Swami Satchidananda

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Fast Facts
Swami Satchitananda.png
Vedanta, Yoga
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Date of Birth: 
Place of Birth: 
Tamil Nadu , India
In His/Her Body ("alive"): 
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Swami Satchidananda (22 December 1914–19 August 2002) was an Indian religious figure, spiritual teacher and yoga adept, who gained fame and followers in the West, especially in the United States. He was the author of many books, including one popular illustrated book on Hatha Yoga.
Early Years
Satchidananda's name at birth was C. K. Ramaswamy Gounder. He was born in Chettipalayam in the Tamil Nadu region of southern India in 1914 to privileged and observant Hindu parents who called him Ramu. Like other children from religious families, young Ramu loved to play guru and disciple with his friends. He did not become involved in spiritual matters immediately upon reaching adulthood, however. After graduating from agricultural college, he took a position with his uncle's firm, which imported motorcycles. At 23, then a chain-smoking manager at India’s National Electric Works, he married, but his wife died suddenly after five years of marriage, having given birth to two sons.
Spiritual Quest
After his wife’s death, Ramaswamy left his children with his mother and travelled throughout India to meditate at holy shrines and to study with spiritual teachers. For years, Ramaswamy searched out people revered as sages, saints and spiritual masters. Eventually, he discovered his guru, Sri Swami Sivananda, who ordained him into the order of sannyasa.

During the late 1950s and most of the '60s, Swami Satchidananda headed the Kandy Thapovanam, one of Swami Sivananda's ashrams situated in the hill country of Sri Lanka. Here, Swami Satchidananda taught yoga, pursued interfaith activities and modernized the ancient mode of living that renunciates had followed for many years. For example, Swami Satchidanda drove a car, wore a watch and actively engaged the questions of seekers. These modernizations were at first unacceptable to many individuals in the orthodoxy but he felt them to be necessary for the more effective dissemination of the message of Integral Yoga.

The United States
After serving his guru for many years, in 1966 he visited New York City at the request of a U.S. disciple, the artist Peter Max. Soon after his initial visit, Swamiji, as he was known to disciples, formally moved to the United States and eventually became a citizen. From his new home he spread his teachings of yoga and enlightenment.

Satchidananda first came to public attention as the opening speaker[1] at the Woodstock music and arts festival in 1969. 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[2] and in 1986 opened the Light of Truth Universal Shrine (LOTUS) at Yogaville in Buckingham, Virginia.

On August 19, 2002, Satchidananda died from a ruptured thoracic aneurysm in his native Tamil Nadu, India. However, Integral Yoga and Yogaville continue.

Satchidananda's better-known disciples included Alice Coltrane, Allen Ginsberg, Dean Ornish, Jeff Goldblum, Carole King, Peter Max, and Scott Shaw. Guitarist John Fahey spent some time living in Yogaville, and endorsed the ideals of Integral Yoga, even going so far as to dedicate his 1973 album Fare Forward Voyagers to Satchidananda. Weezer frontman Rivers Cuomo grew up in Satchidananda's ashramery.

Integral Yoga origins
Although Satchidananda is thought to have briefly met Sri Aurobindo, he viewed his brand of teaching as a unique entity. Swami Satchidananda characterized Integral Yoga 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 in order to bring about a complete and harmonious development of the individual."

This would make it very similar to Sri Aurobindo's concept of Integral Yoga, which clearly preceded the work of Swami Satchidananda. Sri Aurobindo describes the nature and practice of integral yoga in his opus The Synthesis of Yoga. As the title of that work indicates, his integral yoga is a yoga of synthesis, intended to harmonize the paths of karma, jnana, and bhakti yoga as described in the Bhagavad Gita. It can also be considered a synthesis between Vedanta and Tantra, and between Eastern and Western approaches to spirituality.

There are also similarities in the symbolism used by Sri Aurobindo and Swami Satchidananda. In addition, Satchidananda's center was given the name "Yogaville." (Aurobindo's "Auroville" had been founded in 1968.)

Satchidananda's group trademarked the term "Integral Yoga" in the United States.[3] [4]

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:

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 and joy.
Attain this through asanas, pranayama, the chanting of holy names, self-discipline, selfless action, mantra japa, meditation, study, and reflection."



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