H. H. Sri Swami Satchidananda (Sri Gurudev) often said these words in talks all over the world. These two beautiful sentences of guiding light are even more powerful coming from this being who lived them every day of his life.
Sri Gurudev was born on December 22nd in 1914 during the month known as Margali, the Dawn of the Devas. He was the second son of Sri Kalyanasundaram Gounder and his wife Srimati Velammai. Their home had always been a meeting place for poets, musicians, philosophers and astrologers. Sannyasis (monks) and holy men passing through the area were directed to the home of Sri Kalyanasundaram and Srimati Velammai for food and lodging. Srimati Velammai was inspired by the holy men and decided that her next child should be this type of person. She and her husband traveled sixty miles to Palani, the holy hill, to the Ashram of Sri Sadhu Swamigal where she was given a mantra to invoke the Divine Light as manifested in the Sun. She repeated it constantly, developing a vibration conducive to receiving the type of soul she desired.
From the time he was a little boy, Sri Gurudev (then known as “Ramaswamy”) was deeply spiritual. Even as a young child, he spoke truths and displayed insights far beyond his years. His devotion to God was strong, and he looked at people of all castes and faiths with an equal eye, always recognizing the same light within every being. That recognition of the universal light equally present in all people remained as he grew to adulthood, became a businessman and a husband.
When his young wife died, he turned his attention to spiritual practice and studying with many great spiritual masters, including Sri Ramana Maharshi. Finally, in 1949, Ramaswamy met his Guru—H. H. Sri Swami Sivanandaji of the Divine Life Society, Rishikesh. He received Sannyas Diksha (initiation into monkhood) from his spiritual master and was given the name Swami Satchidananda.
And so began a new level of dynamic service for Sri Gurudev. Sri Swami Sivanandaji recognized the gift that his newly-initiated Sannyasin had for touching the lives of others and did not let this disciple stay in the Rishikesh Ashram for long. Soon, he sent Swami Satchidananda to serve in various parts of India and Sri Lanka. That led to Sri Gurudev’s service in many other countries, and eventually—at the insistence of his many American students—to his moving to the United States, as well as to the founding of Satchidananda Ashram—Yogaville, Virginia and the Integral Yoga Institutes around the world.
Sri Gurudev’s message emphasized harmony among people of all races and faiths. His motto was: “Truth is One, Paths are Many.” He believed that we are all one in Spirit and that throughout history great spiritual masters, such as Buddha, Moses, and Jesus, have come forward to teach the people of the world how to experience this spiritual oneness. After we have found that Spirit within ourselves, we will always recognize it in others. Then, we truly have power to help heal the world. Sri Gurudev exemplified these teachings. His beautiful message is that we, too, can exemplify them.
Not limited to any one organization, religion or country, Sri Gurudev received invitations for over fifty years from around the world to speak about the way to peace. He served on the advisory boards numerous Yoga, interfaith and world peace organizations.
Swami Satchidananda received many honors for his public service including, the Albert Schweitzer Humanitarian Award, the Juliet Hollister Interfaith Award and the U Thant Peace Award. In 1999, the 50th anniversary of his ministerial ordination was commemorated during the interfaith service prior to the opening of the 54th General Assembly of the United Nations. Swami Satchidananda dedicated his life to the cause of peace—both individual and universal—and to unity and harmony among all people.
Witnessing the genuine peace and joy experienced by all who participated in these gatherings, Sri Gurudev was inspired to create a permanent place where all people could come to realize their essential oneness. Built in Yogaville, in Central Virginia, the Light Of Truth Universal Shrine (known as LOTUS) is unique in the world because it has altars for all the world faiths. Dedicated to the Light of all faiths and to world peace, the LOTUS is an enduring symbol of unity in diversity. It was completed in 1986 and is open to the public.
Sri Swami Satchidananda took Mahasamadhi on August 19, 2002 in South India. Shortly before leaving the body, he told many people: “I will always be with you in Spirit. Even if my body is not there, you will never be without me.” That is the reason we refer to his “having dropped the body” or as having “left the body.” That is what the Yoga tradition teaches us about the ongoing relationship with one’s Satguru.
