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Swami Sivananda in His Own Words

Updated on December 23, 2012

Swami Sivananda, one of the greatest of saints of the 20th century

Swami Sivananda was one of India's most respected spiritual figures during his lifetime. He founded Sivanandashram, a spiritual center catering to spiritual aspirants of all backgrounds, on the banks of the Ganga (Ganges) River in Rishikesh, in the foothills of the Himalayas. Many people know of him through his disciples: Swami Satchidananda of the Integral Yoga Institute, Swami Jyotirmayananda Saraswati, President of the Yoga Research Foundation, Miami, USA, Swami Satyananda Saraswati, founder of Bihar School of Yoga, Swami Sivananda Radha, founder of Yasodhara Ashram, British Columbia, Canada, Swami Vishnudevananda Saraswati, founder of the Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Centres, HQ Canada, and Swami Venkatesananda, inspirer of Ananda Kutir Ashrama in South Africa, not to mention Swamis Chidananda and Krishnananda who succeeded him at Sivanandashram, to name just a few.

He wrote volumes, in a pithy aphoristic style, publishing his books at Sivanandashram, and submitting his writings to magazines throughout India to disseminate the ideals of yoga, meditation, and living a dynamic spiritual life to as wide an audience as possible. He wrote mostly in English, for he foresaw that English would be the uniting language throughout India. His life was of great influence. Below are some of his autobiographical writings. At the end of this lens we will list some books by and about him.

Swami Sivananda as a young doctor, before embracing monastic life
Swami Sivananda as a young doctor, before embracing monastic life

What Were Sivananda's Ideals?

His own words from Bhavan's Journal, May 3, 1959

I was born of P.S. Vengu Iyer and Parvati Ammal on the 8th September 1887 at Pattamadai, Tinnevelly District, Tamil Nadu in the line of Appayya Dikshit. My star is Bharani. I was extremely mischievous in my boyhood. I studied in the S.P.G. College, Trichinopoly. I was a Doctor in the Malaya States for 10 years. I took sannyasa in 1924 in Rishikesh. I did tapas and meditation for 15 years. I went on teaching tours for 10 years. I founded the Divine Life Society in 1936 and the All-World Religious Federation in 1945.

I am childlike in my Svabhava. So I mix with all. I become one with all. I am ever happy and joyful and make others also happy and joyful. I am full of educative humour. I radiate joy through humour. I respect all. I do salutations to all first. I always speak sweetly. I walk quickly. I do japa and meditation while walking and while at work also.

I am ever hard-working. I have intense application to work. I never procrastinate any work. I finish it then and there. I am very quick in doing things. I cannot suppress the spirit of service in me. I cannot live without service. I take immense delight in service. Service has elevated me. Service has purified me. I know well how to extract work from others. I extract work through kindness, service, respect and love.

I am very regular in doing Asana and exercises. I do Pranayama also regularly. These give me wonderful health and energy. I run round the Bhajan Hall daily. I cannot deliver fiery lectures sitting on a special seat. Special seat pricks me. I stand up or throw the seat away and then begin to speak. I never sat on a special seat when I presided over spiritual conferences. I rejoice in giving. I always give.

I am 73 now. I ever feel I am quite young. I am full of vigour, vim and vitality. I am ever cheerful. I sing, dance, run, jump in joy. I am robust and strong. I can digest any kind of food. I continuously work, read and write. I never go to hill-stations or seaside for holiday. Change of work gives rest. Meditation gives abundant rest. Work gives me delight. Service gives me happiness. Writing bestows joy. Meditation energises and invigorates me. Kirtan vivifies me.

"Aham Brahma Asmi", "Sivoham", "Soham Sat-Chit-Ananda Svarupoham". This is my favourite formula for Vedantic meditation. Song of "Chidananda" is my favourite song for singing.

"Hare Rama Hare Rama

Rama Rama Hare Hare,

Hare Krishna Hare Krishna

Krishna Krishna Hare Hare."

This Mahamantra Kirtan is my favourite Kirtan.

Wise Words from Sivananda

Cosmic Consciousness is not an accident or chance. It is the summit, accessible by a thorny path that has steps, slippery steps. I have ascended them step by step, the hard way; but at every step I have experienced God coming into my life and lifting me easily to the next step.

Swami Sivananda
Swami Sivananda

A Truly Rich Man in Spirit

At the present moment I am the richest man in the whole world. My heart is full. Further, all the wealth of the Lord belongs to me now. Hence, I am King of Kings, Emperor of Emperors, Shah of Shahs, Maharaja of Maharajas. I take pity on the mundane kings. My dominion is limitless. My wealth is inexhaustible. My joy is inexpressible. My treasure is immeasurable. I attained this through sannyasa, renunciation, untiring selfless service, japa, and meditation.

