SWAMI VENKATESANANDA (1921-1982) is a renowned 20th Cent. sage, yogi, scholar and a chief disciple of the legendary master H.H. Swami Sivananda Maharaj of Rishikesh, India. His erudite translations of scriptures including the YogaVasistha, and many compilations of his edited talks, discussions and books on yoga, continue to be sought by serious students of yoga throughout the world.
Venkatesananda (or Parthasarathy as he was then called) was born in South India, and came in touch with the writings of Swami Sivananda when he was a schoolboy. He began a correspondence with the Master and what really impressed him was that Swami Sivananda was accessible, that he would write back, “not many holy men in India would do that”.
After leaving school Venkatesananda entered the public service and was rapidly promoted. In his mid 20s he moved to Delhi and took up an appointment as PA to one of the top officials in Nehru’s Central Government of India. This appointment brought him closer to his goal, Rishikesh, just an overnight’s train journey from Delhi. As brother disciple Swami Chidananda chronicles: “Venkatesanandaji came on a visit to Rishikesh with a colleague who also worked in the same central government, they stayed a couple of days, saw the work that was going on and felt the impact of Gurudev’s personality. His ideas, his teachings, his work was so tremendous that already a revolution was starting in their minds. They went back, came for a longer stay and then – finished – they were conquered.”
Venkatesananda joined the Ashram in 1945 and would serve for “seventeen blissful years” at the feet of his beloved Master. His work was primarily in the preparing of manuscripts, printing and publication of Gurudev’s work.
In 1961 Swami Sivananda sent this close disciple into the world to spread his “Yoga of Synthesis”: “There are four types of human beings: the active, the emotional, the mystic and the intellectual. The seers have therefore evolved four paths – kama yoga, bhakti yoga, raja yoga and jnana yoga – to enable people of the four temperaments to reach the goal, Atma-jnana. “Everyone is endowed with all four but one aspect is predominant in each. Therefore the yoga of synthesis with stress on one system is the most suitable yoga for the present age. The yoga of synthesis develops you harmoniously." Swami Sivananda.
Venkatesananda began his outside work with Swami Sahajananda (Sivananda disciple) at his Ashram in South Africa. There, as in Rishikesh, he was instrumental in the preparation, composition, lino-typing and publication of many volumes of Swami Sivananda’s works.
From this time he would began travelling of the world. He founded centres and ashrams and was a guest of many others. He met with many religious philosophical and spiritual teachers all over the world and chronicled these colourful meetings in essays published in two volumes: Yoga Around the World.
The first yogi to come to Australia – certainly Western Australia - where Venkatesa came in 1961 as the guest lecturer of the University of Western Australia (UWA) Adult Education programme. Walter Dawson, leader of Perth Self-Realisation wrote to Swami Sivananda:
“His public tour was a tremendous success culminating in the Physics Theatre which was packed to the highest tier to hear his discourses on Yoga and Christianity”. He held and won the hearts of everyone present with his clear and lucid explanation of this difficult subject, also his wonderful sense of humour which had the audience rocking with laughter.”
At these lectures were those whose lives changed direction and who would never lose contact with the Swami. Foremost amongst these was Nancy Horwood (Swami Lakshmiananda) who was pivotal in the founding in 1972 of the first non-residential John Street Ashramin North Fremantle and in 1976, the residential Sivananda Ashram Beacon Yoga Centre in Fremantle (Beaconsfield).
In 1964 Venkatesa would return again as a guest of the University but from that time onward the principals of the Integral Yoga Association (which began in 1961 under his direction): Nancy Horwood (Lakshmi), Lionel Drummond and John Horwood would host the Swami who returned to Perth in 1964 at the invitation of UWA, and from then on he returned every three years or so, until 1974 when he began coming every year for three months of the year until his shedding the body in 1982.
The Published Work
Swam Venkatesananda was a prolific yogi and his teaching was a vast spectrum: including erudite translations from Sanskrit to English of (mainly) scriptures with commentaries. He formatted many titles into a year of daily readings: The Song of God (Bhagavad Gita), Srimad Bhagavatam (The Book of God), Valmiki’s Ramayana, Yoga Vasistha Vols. I and II, Buddha Daily Readings, Sivananda Daily Readings, Insights and Inspirations and many more – all available on our website.
For the last few years of his life, with many of his friends, he undertook the mammoth task of compiling the Complete Works of Swami Sivananda in 18 volumes – six of which (including a biography) are available from Divine Life Society H.Q., Rishikesh India.
In the last year of his life a documentary “Through the Corner of His Eyes” was made and also our Ashram videod his last series of lectures on his favourite scripture, The Yoga Vasistha: fourteen weekly one hour lectures – available on our website.
And the Last Word : “He is the crest jewel of my mission, the resplendence of my work. Will I see one who shines the brighter? Surely none of have I ever seen.”