Sri Swami Sivananda, the well-known Master of the 20th century, was born on September 8, 1887, at Pattamadai, in the Tirunelveli district in Tamilnadu, South India. His boyhood name was Kuppuswami. His saintly father, Vengu Iyer, was a devotee of Lord Siva and a descendant of the 16th century saint and scholar, Appayya Dikshitar. His mother was Parvatiammal.
The spirit of giving freely, of sharing without any restraint, was ingrained in the Master from his very childhood. A boyhood friend of the Master, Swami Shuddhananda Bharati, recalled how Kuppuswami as a little lad one day ran out with his plate of food when he heard a beggar’s cry outside.
As the desire to serve others was in the Master’s nature, it was but natural that he should choose a medical career. Although his parents wanted him to follow another line, the Master was adamant in his desire to practise medicine. After completing his matriculation he joined the Tanjore Medical Institute. After completing his studies, the Master served in India for some time and ran a medical journal called Ambrosia.
The Master’s extremely kind and loving nature became well-known in Malaya. He was a loving friend of the indentured labourers as well as of the local citizens. Together with his work in the hospital the Master also had his private practice. He never demanded any fee from his patients. Often he would give them money from his own pocket for their special diet. In serious cases he would keep vigil at night at the patient’s bedside.
the Master’s life-style did not prevent him from performing his daily spiritual practices and seeking the company of holy men. As discrimination began dawning in his mind, he began reflecting:
“Is there not a higher mission in life than the daily round of official duties, eating and drinking? Is there no higher form of eternal peace and happiness than all these transitory and illusory pleasures? How very insecure is existence on this earth-plane, with all kinds of fears, worries, anxieties, diseases and disappointments. The world of names and forms is ever changing. Time is fleeting. All hopes of peace and happiness in this world end in pain, despair and sorrow”.
Such were the thoughts constantly arising in his mind. The doctor’s profession provided him with ample evidence of sufferings in this world. He realised that true, lasting happiness cannot be had merely by acquiring wealth. With the purification of heart acquired through selfless service, he had a new vision. He was deeply convinced that there must be a place-a sweet home of divine splendour, purity and pristine glory-where absolute security, perfect peace and lasting happiness can be had. And that was by realising God.
So he abandoned the life of ease and comfort and reached India in search of an ideal centre for purposes of prayer, meditation, study and a higher form of service to the whole world.
When the Master reached home after many years, he was fondly received by his parents and other family members. We are told that while his goods were being taken off by the cartman, the Master was found missing. He had not even entered his home. The family thought that he had perhaps gone to visit friends. But in truth the Master had promptly bolted away! Such was his burning dispassion and desire to seek God that at a single stroke he renounced the whole world of wealth and family.
The Master arrived at Rishikesh, in northern India, in 1924. One day, as he was sitting on the banks of the holy Ganges after being refused food at a local alms-house, a venerable saint, Swami Vishwananda, happened to cast a glance at him. Attracted by the young man’s unusual spiritual aura, the saint was prompted to initiate him into the Order of Sannyas then and there. The Master entered the Holy Order on June 1, 1924, as Swami Sivananda Saraswati, and settled at Swarg Ashram.
The Master was simple and childlike in his attitude, yet he had the bearing of an ancient sage. He prostrated to saints and scavengers and bowed to stones, bricks and donkeys. He addressed even little children with courtesy. He respected the rights of animals and showed them extreme love and compassion.
Divine wisdom flowed from the Master’s lips in a continuous stream. His powerful, inspiring thoughts influenced people all over the world. Such was his unparalleled literary charity that most of his books were given away free.
The all-merciful Divine Master, Sri Swami Sivananda merged in God on July 14, 1963, leaving behind numerous followers all over the world to spread his great gospel of love and service.
Sharon Gannon – Tripura Sundari
Yogini Sharon Gannon’s quest for independence began with her birth on July 4th in Washington, DC. Her interest in mysticism was nourished by her Catholic upbringing. She holds a BA in Dance and has studied ballet, modern, classical and various forms of Indian Dance; as well as music and Eastern philosophy.
Together with David Life, and through the blessings of her teachers, Sharon has created the Jivamukti Yoga Method, which focuses on teaching and practicing yoga as a means to enlightenment. The Jivamukti Yoga Method is taught world-wide in Jivamukti Yoga centers independently owned and directed by students of Gannon and Life. These centers are in Munich, London, Toronto, Detroit and the West Village of NYC. Sharon co- directs the Jivamukti Yoga Center in NYC. The Jivamukti Yoga method is recognized by TIME magazine as one of the nine methods of hatha Yoga taught in the world today and is featured in the acclaimed video: What is Yoga?
