Vishnudevananda, Swami Sivananda Saraswati’s most famous pupil, is credited with popularising yoga in the West by founding several centers and ashrams around the world – the Sivananda yoga centers – and training an astonishing number of academics, both directly and indirectly.
He is primarily responsible for the fact that so many of us now practice yoga.
But his actions went beyond that: he was a zealous advocate for world peace, as seen by his renowned “peace flights” on numerous occasions.
We’ll see how he used his extraordinary communication talents to further the causes he’d made it his duty to fight.
Swami Vishnu, Vishnudevananda’s childhood
Vishnudevananda was born in Kerala, India, in the year 1927.
His paternal grandfather was a Brahman.
He served in the Indian Army for a short time.
His favorite text at the time was Swami Sivananda Saraswati’s Sadhana Tattwa, which outlined the techniques to be performed to achieve spiritual perfection.
He went to Rishikesh twice to meet Sivananda. On his second visit, he and others waited for Sivananda to ascend the ashram’s stairs from the Ganges’ bank.
Sivananda astonished Vishnudevananda by prostrating himself before him after he refused to bow down to him.
This was Vishnudevananda’s first instruction in humility from his teacher.
Swami-Vishnu, a Swami Sivananda Saraswati student
At the age of twenty, Vishnudevananda entered the Sivananda Ashram famous for Yoga Retreats in Rishikesh.
Two years later, he became a renunciate and founded Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Forest Academy, where he was the first hatha yoga teacher.
He taught scores of Indian and Western pupils in this capacity.
He continued his practice at the same time, achieving advanced hatha yoga techniques.
During his evening meditations, he would recount how Sivananda had placed ten symbolic rupees in his palm and charged him to convey Vedanta to the West through his teachings and yoga. “People are waiting,” Sivananda had told him, encouraging him.
“These ten rupees have brought me around the world numerous times.” Only the energy and blessing of my master, Swami Sivananda, allowed me to do everything I achieved. Everything I’ve done has been in the name of my master.
Vishnudevananda’s centers and ashrams located all over the world
Vishnudevananda has taught yoga and observed the western way of life all over North America.
In Montreal, Canada, he built the first Sivananda Center for Yoga Vedanta in 1959, which he named “Sivananda” after his guru.
Vishnudevananda’s organization now encompasses over 70 centers and ashrams around the world, including in East and West, North and South America, Europe, the Middle East, and Australia. It built facilities in Czechoslovakia, Russia, and Ukraine after the Cold War ended in 1991.
In addition, he educated thousands of teachers, both directly and indirectly, who continue to propagate the ancient wisdom of yoga. He instructed around 7,000 people.
He is also noted for introducing the Beatles to hatha yoga in the 1960s (the Beatles and yoga is here).
Vishnudevananda’s Peace Missions – Swami Vishnu
Vishnudevananda embarked on his peace mission in response to a vision of a world in jeopardy.
- In 1969, he founded the Sivananda Yoga Teacher Training Course, believing that it was critical to train future world leaders and responsible citizens in the discipline of yoga.
- He flew peace missions over hotspots around the world a second time. He was called the ” Flying Swami ” by the international press at the time. In the tradition of Gandhi and Martin Luther King, he sought to start a holistic evolution toward peace.
Read More: Modern Yoga Master Swami Vivekananda
Northern Ireland by the air
Vishnudevananda’s first peace flight was on August 30, 1971, when he flew his Peace Plane, a twin-engine Piper Apache that he piloted himself and painted by artist Peter Max, from Boston to Northern Ireland.
“Man is free as a bird,” he preached in Vedanta, challenging all artificial restrictions, which are but mental creations.
He “bombarded” both sides with chrysanthemums and peace leaflets, accompanied by actor Peter Sellers, who served as his co-pilot.
When they arrived, they sang a song called “Love your neighbor as yourself” as they wandered around Belfast’s streets.
Later that year, on October 6, he and his co-pilot Bren Jacobson set off from Tel Aviv to fly over the Suez Canal, which runs between Egyptian and Israeli lines. He was pursued by Israeli and Egyptian jets, but he completed his task of “bombing” peace flowers and leaflets, and spoke with the leaders of both sides, urging them to reconcile.
“As free as a bird, man is.” Borders should be broken with flowers and love, not bullets and explosives.
