Biographical Sketch of Sri Swami Sivananda

Birth and Boyhood

On Thursday, the 8th of September, 1887, in the early hours of the morning, when the star Bharani was in the ascendant, was born a boy-child in the village of Pattamadai on the banks of the river Tamraparni in South India. Sri P.S. Vengu Iyer, a Tehsildar and a great Siva Bhakta, and Srimati Parvati Ammal, an equally great god-fearing lady, were the fortunate parents of this child. The happy couple christened this last and third son of theirs Kuppuswamy.
Boy Kuppuswamy was intelligent and mischievous. In his boyhood itself he showed signs of Tyaga and love for fellow-beings. He used to pity the poor, feed the hungry at the door, and make his father throw a pie into the hands of the pauper passing by. He often got cakes and sweets from his mother and distributed them liberally to his younger companions, dogs, cats, crows, and sparrows, himself not eating a bit. He used to bring flowers and bael leaves for his father’s Siva Puja.
At the Rajah’s High School, Ettayapuram, where he studied, Kuppuswamy always topped the class and won prizes every year. He had a sweet voice and wonderful memory. When His Excellency Lord Ampthil, the then Governor of Madras, visited the Kuru Malai Hills in 1901 for hunting, Kuppuswamy sang a song of welcome on the Kumarapuram railway platform. After the completion of the Matriculation examination, he studied at the S.P.G. College, Tiruchirapalli. In the college he used to take part in debates and dramas. He played the part of Helena when Shakespeare’s “Midsummer Night’s Dream” was staged in 1905.
After the completion of the First Arts Examination, Kuppuswamy went to the Medical School at Tanjore to study medicine. He used to be tremendously industrious and never went home during the holidays. He would spend the entire period in the hospital. He had free admission into the operation theatre. Kuppuswamy was first in all subjects. He possessed more knowledge than doctors with covetable degrees, and in the first year itself he could answer the papers which the final year student could not.
Kuppuswamy completed the course and earned the title of M.B., CM. He practised at Tiruchi. While practising, he started a medical journal “The Ambrosia”. He got one hundred rupees from his mother for the initial expenses of the journal. Later, when his mother wanted a hundred and fifty rupees for celebrating a festival, Dr. Kuppuswamy had the money ready for her. Even then he used to distribute the journal freely; he was very shy to ask people for contribution.

Doctor in Malaya

A call came to Dr. Kuppuswamy from Malaya, soon after the death of his father. He used to have an adventurous spirit in him. In 1913 he left India in the “S.S. Tara”. Kuppuswamy belonged to an orthodox Brahmin family and was afraid to take non-vegetarian food in the ship. So he carried with him a good quantity of sweets which his mother had prepared for him. When he arrived in Singapore, he was almost half dead!
Dr. Kuppuswamy describes his experiences in Malaya: “Immediately after disembarking, I went to the residence of Dr. Iyengar. He gave me a letter of introduction to his friend, Dr. Harold Parsons, a medical practitioner in Seremban. When I arrived there, Dr. Parsons introduced me to Mr. A.G. Robins, the manager of a nearby rubber estate which had its own hospital. Fortunately for me, Mr. Robins was just in need of an assistant to work in the Estate Hospital. He was a terrible man with a violent temper, a giant figure, tall and stout. He asked me, ‘Can you manage a hospital all by yourself?’ I replied, ‘Yes, I can manage even three hospitals’. I was appointed at once. I had been told by a local Indian resident that I ought not to accept, in accordance with their policy, anything less than a hundred dollars a month. Mr. Robins agreed to give me one hundred and fifty dollars to start with”.
The young doctor worked very hard. Unusual handicaps began to tell upon him and he felt like resigning the job after some time, but Mr. Robins would not allow him to go.
Dr. Kuppuswamy was very kind, sympathetic, humorous, witty, and sweet-speaking. Hopeless cases came to him, but success was sure. Everywhere people declared that he had a special gift from God for the miraculous cures effected in the patients and acclaimed him as a very kind and sympathetic doctor with a charming and majestic personality. In serious cases, he kept vigil all night. In his private practice, Dr. Kuppuswamy used to attend to the poor and often not charge them even visiting or consulting fees. Instead, he would give them money for special diet or to cover their own expenses after discharge from hospital. He gave money like water.
Once a poor man, drenched to the skin, came to the doctor at night. His wife was in birth pangs. The doctor went at once to her aid, and after attending to her, stayed outside the hut in spite of the heavy rain. Only after the safe delivery of the child did the doctor return home the next morning.
In spite of his busy life, Dr. Kuppuswamy served the Sadhus, Sannyasins, and beggars. He attended marriage functions, parties, and other social gatherings. Once a Sadhu gave him the book “Jiva Brahma Aikyam” by Sri Swami Satchidananda. It ignited the dormant spirituality in him. He began to study the books of Swami Rama Tirtha, Swami Vivekananda, Sankara, Imitation of Christ, the Bible, and literature of the Theosophical Society. He was very regular in his daily worship, prayer, and Yoga Asanas. Study of sacred scriptures like the Gita, the Mahabharata, the Bhagavatam, and the Ramayana was done with great devotion. Sometimes he conducted Nandan Charitam and sang Bhajans and Kirtans. He practised Anahata Laya Yoga and Svara Sadhana.
High-class dress, and collection of curios and fancy articles of gold, silver, and sandalwood always attracted the doctor. Sometimes he purchased various kinds of gold rings and necklaces and wore them all at the same time. He used to wear ten rings on ten fingers ! When he entered shops, he never wasted his time in selection, haggling, and bargaining. He gathered all that he saw. He paid the shopkeeper’s bills without scrutiny.
Nothing could tempt the doctor. His heart was as pure as the Himalayan snow. His immense philanthropy and spirit of service and renunciation endeared him to all. People lovingly called him the “Heart of Love”.
The rich doctor did not engage a cook permanently. He was his own cook though he had work that gave him no leisure. Occasionally he engaged a cook. One such cook of his one day wanted to have a photograph of himself taken. The doctor took him with great joy to a first class studio, made the cook put on his own suit, shoes, and hat and had a photo taken.


