Radha, Swami Sivananda (1911–1995)
Founder and spiritual leader of Yasodhara Ashram, Kootenay
Bay, British Columbia, Canada. Swami Radha (born Ursula
Sylvia Hellman) was born March 20, 1911, in Germany and
demonstrated psychic ability when only a child. She was widowed
twice during World War II and emigrated to Canada, in
an effort to forget the horrors of the Nazi regime.
Hellman felt a strong urge for spiritual fulfillment, and during
meditation she had a vision of a Hindu sage. A few days
later, while looking at books in a Montreal store, she saw a photograph
of the Hindu sage she had seen in meditation. His
name was Swami Sivananda Saraswati, a famous yogi with an
ashram at Rishikesh, India, in the foothills of the Himalayas.
Hellman wrote to Swami Sivananda and received a reply
asking her to ‘‘come home’’ to India. With some considerable
sacrifices, she finished up her job and traveled to Rishikesh,
where she received intensive training in Hinduism and the integral
yoga system taught by Sivananda. In January 1956, she
was initiated as a renunciate (sannyasi) by Swami Sivananda
and instructed to carry his spiritual message to the West. At that
period, women swamis, particularly Westerners, were rare, and
the prospect of returning to Canada without income was a
daunting one, but with faith in her guru, Swami Radha returned
to Canada. Slowly a society grew around her to spread
yoga teachings of the spiritual life.
The Sivananda Ashram was originally founded at South
Burnaby, Vancouver, British Columbia, but later moved to
Kootenay Bay, British Columbia. While searching for a possible
site in this area, Swami Radha found an ideal setting by the side
of a lake, officially listed since 1897 as ‘‘Yasodhara.’’ It was a
good omen, since in Hinduism Yasoda is the foster-mother of
Shree Krishna, an incarnation of God.
Under the name Yasodhara Ashram, the society occupied
an 83-acre site with a lake, forests, and mountains, reminiscent
of the foothills of India. Several acres have been cleared, and
the ashram premises include residential buildings, a guest
lodge, prayer room, print shop, bookstore, office, recording
studio, and a Temple of All Faiths. Various workshop programs
and courses are given in yoga and the spiritual teachings of
East and West. There are no religious limitations, as the aim of
the ashram is to integrate the spiritual ideals and practices of
all major religions.
As spiritual director, Radha took steps to avoid a personality
cult growing up around her and allowed no pictures of herself
or of Sivananda in the prayer rooms. Instead, the basic spiritual
light of different religions was emphasized by their traditional
symbols. Besides her many books, Radha was responsible for issuing
various recordings, including her teachings, which were
available on Divine Light Invocation and Mantras Songs of Yoga,
published by Ashram Records.
Radha died November 30, 1995.
Sources
Radha, Swami Sivananda. Gods Who Walk the Rainbow.
Porthill, Idaho Timeless Books, 1981.
———. Hatha Yoga, Hidden Language. Porthill, Idaho Timeless
Books, 1987.
———. Kundalini Yoga for the West. Spokane, Wash. Timeless
Books, 1978.
———. Mantras, Words of Power. Porthill, Idaho Timeless
Books, 1980.
———. Radha, Diary of a Woman’s Search. Porthill, Idaho
Timeless Books, 1981.