Taking a flight above the Berlin Wall
Vishnudevananda flew across the Berlin Wall from west to east on September 15, 1983, in a risky and well-publicized effort to promote peace.
In 1988, while the Berlin Wall was still in place, Vishnudevananda flew in a microlight from West Berlin to East Berlin, “armed” with two bouquets of marigolds. With his message of love and peace, he demonstrated to East Germans that the human spirit was durable, and that, like this small plane, it could surpass man-made boundaries such as the Berlin Wall.
When the Berlin Wall came down in 1989, Vishnudevananda returned to Berlin, conducting a peace festival and meeting with East German leader Egon Krenz to express gratitude for allowing events to unfold. proceed calmly.
Yoga for Peace
In 1984, he embarked on a journey through Europe, Iran, Afghanistan, and Punjab, India, in a bus displaying the “Yoga for Peace” emblem.
He went into Amritsar’s Golden Temple and spoke with the Sikh leaders who were locked inside, attempting to mediate between the Hindu and Sikh groups.
Simultaneously, this tour attempted to reinvigorate the old Indian tradition of yoga: he invited those born in the Yoga country to learn about the current approach to his practice and philosophy.
Vishnudevananda engaged with different spiritual and religious leaders regularly over the years to encourage interfaith communication and understanding. It held annual symposia on topics like yoga and science, the mind’s possibilities, living a sustainable lifestyle, and nuclear disarmament.
On November 9, 1993, Vishnudevananda passed away. According to the rite of jalasamadhi, his body was subsequently returned to the Ganges.
Read More: Kapalabhati Pranayama
Vishnudevananda’s Teachings – Swami Vishnu
“A gram of experience is worth a tonne of theory.”
The teachings of classical yoga were distilled by Vishnudevananda into five fundamental principles:
- appropriate exercise (asanas)
- correct breathing (pranayama)
- suitable unwinding
- a healthy diet (vegetarian)
- Positive thought and meditation
Meditation, or the sense of oneness with the Self, is the culmination of all Yoga methods.
His thought was:
Health is a form of riches. Happiness is peace of mind. Yoga illuminates the path.
“He taught by example, not by preaching,” says Neela Devi, a yoga instructor and language student from Washington, who was an early pupil. He was a fantastic educator. »
“Whether it’s a Hindu spirit, a French spirit, a black or a white spirit, a man’s or a woman’s spirit, lust, wrath, greed, hatred, jealously, envy, and fear are all present in the spirit.” That’s how it’s always been. Even scientists, despite their amazing technology, are unable to control their minds. Only yogic self-discipline allows for a complete mind control system.
Swami Vishnudevananda is a Hindu sage.
In action, a full-fledged master
Swami Padmapananda, a swami at the Sivananda Center in New York, recalls Swami Vishnudevananda’s fearlessness and courage when faced with difficulties.
If he felt his yoga teachers weren’t teaching real traditions or were distorting them in some manner, he might be harsh with them.
He was a doer who also had a good sense of humor.
Swami Padmapananda tells how he and other followers stood on their heads for peace during protests for peace in Jerusalem, playing the harmonium and singing “Raghupati Raghav Rajaram.” The reporters inquired why Swami Sivananda was standing on his head with his knees in the lotus stance. He replied:
The world has turned on its head. We want to turn it right side up by standing on our heads.
In private, I believe he was a saint. He wanted everyone to see him as a flawed human being in public so that people could relate to him. It was tiny acts of generosity, such as feeding or assisting individuals daily. That’s what the public didn’t notice.
According to Neela Devi, few people knew the actual person behind the public persona.
Read More: What is Vinyasa Yoga
Vishnudevananda worked extensively throughout his life to spread the Dharma (teaching, law) through hosting yoga conferences, giving readings, and producing books:
In 1960, he published Le Grand Livre du Yoga, which became a hatha yoga reference book.
Meditation and Mantras, Karma and Diseases, Commentary on Hatha Yoga Pradipika… were among his other works.
In 1990, when the Vatican denounced meditation and the spiritual practices of Eastern philosophies, he fought the Vatican on behalf of Hinduism.
In 1991, he spearheaded a global effort to sing and write the Om Namo Narayana peace mantra.
Vishnudevananda–Swami Vishnu’s Influence
Swami Vishnudevananda has introduced yoga to thousands of people of various religions and nations.
His legacy is more alive today than it has ever been.
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