Sivaya Subramuniyaswami

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Sivaya Subramuniyaswami
Satguru Sivaya Subramuniyaswami (Gurudeva).jpg
Sivaya Subramuniyaswami
Robert Hansen

(1927-01-05)5 January 1927
Died12 November 2001(2001-11-12) (aged 74)

Sivaya Subramuniyaswami (born Robert Hansen; January 5, 1927 – November 12, 2001) was an American Hindu religious leader known as Gurudeva by his followers. Subramuniyaswami was born in Oakland, California and adopted Hinduism as a young man. He was the 162nd head of the Nandinatha Sampradaya's Kailasa Parampara and Guru at Kauai's Hindu Monastery which is a 382-acre (155 ha) temple-monastery complex on Hawaii's Garden Island.[1]

In 1947, at the age of 20, he journeyed to India and Sri Lanka and in 1949, was initiated into sannyasa[2] by the renowned siddha yogi and worshiper of Lord Shiva, Jnanaguru Yogaswami of Jaffna, Sri Lanka who was regarded as one of the 20th century's remarkable mystics. In the 1970s he established a Hindu monastery in Kauai, Hawaii and founded the magazine Hinduism Today.[3] In 1985, he created the festival of Pancha Ganapati as a Hindu alternative to December holidays like Christmas.[4][5] He was one of Shaivism's Gurus, the founder and leader of the Saiva Siddhanta Church.

He is part of the guru lineage of the Sri Lankan Alaveddy Hindus. His various institutions form a Jaffna-Tamil-based organization which has branched out from his Sri Subramuniya Ashram in Alaveddy to meet the needs of the growing Hindu diaspora of this century. He also established a seven-acre (2.8 ha) monastery in Mauritius, which includes a public Spiritual Park called "Spiritual Park- Pointe de Lascars". He oversaw more than 50 independent temples worldwide.[6]

His influence reflected the reach of his publications, including the approximately 30 books he wrote. Subramuniyaswami was described by Klaus Klostermaier as "the single-most advocate of Hinduism outside India".[7] The book Religious Leaders of America explained Subramuniyaswami's role as "a pillar of orthodox Hinduism."[8]


Youth in California (1927–1946)[edit]

Sivaya Subramuniyaswami was born in California in 1927 as Robert Hansen. He is quoted as relating how at the age of six the totality of the power of the eternity of the moment began to become stronger and stronger within me from that time onward.[9][10] He was most inspired by the life of Swami Vivekananda and his four small volumes: Raja Yoga, Bhakti Yoga, Karma Yoga and Inspired Talks, and most particularly by Swami Vivekananda's masterful poem, "The Song of the Sannyasin."

Sivaya Subramuniyaswami's training in classical eastern and Western dance and in the disciplines of yoga developed him into a dancer. He joined the San Francisco Ballet Company, becoming their danseur by age nineteen. At twenty years of age, he took the first ship to leave for India after World War II. He celebrated his twenty-first birthday just days before going ashore and walking through the grand Gateway to India in Mumbai.

Visit to Sri Lanka (1947–1949)[edit]

Sivaya Subramuniyaswami spent almost three years on the island of Ceylon, now called Sri Lanka. Before meeting his guru, he studied with his fourth “catalyst” for a year and a half. Sivaya Subramuniyaswami just wanted to meditate, but his teacher made him work to help village people with reconstructing rural areas. Sivaya Subramuniyaswami visited and lived in many Buddhist temples in Sri Lanka. He was received by the monks there and saw how they lived and dressed. This experience influenced in a very strict way the monastic protocols that he later put into action in his own monastic order.

