The Divine Life Society
With the sacred aim of dissemination of spiritual knowledge and training the seekers in Yoga and Vedanta, Sri Swami Sivananda, a glittering star in the modern spiritual firmament, established The Divine Life Society (Sivananda Ashram) in 1936. The Divine Life Society is an all-embracing and all-inclusive institution which has its basis the adherence to the triple ideals of truth, non-violence and purity – the quintessence of the teachings of all religions and of all saints and prophets of the world.
Sri Swami Sivananda was born on 8th September 1887, at Pattamadai in Tamilnadu, in the illustrious family of Sage Appayya Dikshitar and other saints. He had an innate urge to devote his life to the study and practice of Yoga and Vedanta and to render his loving services to the humanity. His insatiable zeal to serve all drew him to medical career. After serving the poor labourers of Rubber Plantation of Malaya (now Malaysia) for more than ten years, he renounced his career, embraced Sannyasa and settled in Rishikesh in 1924. He practised intense austerities and shone as a great Yogi, saint, sage and God-man.
He was a pioneer in promoting the practice of Hatha Yoga. In the early thirties, he had written books ‘Practical Lessons in Yoga’, ‘Daily Yogic Exercises’, ‘Yoga Asanas’ ‘Yoga for the West’ etc. to inspire people to practice Yoga. His books written in simple language and lucid style were well received by the Indians and Westerners alike and were soon translated into different vernacular languages of India and foreign languages as well. In 1948, Swamiji established Yoga-Vedanta Forest University to give a systematic training in Yoga and Vedanta to the sincere seekers and aspirants. Till date, the University, now known as Yoga-Vedanta Forest Academy conducts three (two-month) courses every year.
According to Swami Sivananda, “Asana and Pranayama alone are not Yoga, though they are two of the several parts of the Yoga system. Yoga is a perfect practical system of self-culture, leading to union with the Cosmic Soul. It is an exact science which aims at a harmonious development of the body, mind and the soul.”
Serve, Love, Meditate, Realise – These four words, representing four Yogas (Karma Yoga, Bhakti Yoga, Raja Yoga and Jnana yoga), constitute Swami Sivananda’s Yoga of Synthesis and practice of this Yoga is called Divine Life. The importance that Hatha Yoga plays in the total scheme of his teachings is how to keep yourself healthy, really healthy.
For Swami Sivananda Health means Wholeness. Health being wholeness cannot be divided into physical, mental and spiritual. A harmonious development of both body and mind has been Swami Sivananda’s specialty. In his writings on physical culture, he comes back to mental health, spiritual well-being. If the mind is completely disorganised, the body cannot be healthy, however many Asanas you practice for long.
Sri Swami Sivananda meticulously trained some of his disciples and sent them to various countries of the world to propagate his Yoga Way of Life. Sri Swami Satchidananda (Founder, Integral Yoga International Yogaville, USA), Sri Swami Vishnudevananda (Founder, Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Centre, Val Morin Canada), Sri Swami Satyananda (Founder, Bihar School of Yoga, Munger), Sri Swami Venkateshananda( Founder, The Divine Life Society at Mauritius, Australia, New Zealand ), Swami Sivananda Radha (Sylvia Hellman) of Canada and Yogiraj Harry Dickman of Latvia all these world-renowned Yoga teachers are his devoted disciples.
The book ‘Yogi Sivananda’ by his western disciples bespeaks of the tremendous influence which Swami Sivananda has exerted upon the intelligentsia of the entire world. Under his guidance, hundreds of western disciples have made remarkable progress on the Path of Yoga. To name a few – Prof. Jean Herbert, Geneva University; Dr. Dusan Kafka, Czechoslovakia; Prof. Kaizo Matsuda, Japan; Mohammed Abdullah El Mahadi, Cairo; all of them in unison have acclaimed him as their divine master. No Yogi in the history of the world has effected such a world-wide awakening towards the Yoga way of life in his own life-time as Swami Sivananda has done. He has been a great pioneer in promoting the art and science of Yoga throughout the world by reaching millions through his disciples and through his written words and has been able to transform the lives of a large number of people in all parts of the globe.
