Swami Satchidananda on a rainy Swiss mountain in 1987
|Born||C. K. Ramaswamy Gounder
22 December 1914
Chettipalayam, Coimbatore, British India (now Tamil Nadu, India)
|Died||19 August 2002
Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India
|Nationality||Indian, then American citizenship in 1976, granted to him as "Minister of Divine Words"|
|Titles/honours||U Thant Peace Award, B'nai B'rith Antidefamation League Award and many more.|
|Quotation||His motto: "Easeful, peaceful and useful"|
Satchidananda Saraswati (22 December 1914 – 19 August 2002), born as C. K. Ramaswamy Gounder and known as Swami Satchidananda, was an Indian religious teacher, spiritual master and yoga adept, who gained fame and following in the West. He was the author of many philosophical and spiritual books. He had an enormous core of founding disciples who compiled and requested of Satchidananda Saraswati updated traditional handbooks of yoga such as the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali and the Bhagavad Gita for modern readers, both with his incisive insights as a Yogiraj, master yogi, and as a master of humorous parables.
Photographer George Hausman masterfully captured the elegant physique of Satchidananda Saraswati for Integral Yoga Hatha, the manual for many who began yoga studies since the 1960s.
The international school Satchidananda Jothi Niketan located in Mettupalyam, Tamil Nadu.
Satchidananda was born in 1914 into the pious Gounder family at Chettipalayam, a small village in Coimbatore, near Podanur in the South Indian state of Tamil Nadu, and was named as C. K. Ramaswamy Gounder. His parents affectionately called him Ramu. He was Perur Temple manager early in his life.
He remained a vegetarian all his life, and later wrote a book called The Healthy Vegetarian. After study at agricultural college, he worked in a family business which imported motorcycles. At age of 23 he became a manager at India's National Electric Works. He married and had two sons. His wife died suddenly five years later. Ramaswamy's children remained with his mother Sri Vellamai, and he embarked on an arduous life of an ascetic yogi for many years practising and mastering classical yoga. Apostle of Peace, his later biography, includes many details updated in the 1990s.
After the sudden death of his wife, Ramaswamy travelled throughout India, meditating at holy shrines and studying with revered spiritual teachers. For years, Ramaswamy searched for real sages, saints, and spiritual masters. Eventually, he was initiated into pre-sannyasa in the Ramakrishna Thapovanam and given the name Sambasiva Chaitanya. While at the ashram, his job was to care for orphaned young boys. During this period, he also studied along with the renowned Ramana Maharshi. He eventually left the ashram when he could not bear the suffering of Sri Ramana's arm cancer and treatment procedures. Ramana Maharshi died shortly after his departure. He then travelled to Rishikesh, a holy town in the foothills of the Himalayas, located on the banks of the Ganges River. There, he discovered his guru, Sivananda Saraswati, founder of the Divine Life Society and a former physician, who ordained him into the holy order of sannyasa in 1949 and gave him the name Satchidananda Saraswati.
The name Saccidānanda, Satchidananda, or Sat-cit-ānanda (Sanskrit: सच्चिदानंद) is a compound of three Sanskrit words, Sat (सत्), Cit (चित्), and Ānanda (आनंद) (the ā is of longer vocal length), meaning essence, consciousness, and bliss, respectively. The expression is used in yoga and other schools of Indian philosophy to describe the nature of Brahman as experienced by a fully liberated yogi. Satcidānanda may be understood as the energetic state of non-duality, a manifestation of our spiritually natural, primordial, and authentic state which is comparable in quality to that of deity.
During the late 1950s and into the 1960s, Satchidananda headed, along with another disciple, Satchidananda Saraswati Mataji, students of the same master, Sivananda Saraswati, to the Kandy Thapovanam, one of Sivananda's ashrams situated in the hill country of Sri Lanka. Here, Satchidananda taught yoga, conceived and implemented innovative interfaith approaches to traditional Hindu festivals and modernised the ancient mode of living that renunciates had followed for many years. For instance, Satchidanda drove a car (to teach throughout Sri Lanka), wore a watch (to be on time), and actively engaged the questions of seekers. These modernisations were ridiculed by certain individuals in the orthodoxy but he felt them to be necessary natural extensions and serving tools for betterment in his spiritual yogic work.
Time in America
After serving his guru for many years, in 1966 he visited New York City at the request of the artist Peter Max. Soon after his initial visit Satchidananda formally moved to the United States, and eventually became a citizen. From his new home he spread his teachings of yoga, selfless service, ecumenism and enlightenment.
Satchidananda came to public attention as the opening speaker at the Woodstock music arts and peace festival in 1969, after he was called in as an emergency measure. Over the years he wrote numerous books and gave hundreds of lectures. He also ordained a number of western disciples into the order of sannyasa. He was the founder of the Integral Yoga Institute and Yogaville in America, and Spiritual Guru of major Hollywood actors and western musicians. In 1986 opened the Light of Truth Universal Shrine (LOTUS) at Yogaville in Buckingham, Virginia.
On 19 August 2002, Satchidananda Saraswati died after speaking at a peace conference in Chennai. His funeral took place in Buckingham, Virginia on 22 August at Chidambaram, a designated shrine for contemplation facing the ecumenical shrine to the Light, LOTUS (LOTUS.org) which Satchidananda Saraswati considered the most important part of all his life's work: A place to honour the universality of all faiths, through the symbol of light which is shared by all cultures in the world.
Integral Yoga International and Yogaville continue to educate yogis around the world and at the world headquarters in Buckingham, Virginia.
Integral Yoga origins
Satchidananda characterised Integral yoga (Satchidananda) as "...a flexible combination of specific methods to develop every aspect of the individual: physical, intellectual, and spiritual. It is a scientific system which integrates the various branches of Yoga to bring about a complete and harmonious development of the entire person.
Integral Yoga was trademarked to keep the teachings consistent as the popularity of yoga increased exponentially in the West and to have duly trained instructors imparting the teachings of the Satchidananda Saraswati lineage. Sivananda Saraswati, the Master of Satchidananda Saraswati, was founder of the global Divine Life Society and known worldwide as Sri Swami Sivananda Saraswati: a trained physician who wrote books on all aspects of yoga in English for the first time in history, thereby paving the way for a modern Western audience and the current vigorous practice of yoga around the world.
Integral Yoga believes:
The goal and the birthright of all individuals is to realize the spiritual unity behind the diversity throughout creation and to live harmoniously as members of "one universal family". This goal is achieved by the maintaining of our natural condition as:
- a body of optimal health and strength,
- senses under total control,
- a mind well disciplined, clear, and calm,
- an intellect as sharp as a razor,
- a will as strong and pliable as steel,
- a heart full of unconditional love and compassion,
- an ego as pure as crystal, and
- a life filled with supreme peace, joy and bliss.