Sharon has studied yoga since 1976 with many teachers around the globe, most noteworthy being her guru’s Shri Brahmananda Saraswati, Swami Nirmalanada, Shri K. Pattabhi Jois, as well as Swami Shankarananda, and Shyam Das. Sharon brings a rare blend of scholarly study, artistic pursuits and a highly disciplined asana and meditation practice to her offerings as a teacher. Sharon is a renowned teacher around the globe. She has taught yoga students throughout the United States and as far afield as Canada, Germany, Switzerland, France, UK, Italy, India, Singapore, Philippines, the Caribbean, and Israel. Since 1993 she has presented annually at various national conferences hosted by Omega Institute, Yoga Journal, Southwest Yoga, Arizona Yoga Conference and others. Along with David Life she teaches a one month intensive Jivamukti Yoga Teacher Training course offered at the Omega Institute. She is a featured yogini in various books: Yoga by Linda Sparrowe, American Yoga by Carrie Schneider, and Women to Women by Christina Lessa. Her high profile students include Sting, Russell Simmons and Geshe Michael Roach.
As a musician, dancer and producer, Sharon views art as a means for uplifting the soul and her artistic pursuits seek to enrich the community by being both inspirational and educational. During the 1970’s & 80’s first in Seattle and then in NYC she was the vocalist and violinist for the jazz/rock band Audio Letter as well as directing and choreographing for the dance company ‘Moon-Food’. Her choreography is featured in the Video:
Asana: sacred dance of the Yogi. In 2003 she produced the album Neti-Neti, a remix of the 1987 Audio Letter album of the same name, receiving rave reviews and critical acclaim from Billboard Magazine, Rolling Stone, Yoga Journal and others. In 2004 she co-produced with White Swan Music, the CD, Jai MA, a collection of divine women singers. Sharon is a guest vocalist, appearing on albums with innovative world-beat musicians like Bill Laswell, Mike D. Sean Dinsmore, David Newman and DJ Cheb I Sabbah.
Sharon is an animal-rights activist and outspoken advocate of ethical veganism. She was nominated for the “Gutsiest Woman of the Year 1999” by Jane Magazine. She is the author of Cats and Dogs are People Too, an investigation of the corporate profit-driven insensitive attitudes that result in commercial “pet food” and the health risks to companion animals who eat it. Together with David Life and Janet Rienstra, she established the Animal Mukti Free Spay & Neuter Clinic in New York City at the Humane Society of NYC in 1999. In 2004 she was recognized as “Friend of Ferals” by the Humane Society of New York and Neighborhood Cats. She is a long time vanguard member of PETA, working with them on various projects and campaigns to help make this world a kinder place. In 2003 she appeared on a billboard in Times Square behind the New Years Ball advocating Yoga and Vegetarianism as a step toward world Peace. Along with Life she has established a 76 acre Wildlife Forest Sanctuary in upstate New York.
Sharon has co-authored two books on Yoga with David Life, Jivamukti Yoga: Practices for Liberating Body & Soul and The Art of Yoga. She contributes the Focus of the Month, a monthly essay, focusing on yogic topics which can be read on www.jivamuktiyoga.com. She is the compiler and translator of the Jivamukti Chant Book. She was a past editor of Patio Table Magazine. A collection of her poems and essays are complied in the book Freedom is a Psycho-Kinetic Skill. She is currently working on a soon to be published Vegan Cookbook.
David Life – Deva Das
David Life was born in a small town in Michigan. He graduated from Michigan State in 1972 with a BFA in art.
Together with Sharon Gannon, and through the blessings of his teachers, David has created the Jivamukti Yoga Method, which focuses on teaching and practicing yoga as a means to enlightenment. The Jivamukti Yoga Method is taught world-wide in Jivamukti Yoga centers independently owned and directed by students of Gannon and Life. These centers are in Munich, London, Toronto, Detroit and the West Village of NYC. Sharon co- directs the Jivamukti Yoga Center in NYC. The Jivamukti Yoga method is recognized by TIME magazine as one of the nine methods of hatha Yoga taught in the world today and is featured in the acclaimed video: What is Yoga?
