|Doctrines|| ||Swami Shivananda through his ashram and the dynamic swamis who succeeded him and promoted his doctrine in the West, has been one of the major channels through which sound Eastern knowledge in the form of Yoga and Vedanta has been spread and practised all over the world, especially in North America.|
The basis of the doctrine is expressed in his motto: "Serve, Love, Meditate, Realize." Swami Shivananda stressed Nishkamya Karma Yoga, selfless service, which promotes preparatory purification for the higher consciousness. Through bhakti, self-giving love, and ahimsa, non-violence, one will achieve Sat-Chit-Ananda, Absolute Existence, Consciousness, Bliss. Meditation is a link with heaven to keep a flow of God-consciousness and thus of great importance in the path to spiritual development. The path to Realization, samadhi, union with the Absolute, is through a Yoga of Synthesis. Swami Shivananda includes four traditional yogas: karma yoga, selfless work; bhakti yoga, the yoga of love or devotion; jnana yoga, the yoga of wisdom; and raja yoga, the yoga of Patanjali's eight steps. To these the Swamy adds japa yoga, repetition of a mantra or name of God, and to him there was no yoga greater than this.
Swami Shivananda's book on the practice of yoga, Practical Lessons in Yoga, and his disciple Swami Vishnudevananda's Complete Illustrated Guide to Yoga, are among the clearest books on yoga.
The Universal Prayer of Swami Shivananda inscribed in Hindi and English on a marble column in the ashram has an ecumenical nature and is used by devotees around the world.
|History|| ||The founder of the ashram was Swami Shivananda, born Kuppuswamy Iyer on 8 September, 1887, in the village of Pattamadai in South India. His father was a government official and devotee of , his mother a pious woman with compassion for the unfortunate. Their son gave his food to beggars and stray animals, was top of the class at school, studied at Tanjore Medical College and practised in Tiruchi. After the death of his father in 1913 he transferred his practice to Malaya for ten years and was in charge of a hospital on a rubber estate. Though he treated the poor free, he dressed well and wore jewellery. Then a wandering sadhu wakened an interest in the spiritual life and he started to study Hindu scriptures and the Bible.|
In 1923 he returned to India, gave away his possessions, and spent a year on pilgrimage to the holy places before going to Rishikesh. Here he was initiated by the guru Swami Viswananda Saraswati as Swami Shivananda Saraswati. He lived in a dilapidated hut of the Swarg Ashram, practised an austere life and meditation, and worked as a doctor to look after sick gurus and pilgrims. In 1927 he set up a charitable dispensary from a matured insurance policy and gave packets of useful medicine to pilgrims as they passed the dispensary on their way to Badrinath.
With five rupees given by a visitor, the Swami published a booklet, Brahma-Vidya, Knowledge of God, of his answers to the questions of pilgrims. Other publications followed and his fame spread. He travelled all over India teaching and on his return in 1932 founded the Shivananda Ashram. At first this was an old cow shed he called Ananda Kutir, Abode of Bliss. Disciples gathered and other cow sheds were made habitable. In 1936 the Divine Life Society was founded and two years later the journal, The Divine Life, started. In 1943 the temple of the ashram, The Lord Sri Viswanath Mandir, was built. Medical service continued, culminating in the Shivananda Ayurvedic Pharmacy in 1945, which uses rare Himalayan herbs. New buildings came with Swami Shivananda's Sixtieth Anniversary and in 1948 the Yoga-Vedanta Forest Academy was established to train disciples and seekers. More followers came after an All-India and Ceylon tour in 1950. The next year the Academy set up its own Press. In 1957 the Shivananda Eye Hospital opened.
After the death of Swami Shivananda in 1963, Swami Chidananda became president of the Divine Life Society and promoted its rapid spread to the West through his world tours. He was followed by the dynamic Swami Vishnudevananda who came to the West in 1959 and set up forty Yoga-Vedanta centres in the U.S. and Canada and the Bahamas. He established the True World Order with its headquarters at the Shivananda Yoga-Vedanta Ashram at Val Morin, Quebec, where was held in 1969 the first Yoga World Brotherhood Convention. In 1970 Swami Vishnudevananda went on a world tour piloting his own plane to promote the word of Swami Shivananda.
|Symbols|| ||The motto of the ashram is in the form of a cross with "Serve" at the top, "Love" at the end of the left arm, "Meditate" at the right, and "Realize" at the foot.|
The Shri Viswanath Temple at the ashram has a marble altar with the symbols of the linga and yoni, and behind the altar is a large picture of Swami Shivananda. To the worshipper the deity and the guru are one. A single priest conducts the arati, fire ceremony, by reciting the 108 divine names of Swami Shivananda, scattering sacred tulsi (basil) leaves, and swinging the arati flame before the altar and over the linga and yoni, after which devotees hold their hands over the flame and touch their foreheads. Libations of milk and Ganges water are also used, later distributed as prasad, sanctified food. On Thursday mornings the libation is panchamritam, five nectars, of mashed banana, honey, butter, sugar syrup, and mashed dates, and in the afternoon of that day rose water is used. Consecrated powder is then sprinkled over the symbols, which are next covered with a saffron cloth, a filigreed arch of silver, and a red cloth. A silver tray with bread, fruit, and nuts is placed on the altar before the symbols; this will later be prasad.
In the Bhajan Hall, where evening worship takes place, there are large plaster images of the goddesses Sarasvati and Durga. Before that of Sarasvati is a chair with a large picture of Swami Shivananda on it, and behind Sarasvati are shrines to Krishna and . Near the entrance are pictures of saints, including Jesus. Worship ends with an arati ceremony before Swami Shivananda's picture and the images of Krishna and .
|Adherents|| ||There are many thousands of followers of Swami Shivananda all over the world, with more than 137 branches in India, and branches in the U.S. in Chicago, Washington D.C., New Haven, Detroit, Fort Lauderdale, Orlando, Daytona Beach, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Albuquerque and other cities, in most cities of Canada, on Paradise Island in the Bahamas, and in South America, Australia, Europe, and South Africa.|
| ||Shivananda Ashram, Rishikesh, India. There are many centres in the U.S., especially the Shivananda Yoga-Vedanta Centre in New York City and the Shivananda Yoga-Vedanta Centre in San Francisco. In Canada the main centre is the Shivananda Yoga-Vedanta Ashram, Val Morin, Quebec Shivananda Ashram|