As days passed, he reflected more and more and wanted to renounce the world. His heart was purified through loving service. At last, Dr. Kuppuswamy, enjoying a lucrative practice, renounced the world like Prince Siddhartha, in 1923. He left Malaya for India.
At Madras he proceeded to the house of a friend and left his luggage there. He began his pilgrimage. At Benares, he had Darshan of Lord Visvanatha. He visited Mahatmas and temples. At Dhalaj, a village on the banks of the Chandra-bhaga River, he met a postmaster and lived with him. He acted as the postmaster’s cook, and when the latter arrived home in the evening, the doctor was ready to shampoo his legs in spite of his remonstrances! It was the postmaster who suggested Rishikesh when the aspiring doctor wanted a place for solitary meditation,
Dr. Kuppuswamy reached Rishikesh on the 8th of May, 1924. On the 1st of June, 1924, there came His Holiness Sri Swami Viswananda Saraswati. The doctor saw a Guru in the monk and the monk saw a Chela in the doctor. After a brief exchange of words, Dr. Kuppuswamy was initiated into the Sannyasa order by Swami Viswananda. Swami Vishnudevanandaji Maharaj, the Mahant of Sri Kailas Ashram, performed the Viraja Homa ceremonies. The Guru named the doctor Swami Sivananda Saraswati. Swami Viswananda wrote the necessary instructions about Sannyasa Dharma from Benares. Swami Sivanandaji stayed at Swargashram for Sadhana.