In the caves of Jalani, Kurugala Balandha, Sri Lanka, he fasted and meditated until he experienced what he felt to be enlightenment. Sivaya Subramuniyaswami relates his feelings while returning to Colombo, Sri Lanka: “Returning back to the city, nothing looked the same anymore. I was in another dimension. Everything was different. I had lost something: the desire for the realization of the Self. I felt complete. I felt alone.”[10]

Gurudeva in 1949, right after his return from Sri Lanka

Back in Colombo, Sivaya Subramuniyaswami met his final teacher before meeting his guru. One day, his teacher arranged a meeting between Sivaya Subramuniyaswami and his long-awaited satguru, Sage Yogaswami. After a deep and inner meeting, Yogaswami gave him the name Subramuniya, an epithet of Sri Murugan. Subra means "the light that emanates out from the central source." Muni means a silent teacher, and ya means restraint. Subramuniya means a self-restrained soul who remains silent or speaks out from intuition. After a few visits, Jnanaguru Yogaswami initiated Subramuniya into sannyasa and ordained him into his lineage with a slap on the back giving the following instructions: "This sound will be heard in America! Now go ‘round the world and roar like a lion. You will build palaces (temples) and feed thousands.[11]". This event was witnesses by several Jaffna area devotees, notably a local magistrate named Thiru S. Subramaniam.

Yogaswami continued to communicate with Sivaya Subramuniyaswami through Kandiah Chettiar until his death in 1964. In the line of successorship, Subramuniya was considered the 162nd Jagadacharya of the Nandinatha Sampradaya's Kailasa Parampara.

San Francisco (1949–1970)[edit]

In late 1949 Subramuniya sailed back to America and embarked on seven years of ardent, solitary yoga and meditation In 1956, Sivaya Subramuniyaswami said, he had a tremendous spiritual experience in Denver, Colorado, where "the soul body would finally fully inhabit the physical body".[10][12] The following year, in San Francisco, Subramuniya founded what is now Himalayan Academy and opened America's first Hindu temple at 3575 Sacramento Street, near Presidio Park. In Switzerland, 1968, he wrote of Shum, a mystical language of meditation that names and maps inner areas of consciousness.

The following is taken ibid from "Homegrown Gurus: From Hinduism in America to American Hinduism / edited by Ann Gleig and Lola Williamson. State University of New York 2013 Pages 123-125[13] Subramuniya in the 1950s and 1960s The biographies of "Subramuniya" have a significant gap between 1950 and 1957. Subramuniya states that he was ordered not to teach until he was thirty to account for his silence. He was apparently not inactive during this time spending much of it exploring various non traditional religions. He travelled around the United States experimenting with Christian Science, Theosophy, the Science of mind. the Self-Realization Fellowship, Unity, Religious Science and Spiritualism. His shift to a teaching ministry as Master Subramuniya in 1957 blends elements of these religious movements with Hindu yogic and Vedanta teachings in a language oriented to Westerners.[14] Subramuniya in the 1950s and 1960s might be placed in an American metaphysical lineage that can be traced from nineteenth century Theosophy to the New Age Movement in the late 1970s. Subramuniya early publications, The Self-God (1959) Cognizantibility (1958) Gems of Cognition (1958) and the Clear White Light (1968) make no mention of Saiva Siddhanta, the term "Hinduism", or Shiva. They provide no biographical details on Subramuniya nor do they mention his guru or lineage. All of Subramuniya's early works stress meditation, an advaita based monism and yoga, but make no mention of Subramuniya's Hindu religion or sectarian affiliations or his avocation of temple worship so prominently found in his later works.

While Subramuniya blended elements of Aquarian teachings with Hinduism in one context during the 1950s and 1960s he also combined aspects of Hinduism with Christianity in another context. Subramuniya opened two centres in San Francisco in 1957: one nominally Hindu, the Subramuniya Yoga Order, and the other nominally Christian, the Yoga Church.[15] A typical Sunday worship at the Christian Yoga Church included the singing of Christian hymns, readings from the New Testament and the Bhagavad Gita or Upanishads and a sermon related to Christian or Hindu mysticism. In this context, Master Subramuniya was known as Father Subramuniya.[16] All the Himalayan Academy biographies are silent on this Christian aspect of Subramuniya's early career most likely because it would place his authority within the Hindu tradition into doubt.[17]

