Swami Sivananda

Modern Day Saint

Swami Sivananda’s teachings are the inspiration behind the teachings of the International Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Centers. Our founder, Swami Vishnudevananda, was one of Swami Sivananda’s close disciples, and was sent the the West by his teacher in 1957 to spread the teachings of Yoga and Vedanta. Swami Vishnudevananda, known as “Swamiji” established this organization in his Master’s name. The Sivananda Ashram Yoga Farm is a branch of the international organization.

Extraordinary Life of the Master

Childhood and Medical Career

Swami Sivananda was born on September 8, 1887, to a well known and respected family in Tamil Nadu, South India. As a young boy he already showed spiritual tendencies, then as a young man he felt the strong urge to work in the service of humanity. For this reason, he became a medical doctor and served the poor in Malaysia for several years. He also wrote and published a health journal to spread helpful information on health and hygiene. Later he came to realize that medicine alone could not alleviate the deep suffering of humanity, and that a more profound approach to healing would be needed.


Driven by his wish to find the deeper causes of people’s suffering, and the way to alleviate it, he gave up his medical career and entered into a life of renunciation. He returned to India and spent a year travelling before settling in Rishikesh, in the Himalayas, in 1924. In Rishikesh he practiced intense austerities, and met his guru, Swami Vishwananda. He was initiated into sannyas (monkhood), and given the name Swami Sivananda Saraswati.
Swami Sivananda is a modern day yoga master who brought yoga to all people.

Early Years as a Monk

For the next seven years Swami Sivananda practiced meditation intensively, but even during this period he continued to serve the sick in a small medical clinic which he created. Wherever he went, he conducted sankirtan (chanting), delivered lectures on Yoga philosophy and taught people how to keep strong and healthy by practicing yoga asanas (yoga poses), pranayama (breathing exercises), and kriyas (cleansing exercises). Most of all he encouraged people to make constant efforts for spiritual development. An increasing number of disciples were drawn to him to study and learn.

In 1932 he opened the Sivananda Ashram, in 1936 he established the Divine Life Society. His teaching organization “The Yoga Vedanta Forest Academy” was started in 1948. Swami Sivananda’s aim was to spread spiritual knowledge and train people in the practice of Yoga and Vedanta. He was a prolific author, publishing more than 200 books, and spread knowledge further through the activities of disciples who he sent all over the world.

Swami Sivananda’s life was an outstanding example of service to humanity, both during his years as a doctor and later as a world-renowned Yoga master and sage. He lived by his ideals, to serve all, to love all, to mix with all and to see God in all beings.

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“Serve, Love, Give, Purify, Meditate, Realize”.

Sivananda’s Message

Swami Sivananda’s teaching crystallized the basic tenets of all religions, combining all yoga paths into one—the Yoga of Synthesis. He made the teaching accessible to all, encapsulating it in the simple motto: “Serve, Love, Give, Purify, Meditate, Realize”

An Exemplary Life

Swami Sivananda’s life was a shining example of the ideal of selfless service, of karma yoga. To Swami Sivananda, all work was sacred; no task was too menial. He searched tirelessly for opportunities to serve and to help others, never postponing what needed to be done. Swami Sivananda was the author of three hundred books. He had disciples around the world, belonging to all nationalities, religions, and creeds. Swami Sivananda entered mahasamadhi (left his physical body) on July 14, 1963.