He has enriched the modern spiritual literature by writing more than 300 books to propagate the sublime message of Vedas and Upanishads. Swamiji’s books have been translated into Tamil, Telugu, Kanarese, Gujarati, Oriya and many other Indian languages and also in foreign languages as Russian, Japanese, French, German, Dutch, Italian and Vietnamese etc. His books on Hatha Yoga contain the fundamental essence of the basic ancient texts. The scientific treatment of subject in lucid style enables even a layman to understand the intricacies of this divine science. ‘Practical Lessons on Yoga’, ‘Yoga for the West’, ‘Yoga Asanas’, ‘Easy Steps to Yoga’, ‘Yoga in Daily Life’, ‘Hatha Yoga’, ‘The Science of Pranayama’ are some of his most popular books on Hatha Yoga.
After his Mahasamadhi in 1963, his successor Sri Swami Chidananda toured extensively throughout India and to all the continents of the globe to propagate the sublime message of Yoga and Vedanta. Sri Swamiji visited innumerable homes, institutions, universities and conduced classes on Hatha Yoga, delivered lectures on Yoga, Vedanta and True Spirituality and also gave personal interviews to clarify doubts of the spiritual seekers regarding Yoga. Sri Swami Krishnananda, one of Swami Sivananda’s erudite disciples who was master of practically every system of Indian thought and philosophy, has unfolded the highest wisdom of Yoga and Vedanta through his illuminating lectures and articles.
In recognition of the glorious services of Swami Sivananda and Swami Chidananda, the Government of India has issued Commemorative Postage Stamps in their holy names.
The Divine Life Society is presently being well managed by the President Sri Swami Vimalananda, Vice-Presidents Sri Swami Yogaswarupananda and Sri Swami Nirliptananda, General Secretary Sri Swami Padmanabhananda and Treasure Sri Swami Advaitananda.
Right from the time of its foundation, the Society has been continuously engaged in the task of bringing about social harmony, cultural integration and spiritual renaissance by its multifarious activities. It has branches all over the world and the Headquarters of the Society is at Sivananda Ashram, Shivananda Nagar, Tehri-Garhwal, Uttarakhand.
The DLS Headquarters Ashram, through the Yoga-Vedanta Forest Academy, conducts three (two-month) residential courses in March-April, May-June and September-October every year to give seekers the basic knowledge of India’s culture and to train them in the practice of Yoga. No admission fee is charged and lodging and boarding are also provided free. The course is open to Indian citizens (men) only who are between 20 and 65 years. The intake capacity of the course is 40 students and the medium of instruction is English. The senior monks and scholarly guests and devotees serve as faculty in the Academy. For prospectus and other details, one can log on to www.sivanandaonline.org.
Hatha Yoga Classes are held for guests and visitors daily in the Yoga Hall of the Ashram.
The DLS branches all over the world conduct Yoga Classes and organize Yoga Camps at their respective places.
The DLS Headquarters Ashram and branches as well, organize Children and Youth Camps from time to time to train the young generation in Yoga way of life.
The Yoga-Vedanta Forest Academy Press of the Ashram prints books written by Sri Swami Sivananda and other scholarly Sannyasis, two monthly journals – the ‘Divine Life’ in English and ‘Divya Jivan’ in Hindi – to disseminate the spiritual knowledge.
The Divine Life Society has published more than 600 books written on various aspects of Spirituality, Yoga and Philosophy. One can log on to our websites for further details: www.sivanandaonline.org, www.dlshq.org, www.chidananda.org.
The Society renders its loving services to the poor and the needy through its various projects. Educational Aid is provided to local needy children and children from the hill areas from kindergarten to post-graduate level. Poor patients are taken care of through Sivananda Charitable Hospital and handicapped, destitute and homeless patients are looked after in Sivananda Home. The Society supports three leper colonies of Brahmapuri, Laxmanjhula and Dhalwala in Rishikesh to enable the miserable lepers to lead their lives in a respectable way. Thus, through its multifarious activities, the Society preaches Swami Sivananda’s universal religion of cosmic love and selfless service as a means to spiritual perfection and fulfillment.