Kauai (1970–2001)[edit]

Sivaya Subramuniyaswami moved his ashram to Kauai in 1970, establishing Kauai Aadheenam, on a riverbank near the foot of an extinct volcano. Also known as Kauai's Hindu Monastery, Kauai Aadheenam is a 458-acre (185 ha) temple-monastery complex on Hawaii's Garden Island. In 1979 he published the Holy Orders of Sannyas, defining the ideals, vows and aspirations of Hindu monasticism. In 1979 he founded the Hinduism Today magazine, and in the early 80s, after his world tours, focused his magazine on uniting all Hindus, regardless of nationality or sect, and inspiring and educating seekers everywhere. In Sri Lanka, Sivaya Subramuniyaswami formally took possession of the main building of his Sri Subramuniya Ashram in Alaveddy, founded in 1949.

Capstone of Iraivan Temple at Kauai's Hindu Monastery

In 1986 Sivaya Subramuniyaswami founded a branch monastery in Mauritius in response to the government's request that he come there "to revive a languishing Hindu faith."[8] In 1991 he produced the Nandinatha Sutras, 365 aphorisms that outlines the path of virtuous Hindu living. Especially in the early 1990s he campaigned for fair treatment of temple priests, particularly that they should receive the same respect enjoyed by the clergy of other religions. In 2000 he published How to Become a Hindu, showing the way for seekers to formally enter the faith, confuting the notion that "You must be born a Hindu to be a Hindu." In November of that year, he launched Hindu Press International (HPI), a free daily news summary for breaking news sent via e-mail and posted on the web. In 2001, he completed the 3,000-page Master Course trilogy of Dancing with Siva, Living with Siva, and Merging with Siva - volumes of daily lessons on Hindu philosophy, culture and yoga, respectively.


Learning on October 9, 2001, that he had advanced, metastasized intestinal cancer, confirmed by a host of specialists in three states, all concurring that even the most aggressive treatment regimens would not prove effective, he declined any treatment beyond palliative measures and decided to follow the Indian yogic practice, known as prayopavesha in Sanskrit scripture, to abstain from nourishment and take water only from that day on. He died on the 32nd day of his self-declared fast at 11:54 pm on November 12, 2001, surrounded by his twenty-three monastics.[18]

Spiritual lineage[edit]

He followed shaivism sect (Shaiva Siddhanta) of Hinduism. He belongs to Nandinatha Sampradaya's Kailasa Parampara. Saiva siddhanta is prevalent in South India, Sri Lanka and Malaysia.[19][20]

His Spiritual lineage : Maharishi Nandinath→ Tirumular→ → → nameless rishi from himalayas → Kadaitswami → ChellapaswamiSiva Yogaswami → Sivaya Subramuniyaswami → Bodhinatha Veylanswami[21]

Religious titles
Preceded by
Satguru Siva Yogaswami
of Jaffna, Sri Lanka
162nd Satguru (Spiritual Preceptor)
1959 – November 12, 2001
Succeeded by
Guru Mahasannidhanam, Kauai Aadheenam
1970 – November 12, 2001

Honors and awards[edit]

