Divine Life Society

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Divine Life Society

Founded in March 1933 by the late Swami Sivananda in Rishikesh, India, as an ashram or spiritual retreat for the teaching of traditional Hindu yoga and Vedanta. Situated on the banks of the sacred river Ganges in the foothills of the Himalayas, the ashram is on the main pilgrim route to holy places high in the mountains. Originally, a small group of huts surrounded by jungle, the ashram rapidly grew into a self-contained community with temple, hospitals, pharmacy, printing press, and post office. A Yoga Vedanta Forest Academy was established in 1948, and instruction was also given in the study and practice of spiritual music.

Although not the first ashram of this kind (the settlement of Sir Aurobindo at Pondicherry dates from 1910), the society played a prominent part in reviving the Hindu tradition of forest academies in a modern context, long before the contemporary Western wave of interest in Eastern teachings and mass-media gurus.

In addition to resident monks, the ashram has continued to receive a stream of visitors from abroad as well as devotees from all over India. Some are members of the society, spending a short period of time in sadhana, or spiritual disciplines, others are pilgrims and casual visitors. As a highly concentrated microcosm, the ashram has provided intense spiritual experience for many individuals. Some of the resident swamis later established ashrams in other parts of the world. One of the most famous of these swamis is Vishnudevananda, an exponent of hatha yoga, who established the Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Centers in communities across North America, with headquarters in Quebec.

Upon the death of Swami Sivananda on July 14, 1963, Swami Chidananda succeeded him; the secretarial work of the ashram continued in the hands of Swami Krishnananda, author of several books.

Little known outside India are two ashram music professors. Swami Nadabrahmananda Saraswati, who demonstrated extraordinary applications of kundalini energy to spiritual music, recorded a cassette, Science of Thaan, issued by Ashram Records (Box 9, Kootenay Bay, B.C., Canada VOB 1XO). Another important Hindu musician staying at the ashram seasonally is Swami Parvatikar, an exponent of nada, the yoga of music. He has made a number of recordings, and is included on the re-cord album, Religious Music of India, recorded by Alain Danielou on Folkways Records.

There are also sound recordings of life at the Sivananda Ashram, including The Sounds of Yoga-Vedanta: A Documentary of Life in an Indian Ashram (Folkways Records) and Sounds of Siva-nanda Ashram, issued by Ashram Records, Canada.

There are now Divine Life Society branches or related organizations on every continent. The Sivananda Ashram may be reached c/o the Divine Life Society, P.O. Sivanandanagar, Dt. Tehri-Garhwal, U.P., Himalayas, India. Related organizations within the Sivananda heritage headquartered in North America include the Yasodhara Ashram, established by Swami Siva-nanda Radha; Integral Yoga International, headed by Swami Satchidananda; the Holy Shankaracharya Order, founded by Swami Lalshmy Devyashram; the IndoAmerican Yoga-Vedanta Society, headed by Swami Satchidananda Bua Ji; the prana Yoga Ashram, headed by Swami Sivalingam; the Raj-Yofa Math and retreat, headed by Fr. Satchakrananda Bodhisattvaguru; and the Yoga Research Foundation, headed by Swami Jyotirmayananda.


Chidananda, Swami. Forest Academy Lectures on Yoga. Rishikish, India: The Author, 1960.

Krishnananda, Swami. Swami Sivananda and the Spiritual Renaissance. Rishikish, India: Sivananda Literature Research Institute, 1959.

Melton, J. Gordon. Encyclopedia of American Religion. Detroit: Gale Research, 1992.

Sivananda, Swami. Autobiography of Swami Sivananda. Shivanandanagar, India: Divine Life Society, 1983.

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