David is a certified Advanced Level II practitioner of the Ashtanga system of Shri K. Pattabhi Jois of Mysore India. His studies of yoga around the world with many teachers included his gurus Shri Brahmananda Saraswati, Shri Swami Nirmalananda and Shri K. Pattabhi Jois. He spent several years as a sannyas (renunciate) of a lineage of yogic monks in India. He has received Kalachakra and Bodhisattva initiation from His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama. His interest in yoga is supported by his artistic, literary and metaphysical studies. He imbues his classes with metaphor, musicality and spirituality, spiced with humor, vigor and spontaneity. He is considered to be a “teacher’s teacher” and he is a respected, popular, and in-demand teacher around the globe. He has taught for twenty years throughout the United States and as far afield as Canada, Germany, France, UK, Italy, India, Singapore, Philippines, Australia, Hong Kong, and the Caribbean, and Israel. Since 1993 he has presented annually at various national conferences hosted by Omega Institute, Yoga Journal, Southwest Yoga, Arizona Yoga Conference, Midwest Yoga Conference and others. Along with Sharon Ganon he teaches a one-month intensive Jivamukti Yoga Teacher Training course offered at the Omega Institute. He has written articles as well as being featured in many articles in Yoga Journal and is pictured often in Yoga by Linda Sparrow, A Yoga Journal Book.
His high profile students include, Sting, Russell Simmons, Donna Karan and Geshe Michael Roach.
Influential Artist & Founder of Life Cafe
He has lived in New York City since 1979. When he created Life Cafe in 1980 it was a coffeehouse with vegetarian chili, and espresso made one-at-a-time on an electric hotplate. Life Cafe featured jazz, art, and poetry. David became an influential performer, artist and spokesperson of the lively arts community in the1980’s Lower East Side of New York City. It has been featured in the Broadway play “Rent.”
He has been a contributing writer for several publications including Yoga Journal and Yoga International, and together with Sharon Gannon has co-authored two books, Jivamukti Yoga: Practices for Liberating Body & Soul and The Art of Yoga.
Together with Sharon Gannon and Janet Rienstra, he established the Animal Mukti Free Spay & Neuter Clinic in New York City at the Humane Society of NYC in 1999. He is a long time vanguard member of PETA, working with them on various projects and campaigns to help make this world a kinder place. Along with Gannon he has established a 76 acre Wildlife Forest Sanctuary in upstate New York.
The director of the School of Sanskrit Studies in NYC, Manorama leads workshops on the Path of Luminous Shabda, a path that combines Sanskrit, Meditation and Yoga philosophy. She leads workshops nationally, as well as internationally.
Manorama’s mix of earthy charm, deep scholarship and humorous teaching style were born from years of close study with her Guru, Shri Brahmananda Sarasvati. She is a graduate of Columbia University. In 2005, Sanskrit Studies released the acclaimed Learn to Pronounce Yoga Poses, an invaluable tool for yoga teachers & students. Manorama is committed to affecting the world in a positive way through Sanskrit, language of awareness and love.
Sri Brahmananda Saraswati
Ashram Founder Shri Brahmananda Sarasvati, also known as Ramamurti S. Mishra, M.D., was a highly respected spiritual teacher for countless students and devotees from all walks of life. A prolific author on the science and philosophy of Yoga-Vedanta, he integrated the universal message of these teachings with his deep knowledge of both Eastern and Western medicine and psychology. His areas of specialty ranged from Ayurveda to modern psychiatry and neurosurgery.
Shri Brahmananda Sarasvati is the Founder and Spiritual Director of the Yoga Society of New York, Inc. (1958) and its country center Ananda Ashram (1964). He also established the Yoga Society of San Francisco, Inc. (1972), known as Brahmananda Ashram, and inspired several other centers of meditation in the United States and abroad.
He was a master of the Sanskrit language, and his lifework is considered a comprehensive and authentic modern synthesis of the ancient teachings. His written works include Fundamentals of Yoga, The Textbook of Yoga Psychology (a commentary on Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras), Self Analysis and Self Knowledge (on Shankaracharya’s Atma Bodha), translations of Upanishads and other ancient Sanskrit texts, as well as numerous essays and stories. In addition, much of his teaching exists in recorded form.