2000: Gurudeva receiving the U Thant Peace Award at the United Nations in New York
  • 1986 - New Delhi's Parliament of the World's Religions named Sivaya Subramuniyaswami one of five modern-day Jagadacharyas, means world teachers, for his international efforts in promoting Hinduism.[8][22]
  • 1988 - Oxford, England: Hindu representative at the Global Forum of Spiritual and Parliamentary Leaders for Human Survival. Sivaya Subramuniyaswami joined hundreds of religious, political and scientific leaders from all countries to discuss privately, for the first time, the future of human life on this planet.
  • 1988 - Oxford : he represented Hinduism at the Global Forum of Spiritual and Parliamentary Leaders .[8]
  • 1990 - Moscow : he again represented Hinduism at the Global Forum of Spiritual and Parliamentary Leaders
  • 1992 - Rio de Janeiro : he again represented Hinduism at the Global Forum of Spiritual and Parliamentary Leaders
  • 1993 - Chicago: at the centenary Parliament of the World's Religions, Sivaya Subramuniyaswami was elected one of three presidents, along with Swami Chidananda Saraswati of the Rishikesh-based Divine Life Society and Kerala's Mata Amritanandamayi, to represent Hinduism at the Presidents' Assembly, a core group of 25 men and women voicing the needs of world faiths.
  • 1995 - New Delhi's Parliament of the World's Religions bestowed on Sivaya Subramuniyaswami the title Dharmachakra for his remarkable publications.
  • 1997 - Sivaya Subramuniyaswami responded to the US President's call for religious opinions on the ethics of cloning from the Hindu point of view.
  • 1997 - Sivaya Subramuniyaswami spearheaded the 125th anniversary of Satguru Yogaswami and his golden icon's diaspora pilgrimage through many of the over 75 Sri Lanka temples and societies around the globe.
  • 2000 - On August 25, he received the U Thant Peace Award (an award created by Sri Chinmoy) at the United Nations in New York. Prior recipients of this award were the Dalai Lama, Nelson Mandela, Mikhail Gorbachev, Pope John Paul II and Mother Teresa. He addressed 1,200 spiritual leaders gathered for the UN Millennium Peace Summit, with the message, “For peace in the world, stop the war in the home.”


Gurudeva was author of more than 30 books offering insights on Hindu metaphysics, Saivism, mysticism, yoga, and meditation. His works are highly regarded by many contemporary Hindu leaders.[23]

His Master Course[24] is Sivaya Subramuniyaswami's comprehensive treatise on Shaivism in three books and more than 3,000 pages, composed in what he called "talkanese" - a flowing version of written English that resembles the spoken language and evokes ancient Hindu oral traditions. His Master Course includes three books :

  • Dancing with Siva
  • Living with Siva
  • Merging with Siva

Some of his other books:

  • Yoga's Forgotten Foundation
  • Loving Ganesha
  • How to Become a Hindu: A Guide for Seekers and Born Hindus
  • Tirukkural: The American English and Modern Tamil Translations of an Ethical Masterpiece
  • Holy Orders of Sannyas: A Saiva Swami's Diksha and Lifetime Vows of Renunciation
  • Weaver's Wisdom: Ancient Precepts for a Perfect Life
  • Pancha Ganapati: An alternative for Christmas

Four areas of service[edit]

The four areas of service established by Sivaya Subramuniyaswami and now carried out by his successor, Satguru Bodhinatha Veylanswami, and monastics, are: Saiva Siddhanta Church, Himalayan Academy, Hindu Heritage Endowment, and the Hinduism Today international quarterly magazine.

Saiva Siddhanta Church[edit]

The mission of the Church is to preserve and promote the Śaivite Hindu religion. Membership in the Church extends to many countries of the world, including the US, Canada, Mauritius, Malaysia, Singapore, India, Sri Lanka and several European nations

Hindu Heritage Endowment[edit]

Hindu Heritage Endowment is a public service trust founded by Sivaya Subramuniyaswami in 1995.

Hinduism Today[edit]

