Swami Vishnudevananda (1927-1993)
Founder of the International Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Centers, Swami Vishnu-devananda, was a world authority on Hatha and Raja Yoga. Swamiji was also known as the "Flying Swami" for the different peace missions he accomplished around the world.
Before Discovering YogaSwamiji was born in Kerala, South India, in 1927. As a young child one of his main character traits was a strong will and determination. His mother, now known as Mataji who later took Sannyas (vows of renunciation) from Swami Sivananda, said that whenever her son wanted something, nothing or no one could stop him. An interesting anecdote tells how as a 5 year old youngster he had the strong desire to go to school and learn. When told that it was not possible since the nearest school was located more than 5 miles away, the child took upon himself to pack and go early the next morning for the long 5 mile walk through the jungle. He walked back that evening and would do the same for many years to come.
As a teenager without financial resources for University, he turned to joining the army to receive the scientific education he yearned for. During this time as he looked for a lost paper in a waste basket, his eyes fell upon a paper entitled "20 Spiritual Instructions" by Swami Sivananda. The pamphlet began: "An ounce of practice is better than tons of theory". The practicality and inherent power of these simple words lead Swamiji to travel across India during a 36-hour leave to meet Swami Sivananda in far away Rishsikesh in the Himalayas. This short visit left such an impression on the young boy's mind that he resolved to return as soon as possible.
Meeting the MasterOn his second visit, the young disciple received 2 powerful lessons from Swami Sivananda. The first lesson came when Swami Vishnu-devananda felt too timid and a bit arrogant to bow to the Guru Swami Sivananda. So the Master Swami Sivananda prostrated fully before the young student demonstrating the lesson of humility. The second lesson came during Arati (worship ceremony) to Ganga (Ganges river). Swamiji was perplexed and doubtful as he pondered why intelligent people would worship what scientifically is merely H2O. The Master then smiled subtly and gazed at Swamij who instantly beheld the river as a vast, bright, cosmic light. Swami Sivananda then invited the young boy to remain at the Ashram to study and become a Yogi. Swami Vishnu-devananda spontaneously replied "Yes".
The TrainingFor 10 years Swami Vishnudevananda continued at the Sivananda Ashram and was trained in all aspects of Yoga by Swami Sivananda. Swami Vishnudevananda quickly became an exceptional adept in the path of Hatha Yoga and was a very keen and tireless Karma Yogi. One day Swami Sivananda gave Swamiji a 10 Rupee note (less than a dollar!) and his blessings to travel to the West and spread the teachings of Vedanta. "People are waiting" were the words of the Master.
Swamiji As A World TeacherSwamiji's limitless energy and profound inspiration lead him to found and direct the International Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Centers which now numbers more than 20 Yoga centers and 9 ashrams many Affiliated centers and teachers. Swami created the first Yoga Teachers Training Course which to date has trained many thousands of certified teachers in the field of Yoga and spirituality. One of his brilliant touches was to summarize these ancient and vast teachings into five principles of Yoga which are easy to understant and convenient to incorporate in one's daily practice.
The Flying Swami & Peace Missions
In 1969 Swamiji had a vision of the world being engulfed by fire and people fleeing in all directions, oblivious of boundaries. He saw that national, political and other boundaries were just limitations of the mind that must be overcome to achieve world peace. In helping towards this goal Swamiji started the "True World Order."
He began the Yoga Teachers Training Course, which today continues to train thousands of people in the science of Yoga. Graduates have spread the teachings of Yoga worldwide. Swamiji attended and sponsored many peace festivals offering Yogic discipline as an alternative to drugs and aimlessness.One of Swami Vishnudevananda's greatest peace missions was in 1971. He flew his twin engine Piper Apache plane around the world "bombing" troubled areas with flowers and peace pamphlets. Belfast, the Suez Canal, Jerusalem, Lahore and Bangladesh were some of the places he "bombed". Swamiji's plane was painted by artist Peter Max and is on display at the Sivananda Yoga Camp in Val Morin, Canada.
Swamiji opened Yoga centers and ashrams around the world. Some of the symposiums he held at these locations were: the International Yoga Teachers Congress, All Gurus Festival, Yoga and Psychic Discovery, Man and his Future, Physics and Metaphysics, Festival of Inner Light, and Survival into the 21st Century. These yearly symposiums continue today at the various Sivananda ashrams.
In 1978 Swamiji's book Meditation and Mantras was published and has since been reprinted and translated into many languages. Also in this year Swamiji began a year of silence and meditation. In 1979 he again began to speak, and started writing and lecturing on Karma and disease. He also spoke about preparing for survival into the 21st century and educating the public for nuclear disarmament.
In 1983 Swamiji flew over the Berlin Wall from West to East. He held the Global Village Peace Festival right beside the wall and led over 60 people in walking across hot coals. The year 1983 also brought the publication of the Sivananda Companion to Yoga. Swamiji then brought his peace mission to India where he toured in a double decker bus conducting programs aimed at awakening people to the tradition of Yoga. Swamiji met with Sikh leaders hoping to open up a dialogue between them and the Indian government. In 1987, Swamiji organized another All India Tour for the 100th anniversary of the birth of Swami Sivananda. The Sivananda Upanishad and Swamiji's commentary on the Hatha Yoga Pradipika were published. A few years later Swamiji's Karma and Disease was also published. During the eighties Swamiji continued to tour and lecture in addition to running the ever-growing number of Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Centers and Ashrams. Swamiji initiated many temples at these locations.
Swamiji's Om Namo Narayanaya Peace Campaign was organized in 1991. People world wide chanted and wrote the mantra of Lord Narayana. The written pages were "deposited" in rock "banks" on top of Vishnu Peak in the Himalayas. The following year, although in failing health, Swamiji went on pilgrimage along the length of the Ganges River from its source in Gomukh to its mouth at Calcutta.
The spirit of his peace missions continue through the teachings of the Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Centers and Ashrams worldwide.