His life was dedicated to the integration of Eastern and Western sciences, culture and philosophy, and he presented the timeless message of meditation and Self-realization in a truly contemporary form. Shri Brahmananda Sarasvati left his physical body in 1993, yet his spiritual presence and teachings continue to be a source of inspiration and guidance for all.
As a pioneer who prepared the ground in the West for a new way of thinking and living, he planted the seeds of Self-knowledge in the hearts of many people the world over. These seeds continue to grow and are destined to help bring about the ultimate goal of world peace and harmony in spiritual unity. He left his body in 1993.
Ruth started practicing yoga in 1989 as a way of healing from a bad car accident. She has made numerous trips to India where she has had many lessons from great masters as well as from the local people. She is currently helping to fund the building and running of an orphanage in downtown Mysore, a bustling city in India, where Sri K. Pattabhi Jois and his family live.
Ruth’s strength as a teacher comes from her gurus: David-ji and Sharon-ji, their courage and perseverance; Sri K. Pattabhi Jois who is perfect in every way; her Sanskrit teacher Jaya Shree who has pushed the Yoga Sutras into me; her husband, the gentle nurse and humble tai chi master and from her own practice and studies which are never ending.
Ruth’s growth as a teacher has also come about through the exchange that she has had with her students who are the best students a teacher could hope for. As a teacher, she hopes to be a link on the chain of all teachers who have inspired all students to be kind.
She is also an artist and has an MFA from Yale where she taught painting and printmaking. She currently teaches painting and drawing one semester/year at Dartmouth College.
Sri Pattabhi Jois
Sri K. Pattabhi Jois was born as Krishna on 26th July 1915 in the village of Kowshika, situated near Hassan city of Karnataka. It was at the age of twelve years that Krishna realized his aim in life. In his twelfth year i.e., 1927, he attended a lecture and demonstration given by S. T. Krishnamacharya in the Hassan city. Pattabhi Jois got so impressed by the lecture that, on the very next day, he became Krishnamacharya’s student and continued his study for the next twenty-five years.
In the year 1929, Jois ran away from his home and went to Mysore, in order to study Sanskrit. By coincidence, Krishnamacharya also left Hassan to teach somewhere else. Somehow, he also made his way to Mysore and met Jois once again after a gap of two years. During this time, Krishnamacharya had cured Maharaja of Mysore, Krishna Rajendra Wodeyar, of a very seriously illness. As an expression of his gratitude, the Maharaja had established a Yoga shala for him on the palace grounds.
Sri K. Pattabhi Jois remained with his Guru until 1941, when he left for Madras. However, Jois continued staying in Mysore afterwards and married a young woman named Savitramma (popularly known as Amma), with whom he fell in love. The marriage took place in June 1937 and they were later blessed with three children Saraswati, Manju and Ramesh. In 1948, Sri K. Pattabhi Jois managed to buy a home in a section of town, called Lakshmipuram, with the help of his students.
After buying the house, he established the ‘Ashtanga Yoga Research Institute’ there. Jois taught yoga at the Sanskrit College for a number of years and became a professor in 1956. In 1958, he started writing Yoga Mala, which was published in India in 1962. The first English version of the book came out in 1999.
Guruji continued to teach at the Ashtanga Yoga Research Institute in Mysore, now located in the neighbourhood of Gokulam, with his only daughter Saraswathi Rangaswamy and his grandson, until May 18, 2009 when he took Mahad Samadhi at age 93.
Shri Swami Nirmalananda
Swami Nirmalananda believed in the potency of Self rule, and he called himself the “Anarchist Swami.” He inducted David Life into the sunnyas (renunciate) order in 1990. Swami Nirmalananda was a naturalist and a “mauni”. He practiced silence for 11 years. “Unless the individuality is transcended, we cannot know what is universality and unless we die while living, we cannot know what is Eternal life. The mind can only think one thing at a time and it always functions within the realm of duality like good and bad, pleasure and pain, happiness and sorrow. Unless we rise above these pairs of opposites, we will not be able to know what the integrated state of existence is.”
“Love not anyone, not even God! Our picking and choosing love brings misery. Instead, let God love you. Be Love itself.”
– Shri Swami Nirmalananda