Swami Sivananda dressed to clothe himself, ate to live, and lived to serve humanity. A small dilapidated Kutir, not resorted to by others and infested with scorpions, protected him from rain and sun. Living in that Kutir, he did intense Tapas, observed silence, and fasted. Often he fasted for days on end. He would keep a good stock of bread in his room, and for a week have this, together with Ganges water. He would stand up to the hips in the ice-cold Ganges in winter mornings and commence his Japa, coming out only when the sun appeared. He would spend more than twelve hours in daily meditation. With all his intense Ta Swamiji did not neglect service of the sick. He visited the huts of the Sadhus with medicines, served them, and shampooed their legs. He begged food oh their behalf and fed them with his own hands when they fell sick. He brought water from the Ganges and washed their Kutirs. He attended upon cholera and small-pox cases. If necessary, he kept vigil through the night by the side of the bed of the ailing Sadhu. He carried sick persons on his back to the hospital. With some money from his insurance policy that had matured, Swamiji started a charitable dispensary at Lakshmanjula in 1927. He served the pilgrims and saw Narayana in them.
Swamiji practised all the various Yogas and studied the scriptures. After years of intense and unbroken Sadhana, he enjoyed the bliss of Nirvikalpa Samadhi. He had come to the end of his spiritual journey.
He used to gather bits of paper and used envelopes, and stitch them into little notebooks. He entered some self-instructions in them. Some of the instructions found in them read thus: Give up salt, give up sugar, give up spices, give up vegetables, give up chutnies, give up tamarind. In another we read: Serve Bhangis, serve rogues, serve inferiors, remove faecal matter, clean clothes of Sadhus—take delight, carry water. In another page: Do not revenge, resist not evil, return good for evil, bear insult and injury. On some neat little pages we again read: Forget like a child any injury done by somebody immediately. Never keep it in the heart. It kindles hatred. Cultivate Maitri, Karuna, Daya, Prema, Kshama. In another paragraph we see: Develop good manners, extreme politeness, courtesy, etiquette, good demeanour, nobility, gentleness, mildness. Never be rude, harsh, or cruel. There is nothing to be hated in the world. Hatred is ignorance- All contempt for anything or being must be removed through love and Vichara.
Swamiji travelled the whole length and breadth of India during his Parivrajak life. He visited important places of pilgrimage in the South, including Rameshwaram. He conducted Sankirtan and delivered lectures. He visited Aurobindo Ashram and met Maharshi Shuddhananda Bharati. At Ramana Ashram, he had Darshan of Sri Ramana Maharshi on the Maharshi’s birthday. He sang Bhajans and danced in ecstasy with the Bhaktas of Raman. Swamiji went on a trip to Kailas and Badri.
Swamiji returned to Rishikesh, and in 1936 started the Divine Life Society on the right banks of the holy Ganges. He found an old Kutir, dilapidated and disused, which looked like an abandoned cowshed. To him it was more than a palace. It had four ‘rooms’. He cleaned it and occupied it. Then, the increasing number of disciples who sought his lotus feet undaunted by forbidding conditions of living, necessitated expansion. They found more cowsheds, vacant, but un-inhabitably filthy. In one room, an old cowherd was living; the others were full of hay and dung. In about a year or so, the old cowherd also vacated his ‘room’, and the Divine Life army completed the occupation. Thus began the early life of the Divine Life Society.
Swami Sivanandaji has left a divine and lofty message of service, meditation, and God-realisation to all parts of the world through his books (of which he has written more than three hundred), periodicals, and letters. His disciples are drawn from all religions, cults, and creeds.
The headquarters of the Society at Rishikesh are visited by Yoga aspirants from many countries abroad. The Society has a printing press, art studio, temple, lecture hall, Yoga museum, and eye and general hospitals. Swami Sivanandaji’s Yoga, which he has significantly called the Yoga of Synthesis effects a harmonious development of the ‘hand’, ‘head’, and ‘heart’ through the practice of Karma Yoga, Jnana Yoga, and Bhakti Yoga.
May the blessings of our Master bring light to mankind!

A few words about His Holiness Swami Sivananda

Swami Sivananda was born on 8th September 1887 in the village of pattamadi in south India . He renounced the world in 1922 after a brief pursuit of medical profession. He took sannyasa diksha from His Holiness Sri Swami Visvananda Saraswati. He did intense tapas , practiced all the various yogas and studied scriptures. After years of intense sadhana he enjoyed the bliss of nirvikalpa Samadhi. In the year 1936 Swamiji started the Divine Life Society on the banks of holy river ganges. The society is now the headquarters of aworld wide organization having many branches in and outside India. Swamiji spread his message of divine life and service , meditation and god realization through his books , periodicals and letters. His disciples are from all religions, cults and creeds in the world. On 14th July 1963 Swami Sivananda entered mahasamadhi. The above is a brief sketch of my guru’s guru. For me they are one the same.I feel the blissful presence of Swami Sivanandaji around me. He is the protector, benefactor and guiding inspiration for all my activities. With Sivanandaji around nothing is impossible. He enthuses me to do sadhana steadily. My obeisance to Gurudev Sivanandaji who is the Guru of Gurus and shine in our hearts as our beloved Gurudev
For More information please visit www.dlshq.org/saints/siva.htm