Hinduism Today is an international quarterly magazine founded by Sivaya Subramuniyaswami in 1979. It is a public service of his monastic order, created to strengthen all Hindu traditions by uplifting and informing followers of the Hinduism everywhere.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Satguru Sivaya Subramuniyaswami". Himalayanacademy. (Source closely affiliated with the subject)
  2. ^ The Swamis of Kauai's Hindu Monastery (2011). "Chapter Twenty: Finding God in a Cave". The Guru Chronicles: The Making of the First American Satguru. Kapaʻa, Kauai, Hawaii: Himalayan Academy. ISBN 978-1-934145-39-5. Archived from the original on December 6, 2019. (Source closely affiliated with the subject)
  3. ^ Dr. Vimala Krishnapillai (April 1, 2004). "Siva Yogaswami, the Sage and mystic of Sri Lanka". Daily News (Sri Lanka). Retrieved January 16, 2013.
  4. ^ Rudolph, Ephraim (December 7, 2015). "3 International December Holidays You May Not Know About". Indianapolis, Indiana: The International Center (INTLCTR). Archived from the original on December 8, 2015.
  5. ^ "Pancha Ganapati:The Family Festival of Giving". Hinduism Today. Himalayan Academy. 2010. Archived from the original on November 28, 2012. (Source closely affiliated with the subject)
  6. ^ "Lineage". Himalayanacademy. (Source closely affiliated with the subject)
  7. ^ Klostermaier, Klaus K. (2007). A Survey of Hinduism (3rd ed.). SUNY Press. p. 231. ISBN 9780791470824. Sivaya Subramuniyaswami ... did much to propagate a kind of reformed Saivism through his books. As founder-editor of Hinduism Today, an illustrated monthly, he became the single-most advocate of Hinduism outside India.
  8. ^ a b c d Douglas Martin (November 19, 2001). "Satguru Subramuniyaswami, Hindu Spiritual Leader, 74". The New York Times. Retrieved January 8, 2013.
  9. ^ (Source closely affiliated with the subject)
  10. ^ a b c "The Making of a Master". Hinduism Today. No. April/May/June. Himalayan Academy. 2002. (Source closely affiliated with the subject)
  11. ^ Merging with Siva ISBN 0-945497-95-4, page 909 (Source closely affiliated with the subject)
  12. ^ "The Making of a Master". Hinduism Today. Hinduism Today. April 1, 2020. Retrieved September 23, 2021.
  13. ^ Mann, Richard D. (2013). "Life in Progress: The Biographies of Sivaya Subramuniyaswami". In Gleig, Ann; Williamson, Lola (eds.). Homegrown Gurus: From Hinduism in America to American Hinduism. Albany, New York: State University of New York. pp. 115–139, pages 123-125. ISBN 978-1-4384-4791-9.
  14. ^ Lucas, Phillip Charles (1995). The Odyssey of a New Religion: The Holy Order of MANS from new age to orthodoxy. Bloomington, Indiana: Indiana University Press. p. 21. ISBN 978-0-253-33612-5.
  15. ^ Rawlinson, Andrew (1997). The Book of Enlightened Masters: Western Teachers in Eastern Traditions. Chicago: Open Court. p. 541. ISBN 978-0-8126-9310-2.
  16. ^ Lucas 1995, p. 13
  17. ^ Mann 2013, p. 125 citing Rudrananda, Swami (aka Albert Rudolph) (1973). Spiritual Cannibalism. New York: Links Books. pp. 32–33, 37, 40, 55, and 72. ISBN 978-0-8256-3005-7. and Mann, John (1987). Rudi: 14 Years with My Teacher. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Rudra Press. p. 139. ISBN 978-0-915801-04-6.
  18. ^ "Kauai's Hindu Monastery". Kauai's Hindu Monastery.
  19. ^ Dancing with Siva by Satguru Siva Subramuniyaswami. USA: Himalayan Academy. 1997. pp. ŚLOKA 152. ISBN 9780945497974. (Source closely affiliated with the subject)
  20. ^ Dancing with Siva by Satguru Siva Subramuniyaswami. USA: Himalayan Academy. 1997. pp. ŚLOKA 151. ISBN 9780945497974. (Source closely affiliated with the subject)
  21. ^ "Lineage". (Source closely affiliated with the subject)
  22. ^ Subramuniyaswami, Sivaya (2002). Living with Siva. USA & India: E-Gutenberg. ISBN 0-945497-98-9. (Source closely affiliated with the subject)
  23. ^ External reviews of Dancing with Siva (Source closely affiliated with the subject)
  24. ^ Dancing with Siva ISBN 0-945497-97-0; Living with Siva ISBN 0-945497-98-9; Merging with Siva ISBN 0-945497-95-4 (Source closely affiliated with the subject)