
- A Commentary on the Hatha Yoga Pradipika
- Karma and Diseases
- The Yogi
I have given you all I have with all my heart and love. It is for you to give to others. Sometimes I may not know all the answers, and I know that I have a long way to go. If you didn’t get anything, that’s because of my lower emotional nature. If there was anything good you got, it came from my great Master Sivananda. I don’t say that I’m an unemotional person. I scolded and talked endlessly. I acted like a dictator. If I were like my master, or like Jesus, I could wash the feet of my disciples. But for that one must be very high. It can only be done when the ego is gone. If I were to do it, it would be hypocrisy. I’m not that high. Once, some years ago, I prostrated myself before a man to whom I had been rude and impatient. As I was doing it, I was thinking “How humble I am.” So don’t look for an easy way to overcome your ego. For years I’ve tried. I watch myself as my ego manifests itself. I analyze. But it clings like a leech. When we can’t control ourselves, we should offer it to the Lord: “Oh Lord, I offer it to Thee!” And now, if in any way I hurt your feelings, I ask you with all my heart to pardon me.
– Swami Vishnudevananda