Linguistic elements in autobiography of Swami Sivananda

A selective study

A.V.S.Jayaannapurna, K.L.University. Autobiographies refer to specific aspect of literature, in the sense of its universal function as an art form, which expresses experience through language, which we can recognize, interpret and analyze. Autobiographies are the means by which authors present a world of their own and readers gain experience, understanding and appreciation of their work. It contains many phases and transitions in the life of a doctor turned to be a yogi. It reviews ideas from selfishness to selflessness, from materialistic world to Samadhi, the highest point of cosmic consciousness.
Theme: Swami Sivananda was born at Pattamadai ten miles away from Tinnevelly Junction in Tamilnadu. His father Sri P.S. Vengu Iyer and mother as Srimati Parvati Ammal as their third son, on Thursday the 8th September 1887. He was named as 'Kuppu Swami'.(Au p.7) . He completed his studies at the Tanjore Medical Institute. Swamiji decided to try his luck in the Straits Settlements of Malaya He was appointed at once. He served there for seven years. After which he joined the Johore Medical Office Ltd., and served there for 3 years before renouncing the world.( auto, P.11) In Malaya, he came in direct contact with hundreds of the poor natives and indentured laborers as well as the local citizens. In 1923, he renounced the life of ease and moneymaking and took to the life of a mendicant, a true seeker after Truth. This drew him from Malaya to the Himalayas. In search of a Guru, Swami Sivananda reached Rishikesh and prayed to the Lord for His Grace. From the sacred hands of Paramahansa Viswananda Saraswathi, he received Holy initiation on the bank of the Ganga on 1st June 1924. (. Auto. P.20)
According to Swami Sivananda "service of the sick and poor and the Mahatmas is service to God". But his intense inborn tendencies to serve the world, led him to start Divine Life Society.
The interpretation of autobiographies can be made on the basis of content, context ,and form. The focus on observations, factors and categories in the analysis of context in which story tellers use language to interpret experiences and position themselves as particular category of people. The main idea, underlying all language users is interpreting certain processes, and able to extract meaning from discourse.
The autobiography of Sivananda is unique of its kind .It contains 176 pages and 13 chapters .The analysis of narration used in the autobiography of Sivananda can broadly be listed in the following patterns, Basing on the database of human memory, namely, 1 key narratives ,such as emotional associations with Mother, Guru. 2. Communicative approach ,vocabulary,and Language skills 3.learning life skills. mysteries, fact 4.Narrow terms, Specific word choices, demonstrations short stories and comparative study 5.Broader Terms. Suggestions and message.
Style: The quality of a personality is seen in his style. In translating experiences in to language and concepts of adult life. Sivananda composed his autobiography as if he is writing an annual report .But the beauty of the work consists in the fact that the narration reveals in every sentence, the nobility of the mind and its sincerity and seriousness. Tone: The attitude and mood of the writer is objective in nature .An appeal towards spiritual and unselfish tone is seen throughout the book. The book is conveniently divided into thirteen chapters.

Quotes, Axiomatic expressions

  • God dwells in every thing. God is the inner healer.

  • Love leads to God.

  • Become a flame of god.

  • Be rooted in God.Attain eternal bliss.

  • Adjust.Bear injury and insults. Train the mind to be even in all circumstances. Then only you can be really strong.

  • Always give. give, give. give all.Ask nothing.

  • Become a maha tyagi and maha bhogi

  • Rest means change of work.Regulate your energy.

  • Serve people whole heartedly. Convert every motion, every breath, every movement of your body in to pure yoga.

  • You are Brahman. 'tat tvam asi' These three ideas must enter your very nerves ,cells ,blood, bone.

  • When man gets entangled in selfishness, greed, lust, passion, he naturally forgets all about god.

  • Be calm and serene. Never fret your self.

  • Do not fight. Under all circumstances ,be polite.

  • Philosophy is the intelligent analysis of the implications of experience.

  • I have tremendous faith in healing through prayers.healing of deseases by chanting of mantras and prayers.

  • Figures of speech : Personification and the other figures of speech such as imagery are made use of in an ornamental manner in the autobiography. For example poetry enrich the imaginative skills of the author.
    Poetic language:, Sivananda's autobiography derives poetic pleasure by using words which reflects the style of language.
  • The critical juncture

  • Students became irreligious.
    They lost faith in religion.,under the influence of science.
    They neglected dharma.
    They began to smoke and gamble.
    Girls became fashionable.
    Officers became materialists.
    Health of people deteriorated.
    People shunned the scriptures.
    Materialism had its sway.
    At this critical juncture,
    To revive the glory of the lord
    To disseminate knowledge of yoga,
    To preach the yoga of synthesis
    I established the Divine life Mission.

