Swami Sivananda Born in 1887 in Pattamadai, Tamil Nadu, South India, Swami Sivananda whose name was then Kuppuswami, was a brilliant boy at studying as well as gymnastics and naturally inclined toward spiritual and religious practices. His natural selfless spirit lead him to a career in the medical field. The young Dr. Kuppuswami felt a strong urge to go to Malaysia where in a short time he was given the responsibility of running a hospital. During these years Dr. Kuppuswami was renowned as being both an excellent doctor and a true humanitarian. One day Dr. Kuppuswami had the opportunity to cure a wandering Sannyasin (renunciate or Monk) who then gave the doctor instruction on Yoga and Vedanta. From that day on his life changed, and gradually Dr. Kuppuswami became more introspective and could not stop pondering the great questions of life. Filled with a tremendous desire for spiritual growth and enlightenment Kuppuswami went to North India in search of his Guru. After spending time in Varanasi (Banaras) he traveled north to the Himalayas. There in the holy town of Rishikesh (which means “the abode of the sages”) Kuppuswami discovered his Guru who gave him Sannyas (a monk’s vows of renunciation). After taking these vows, Swami Sivananda Saraswati, as he would be known henceforth, started an extremely intense daily Sadhana (spiritual practices) and Tapas (austerities) for the next 10 years or so. From that time Swami Sivananda became one of the most prolific Yoga teachers who has ever existed. Although he rarely left the little town of Rishikesh (with only 2 India tours and no visits abroad) Swami Sivananda’s teachings spread quickly throughout our entire planet. He wrote more than 200 books on topics connected to Yoga and Philosophy. As a result many who read his books felt their lives deeply touched and transformed and so came from all of India, all of the world, to learn from him directly, and to bask in his holy presence. The teachings of Master Sivananda are summarized in these 6 words: “Serve, Love, Give, Purify, Meditate, Realize.”
Swami Vishnu-Devananda Swami Vishnu-Devandada was born in Kerala 1927. As a young man he became a lieutenant in the Indian army, but his whole life soon changed when he met Swami Sivananda. At the age of 20 he joined the Divine Life Society in Rishikesh and served as the professor of Hatha Yoga at the Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Forest Academy. There he trained many Indians as well as westerners in the practice of Hatha Yoga. At the request of his Guru, Swami Vishnu-Devandada embarked on a world tour to spread the ideal of Yoga. In 1958 he founded the Sivananda Yoga Vedenta Center in Montreal, and later went on to establish many Yoga centers and ashrams around the world. In 1975 Swamji convened the Yoga Teachers Congress in the Bahamas which Yogi Hari attended with his family. Two weeks later while staying at the ashram, Swamiji invited Yogi Hari then 30 years old and working as a land surveyor, to be part of the Sivananda family. For the next seven years the family lived, studied and practiced yoga at the various Sivananda Ashrams in North America.
Swami Nadabrahmananda was one of the greatest classical Indian musicians of his time. He was a brilliant vocalist and master of Tabla and Harmonium and the Swaramandala. He perfected the science of Taan, Mantra chanting and Bhajans. Swamiji took mahasamadhi at the age of 98. He was a delight to be with: loving, simple and open. A truly holy man, he was a pure channel for the teaching of his art. His very presence created an atmosphere of joy. Swami Nadabrahmananda was born May 5, 1896 in Mysore State, South India. He began his formal musical training at the age of 20, and continued seventeen years of arduous discipline and austerity under three illustrious masters: Sri Sadashiva Bua of Nargund (Karnataka), Ustad Alladin Khan of Kolhapur and Tata Bua of Benares. During these years he practised as much as twenty hours a day and observed frequent fasts and seclusions to develop intense control and concentration. He became professor of music at the University of Benares and ultimately was appointed court musician for the Maharaja of Mysore State. His fame spread throughout India and he received numerous commercial offers, but in accordance with a vow made to his Guru, he steadfastly refused to compromise the purity of his classical form. In 1950 in accordance with Indian religious tradition, Swami Nadabrahmananda retired and took the vows of Sanyas. At the ashram of the great sage Sri Swami Sivananda, founder of the Divine Life Society, Rishikesh, Himalayas, he devoted his time to the perfection of music as Nada Yoga, a spiritual practice towards God realization. Then, in 1974, at the behest of many devotees and spiritual organizations, he consented to come to the West, and gave concerts and musical instructions throughout the United States, Canada, the Caribbean and parts of South America. He was a delightful and patient teacher. Swami Nadabrahmananda also exhibited abilities that were astounding to the western mind. Indian musicians from ancient times have paid much attention to the nature of vibration, its relation to sound, and its effects on the body. This knowledge has been developed into the exact science of Taan, of which Swamiji was the last known master. He exhibited the extraordinary ability to control the rate and location of sound vibrations in his body. He was able to synchronize his voice with complex rapid note changes and direct sound vibrations so that they emanated from points in the mouth, nose, skull and spine. The most difficult of all Taans is the Kundalini Taan, where vibrations issue solely from the base of the spinal column (Muladhara Chakra); this was achieved by Swamiji after seven years of practice and his initiation by Swami Sivananda into sanyas. His mastery of Taan accounts for his astonishing good health and energy. Another remarkable consequence of his yogic control was his ability to suspend his breathing and not blink his eyes while playing Tabla for half an hour. Swami Nadabrahmananda’s abilities were verified in a number of laboratory experiments both in India and in the West. There were other interesting results from these tests: Dr. Thelma Moss of UCLA, was particularly intrigued by the changes in emanations from Swamiji’s fingers before and after performing as made visible by Kirlian photography. At Ottawa University, studies over a three day period showed that Swami Nadabrahmananda did not dream. Elmer Green, PhD., of the Menninger Foundation reported, “While wired to our portable psycho-physiology lab, he demonstrated an important kind of central nervous system control (evidenced by the production and maintenance of alpha and theta brain wave patterns) normally associated with a state of quiet reverie, while he was performing a complex and demanding raga, a musical performance.” In another test before a gathering of political and spiritual leaders at the International Yoga Teachers’ Congress in the Bahamas, Swamiji demonstrated his control over bodily functions by consciously raising his blood pressure to 240. This was when Yogi Hari met Swamiji who accepted him as his disciple and initiated him into the practice of Nada Yoga. Yogi Hari was determined to master the science of Nada Yoga, so he followed Swamiji wherever he went in the West and learned from him constantly. Even when Swamiji went back to India, Yogiji would go every year to Rishikesh to continue his studies with his Master. Swami Nadabrahmananda represented a rare integrity and authenticity of spiritual tradition now virtually lost in the rapid popularization of Indian music. Swamiji’s public programs (Satsangs) consisted of demonstrations of Nada Yoga techniques and methods of physical and mental control through music. The songs he presented were classical compositions intended for meditation and devotion.