I am tall. My height is 6 ft. I have a sinewy frame. I have symmetrical limbs. I am a first-class gymnast. I fast on ekadasi. I do not take even a drop of water on that day. I take milk and fruits on Sundays. I lead a simple natural life. There is a fountain of youth in me. I beam with joy. I observe fasting, resting, airing, bathing, breathing, exercising, sun-bathing and enjoy freedom, beauty, courage, poise and health.

I love nature, music, art, poetry, philosophy, beauty, goodness, solitude, meditation, yoga and Vedanta. I am humble and simple. I am frank and straightforward. I am perfectly tolerant and catholic. I am merciful and sympathetic. I have spontaneous and unrestrained generosity. I am bold and cheerful. I am patient. I can bear insult and injury. I am forgiving. I am free from vindictive nature. I return good for evil. I serve that man who has injured me, with joy.

I love Ganga and the Himalayas. Ganga is my Mother Divine. Himalayas is my Father Divine. They inspire and guide me. I take bath in Ganga. I adore Ganga. I feed the fishes of Ganga. I wave light to Mother Ganga. I pray to Ganga. I do salutations to Ganga. I sing the glory of Ganga. I write about the grandeur and glory of Ganga. Ganga has nourished me. Ganga has comforted me. Ganga has taught me the Truths of the Upanishads. Glory to Mother Ganga!

My daily routine is like that of Lord Buddha. I always remain in the room. I do japa, kirtan and meditation. I study sacred books. I write. I come out of the room for a short time for work, service and interview. I talk a little. I think much. I meditate much. I try to do much and serve much. I do not waste even a single minute. I ever keep myself fully occupied. I lead a well-regulated life. I perform worship of Atman at all times. I work for the good of others.

Gita, Upanishads, Bhagavata, Yoga Vasishtha, Avadhoota Gita, Vivekachudamani are my constant companions. I am a strange mixture of service, devotion, yoga and wisdom. I am a follower of Sri Sankara. I am a Kevala-Advaita Vedantin. I am not at all a dry lip Vedantin. I am a practical Vedantin. I practice and advocate the Yoga of Synthesis. I practice ahimsa, satyam and brahmacharya. Glory to Sri Sankara!

I respect all saints and prophets of all religions. I respect all religions, all cults, all faiths and all creeds. I serve all, love all, mix with all and see the Lord in all. I stick to my promises. I serve the poor. This gives me delight. I do mental prostrations to asses, dogs, trees, bricks, stones and all creatures. I respect elders and sadhus. I obey. I please all through sincere selfless service. I attend on guests very carefully. I run hither and thither to serve them. I massage the legs of sick persons and sadhus.

I give very prompt reply to all letters. I do several things at a time. I write with electric speed. I spend everything. I do a lot of charity. I do not keep anything. I take immense pleasure in feeding the poor and my students. I try to be a mother to them. I talk to others on things which I have myself practiced. I look within always, introspect, analyse and examine. I hold the Trisul-spiritual diary, daily routine and resolve.

I served my masters with great sincerity and intense faith and devotion. I learnt many useful lessons for life. I developed many virtues. I wandered without food during my parivrajaka life. I slept on the roadside at night without clothing during winter. I ate dried bread with water. I stick tenaciously with my principles and ideals. I do not argue much. I live in silence.

I pray and do kirtan for the whole world, for the health and peace of sick people and for the peace of the departed souls and the earth-bound spirits also. I take a dip in the Ganges in the name of all those who are longing for a bath in the Ganges. I sing the names of all saints of all religions in the bhajan hall. I observe All-Saints' Day and All-Souls' Day.

I constantly meditate on the following:-

Prajnanam Brahma, Aham Brahma Asmi, Tat Tvam Asi, Ayam Atma Brahma, Satyam Jnanam Anantam Brahma. Santam Sivam Advaitam. Aham Atma Gudakesa, Aham Atma Nirakarah, Sarvavyapee Svabhavatah. Brahma Satyam Jaganmithya Jivo Brahmaiva Naparah. Akarta, Abhokta, Asanga Sakshee. Ajo Nityah Sasvatoyam Purano. Jyotishamapi Tat Jyotih.

To raise the fallen, to lead the blind, to share what I have with others, to bring solace to the afflicted and to cheer the afflicted and suffering are my ideals. To have perfect faith in God, to love my neighbour as my own Self, to love God with all my heart and soul, to protect cows, animals, women and children are my aims. My watchword is love. My goal is Sahaja samadhi avastha, or the natural, continuous superconscious state.

Swami Sivananda, Fountain of Joy - Saints can have very acute senses of humor

Swami Sivananda shares a joke with his disciple, Swami Venkateshananda
Swami Sivananda shares a joke with his disciple, Swami Venkateshananda

How God Came Into My Life

More of Sivananda's Autobiographical Writings

It would be easy to dismiss the question by saying: "Yes, after a prolonged period of intense austerities and meditation, while I was living in Swargashram, and when I had the darshan of a number of maharshis and their blessings, the Lord appeared before me in the form of Sri Krishna."

But that would not be the whole truth, nor a sufficient answer to a question relating to God, who is infinite, unlimited and beyond the reach of the speech and mind.