  • Way to success

  • When I take up any work.
    I finish it at any cost.
    Whenever I start writing a book,
    I complete it somehow or other.


  • I am ever a thirsting student
    I am not a teacher
    But God has made me a teacher
    The students have made me a teacher
    I make my students soon as teachers
    I am such a teacher
    I treat them in respectable terms as
    I treat them as my equals
    I give them equal seats
    I am such a teacher
    I allow them to learn from my on life
    I make them mehants and servants of humanity
    Presidents, Lecturers, Writers, swamis and yogis
    Founders of spiritual institutions, poets, journalists
    Propagandists, divine scavengers, health
    And yoga culturists
    Typists, yoga kings ,Atma samrats
    Karmayogiveeras, Bhakti Bhushans
    Saadhana Ratnas
    I am such a teacher to all seekers after truth.
    Pain is unreal; it cannot exist;
    Bliss is real; it cannot die.
    Mind is unreal; it cannot exist.
    Soul is real; it cannot die.
    I am neither mind, nor body.
    This whole world is my body

    C. Narrow terms; Narrow terms refers to the short stories, events and significant incidents which weave the fabric the of memory.
    Certain special words and phrases pertaining to spiritual practice were made use of.such as brahman' tattvamasi, integral yoga,atman, eternal bliss, flame of god, life divine ,god realization, japamala, bhajan, atmabodha, pranayama, spiritual vibrations, Upanishads, collective sadhana, mass prayers, gospel to divine life, sachidananda swarupa, spiritual regeneration, bsatguru,avatar.
    d.Broader terms: The ultimate message of Sivananda is to "know thy self.' We live in peace among ourselves.
    1. Universal Love: Sivananda's time had been spent in delivering thrilling lectures during day and Kirtans at night. He pumps joy and power into the devotees. He roars like a lion. People do not leave him even a second.
    2. Strong faith on guru: Sivananda has a strong faith on his guru Paramhansa Viswananda Saraswati. According to him, Guru can guide the student, clear his doubts, pave the way, remove the snares, pitfalls and obstacles and throw light on the path. But it is the disciple himself who has to walk every step in the spiritual path.
    3. Ability to lead a organisation: The divine life society cropped up from Sivananda's able hands and paved way for selfless service.
    4. Secular nature: The Divine Life Society is an all-embracing and all-inclusive institution; its objects, ideals and aims are very broad and universal. It does not condemn any of the principles or tenets of any cult. It includes all the fundamental principles of all religions and cults.
    5. Tolerance of other religions: Sivananda enabled people to take easily to the Divine Life even while living in the world and following the teachings of some particular cult or religion.
    6. Positive and Creative Nature: More than to strive to reach a Heaven after this life, the followers of Sivananda try to make conditions of Heaven prevail upon earth. The principles of Sivananda are perfectly non-sectarian and universally applicable.
    Reading autobiographies of people who struggled against all odds ,and with stand hardships with a positive mind, is a source of infinite inspiration to the reader Individual introspection of the self is the cause for the rise in autobiographies in recent times. Various forms of self writing or life writing are universally fascinating and enticing for their creators as well as for their readers. ESP is an approach to language teaching in which all decisions as to the content and method are based on the learner's reasons for learning. The main idea, underlying all language users is therefore interpreting certain processes, and able to extract meaning from discourse. The focus being on interpretative strategies which train the learner with language forms, For example, guessing words from the context, interpreting visual layouts ,picking out important phrases, and summarizing skills.

    1.Swami Sivananda, 'Autobiography of Swami Sivananda', The Divine Life Society, Uttaranchal, 1958.
    2.Designs of active learning: A source book of classroom strategies volume 1 by Goal Gradowski,Loanne, Snavely Paula Dempsey, Charles Thompson,Routledge,1996.(Google book)
    3.History of linguistic thought and contemporary linguistics by Hermen parret
    4. Conditions and limits of autobiography. by. Gusdorf Georges well publishing Ltd ,MA US
    5.The Hand book of Applied Linguistics by Alan Davies ,Catherin Elder,FP2004,Black
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