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 massmedia
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 estabEncyclopedia
of Occultism & Parapsychology • 5th Ed. Divine Life Society
lished 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 record
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 Sivananda
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 co 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 Sivananda
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,
Melton, J. Gordon. Encyclopedia of American Religion. Detroit
Gale Research, 1992.
Sivananda, Swami. Autobiography of Swami Sivananda. Shivanandanagar,
India Divine Life Society, 1983.