Swami Sivananda is recognized as one of the great Masters of modern times. Born in the South Indian state of Tamil Nadu in 1887, he became a medical doctor to serve humanity. After serving the sick and poor in Malaysia with all of his heart and soul for over a decade, he discovered that healing physical ailments can only go so far, for true peace and happiness comes from the spirit.
He then renounced his successful career and went empty handed to the Himalayas to start his spiritual quest. For more than a decade Swami Sivananda performed austerities and spiritual practices that are beyond human imagination. During that time he would nurse and serve other pilgrims, monks and mendicants, seeing them as manifestations of the Divine. At the end of his penance period, he achieved enlightenment.
Swami Sivananda wrote many articles about his spiritual experiences and practices. These drew many aspirants who wanted guidance on their paths. In order to serve them as well as humanity at large, he founded Sivananda Ashram and the Divine Life Society in Rishikesh on the banks of the holy Ganga river. For the next thirty years he tirelessly trained many disciples, many who became great masters, and wrote nearly three hundred books on all aspects of spiritual life, yoga practice, and Vedanta philosophy. His writings are simple, practical, and speak directly to the heart of the reader.
Swami Sivananda taught the Yoga of Synthesis, in which all four paths of yoga - Bhakti (devotion), Karma (selfless service), Raja Yoga (mind control), and Jnana (introspection) are combined for balanced spiritual progress. One of his main mottos is Serve, Love, Give, Purify, Meditate, Realize. He entered Maha-Samadhi (the departure of a realized master from the physical world) on July 14th, 1963.
Swami Vishnu-devananda, born in November 1927, is one of Swami Sivananda's major disciples. At a young age, while serving in the Indian army, he came across one of Swami Sivananda’s many articles in the trash bin, a pamphlet titled Sadhana Tattva - 20 Spiritual Instructions by Swami Sivananda, which gave simple and practical instructions for aspirants. Inspired by these instructions, he desired to meet their author. Soon after his discharge from the army he joined the Sivananda Ashram in Rishikesh and became a disciple of Swami Sivananda.
Swami Sivananda saw the great potential of this young aspirant and soon made him the Professor of Hatha and Raja Yoga in his institution. After ten years of intensive training, Swami Sivananda sent Swami Vishnu-devananda to the West to spread the teachings of yoga and Vedanta for the good of mankind. Swami Vishnu-devananda became one of the pioneers who brought yoga to the West.
Swami Vishnu-devananda is considered one of the most dynamic yogis of the twentieth century. He began the first Yoga Teachers Training Courses to spread the teachings of yoga and thereby help create inner - and outer peace in the world. He traveled and taught tirelessly throughout the world to help establish these ancient teachings in North and South America, Europe, and the Middle East. Swami Vishnu was also a daring peace activist, who used to fly his plane over conflict hot spots around the globe, showering people with flowers and peace pamphlets. Amongst his peace missions, he flew from Tel Aviv to Cairo in the early seventies and from East to West Berlin in an ultra-light aircraft in the early eighties. He held that the international borders we create are mental barriers that need to be transcended, as we are all one.
Swami Vishnu-devananda entered Maha-Samadhi on November 9th, 1993.
Gajananam is a direct disciple of Swami Vishnu-devananda and the founder/director of the Vishnu-devananda Yoga Vedanta Center in Berkeley. He began his training in the late 80's at the Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Center in Tel Aviv, and became a Sivananda yoga instructor in 1989. In the 90's he served as a staff member and director of the Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Center in New York and has taught at many Sivananda Yoga Teacher Training Courses and retreats.