Cosmic Consciousness is not an accident or chance. It is the summit, accessible by a thorny path that has steps, slippery steps. I have ascended them step by step, the hard way; but at every step I have experienced God coming into my life and lifting me easily to the next step.

My father was fond of ceremonial worship (puja) in which he was very regular. To my child-mind, the image he worshipped was God; and I delighted in helping father in the worship, by bringing him flowers and other articles of worship. The deep inner satisfaction that he and I derived from such worship implanted in my heart the deep conviction that God is in such images devoutly worshipped by His devotees. Thus did God come into my life first and placed my foot on the first rung of the ladder.

As an adult, I was fond of gymnastics and vigorous exercises. I learnt fencing from a teacher who belonged to a low caste; he was a harijan. I could go to him only for a few days before I was made to understand that it was unbecoming of a caste Brahman to play the student to an untouchable. I thought deeply over the matter. One moment I felt that the God whom we all worshipped in the image in my father's puja-room had jumped over to the heart of this untouchable. He was my guru, all right! So I immediately went to him with flowers, sweets and cloth, and garlanded him, placed flowers at his feet and prostrated myself before him. Thus did God come into my life to remove the veil of caste-distinctions.

How very valuable this step was I could realize very soon after this: for I was to enter the medical profession and serve all, and the persistence of caste-distinction would have made that service a mockery. With this mist cleared by the light of God, it was easy and natural for me to serve everyone. I took very keen delight in every kind of service connected with healing and alleviation of human misery. If there was a good prescription for malaria, I felt that the whole world should know it the next moment. Any knowledge about the prevention of diseases, promotion of health and healing of diseases, I was eager to acquire and share with all.

Serve, Love, Give, Purify, Meditate, and Realize - (One of Swami Sivananda's Favorite Sayings)

Then, God came into my life in the form of the sick in Malaya. It is difficult for me now to single out any instance; and perhaps it is unnecessary. Time and space are concepts of the mind and have no meaning in God. I can look back now upon the whole period of my stay in Malaya as a single event in which God came to me in the form of the sick and the suffering. People are sick physically and mentally. To some, life is lingering death; and to some others, death is more welcome than life. Some lead a miserable life, unable to face death; some invite death and commit suicide, unable to face life. The aspiration grew within me that if God had not made this world merely as a hell where wicked people would be thrown, to suffer, and if there is (as I intuitively felt there should be) something other than this misery and this helpless existence, it should be known and experienced.

It was at this crucial point in my life that God came to me as a religious mendicant who gave me the first lesson in Vedanta. The positive aspects of life here, and real end and aim of human life, were made apparent. This drew me from Malaya to the Himalaya. God came to me in the form of all-consuming aspiration to realize Him as the Self of all.

Meditation and service went on apace; and with them came various spiritual experiences. The body, mind and intellect, as the limiting adjuncts, vanished; and the whole universe shone as His Light. God then came in the form of this Light in which everything assumed a divine shape; and pain and suffering, that seem to haunt everybody, appeared to be a mirage, the illusion that ignorance creates, on account of low sensual appetites that lurk in man.

One more milestone had to be passed in order to know "Sarvam Khalvidam Brahma." Early in 1950 (on the 8th Jan.) God came to me in the form of a half-demented assailant, who disturbed the night satsanga at the ashram. His attempt failed. I bowed to him, worshipped him and sent him home. Evil exists to glorify the good! Evil is a superficial appearance; beneath its veil, the one Self shines in all.

A noteworthy fact ought to be mentioned here. In this evolution nothing gained previously is entirely discarded at any later stage. One coalesced into the next; and the Yoga of Synthesis was the fruit. Murti-puja, selfless service of the sick, meditation, the cultivation of cosmic love that transcended the barriers of caste, creed and religion, with the ultimate aim of attaining Cosmic Consciousness, was revealed. This knowledge had immediately to be shared. All this had become an integral part of my being.

The mission had been gathering strength and spreading. It was in 1950 that I undertook the All-India Tour. Then God came to me in His virat-svarupa, multitudes of devotees, eager to listen to the tenets of divine life. At every centre I felt that God spoke through me, and He Himself in His virat-form spread out before me as the multitude, listened to me. He sang with me; He prayed with me; He spoke and He listened. Sarvam Khalvidam Brahma.

This Lens Brought to You By...

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Light of the Spirit Monastery in Cedar Crest, New Mexico, has sponsored this and other lenses on spiritual life. Our website,, (Original Christianity and Original Yoga, is full of content on living an effective spiritual life, with articles on meditation, the religious traditions of the world, and much more. Visit us and discover a wealth of useful, practical information.

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    • sukkran trichy profile image

      sukkran trichy 

      6 years ago from Trichy/Tamil Nadu

      there are thousands of yogis across the world and most of them stay away from the people. very few of them prefer to stay with people and to help holy aspirant. swamiji is one of them. thanks for spreading his messages.


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