All those successes and failures
All that pleasure and pain
All that good and evil
I would go over the same ground a million times again
Shedding tears of blood
Facing the same unpleasantness and frustration
The same disappointments and lost hopes
If only one thing was guaranteed
I would meet Swami Sivananda again
(extract Time Machine 1961)
Tomes have been written about this legendary master. He wrote hundreds of books thousands of pamphlets and untold letters. His first long term disciple Swami Paramananda began writing to him in 1930 and received “postal tuition” for two years before coming to the feet of the Master. In the course of his lifetime Paramananda would receive almost 1000 letters from his guru.
In Sivananda: Biography of a Modern Sage the life and times of this unique Master who spread the many pathways of yoga across the world and whose legacy continues to enlighten and inform sincere seekers is chronicled.
In 1982 when Swami Chidananda, spoke at the memorial service for Swami Venkatesananda held at the headquarters of the Divine Life Society (Sivananda Ashram) in Rishikesh, India, he said:
“Swami Venkatesanandaji Maharaj was a man of destiny who had a direct link and relationship with the phenomenal personality of Gurudev Swami Sivananda whose advent brought a wide spiritual awakening specially in the West.
“Why specially in the West? Because of a very extraordinary fact about Gurudev. It was peculiar and almost funny that Gurudev, born in an orthodox Brahmin family in the stronghold of orthodox Hinduism, was only able to give his message in English. It was unbelievable. This was in an era which was filled with a great nationwide stir of nationalism and independence, where everything foreign was thrown into the flames and everyone wanted to learn Hindi.
“Gurudev went to the north of India performing austerities and sadhana and attained illumination on the banks of the Ganges. He did not write or speak in any of the Indian vernacular languages. Here was a phenomenon: a sadhu, a sannyasin and a yogi arising out of his deep meditations and delivering his message in English. Even his bhajans and songs were composed in English. This is significant because it was he, who was chosen to proclaim spirituality to the West, to those beyond the shores of India.
“It is little wonder therefore that Gurudev’s writings first brought the message of yoga to the whole of Europe. People started practicing yoga, studying his books and translating them into Latvian, Estonian, French and then into German and Spanish. Even before his teachings began to be known within India they were well-known in European countries and the States. Had his writings been in Tamil or Hindi or some other language, God knows what would be the story today.
“Those were the days of the British Government when we learned all our subjects in English. Therefore, a man like Swami Venkatesanandaji, born and brought up in Madras, was a product of this system of education. Perhaps Swamiji would not have been here nor Swami Chidananda 1, Paramananda or Krishnananda but for the fact that we were all products of Anglicised Indian society and we had started our education learning the A, B, C, D in kindergarten and we all came into contact with Gurudev’s writing in English.”
1 Swami Chidananda was the President of the Divine Life Society (Sivananda Ashram Headquarters, Rishikesh) after Swami Sivananda’s Mahasamadhi in 1963, and a brother disciple to Swami Venkatesananda