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Satguru Sivaya Subramuniyaswami,
162nd preceptor of the Nandinatha Sampradaya’s
Kailasa Parampara – A Short Biography
We present below a brief biography of the amazing life and misson of this pure God-realized soul.
Once in a while on this Earth there arises a soul who, by living his tradition rightly and wholly, perfects his path and becomes a light to the world. Satguru Sivaya Subramuniyaswami was such a being, a living example of awakening and wisdom, a leader recognized worldwide as one of Hinduism’s foremost ministers. In 1947, as a young man of 20, he journeyed to India and Sri Lanka and two years later was initiated into sannyasa by the renowned siddha yogi and worshiper of Siva, Jnanaguru Yogaswami of Sri Lanka, regarded as one of the 20th century’s most remarkable mystics.
Life of a Contemporary Hindu Guru
For over five decades Subramuniyaswami, affectionately known as Gurudeva, taught Hinduism to Hindus and seekers from all faiths. In the line of successorship, he was the 162nd Jagadacharya of the Nandinatha Sampradaya’s Kailasa Parampara and Guru Mahasannidhanam of Kauai Aadheenam (also known as Kauai’s Hindu Monastery), a 458-acre temple-monastery complex on Hawaii’s Garden Island. From this verdant Polynesian ashram on a river bank near the foot of an extinct volcano, Gurudeva’s successor, Satguru Bodhinatha Veylanswami, and the monastics live their cherished vision, following a contemplative and joyous existence, building a jewel-like white granite Siva temple, meditating together in the hours before dawn, then working, while rainbows fill the sky, to promote the Sanatana Dharma together through four areas of service:
Gurudeva was lauded as one of the strictest and most traditional gurus in the world. His Hindu Church nurtures its membership and local missions on five continents. The Academy serves, personally and through its magazine, books, courses and travel/study programs, serious seekers and Hindus of all denominations. Gurudeva’s mission, received from his satguru, was to protect, preserve and promote the Saivite Hindu religion as expressed through its three pillars: temples, satgurus and scripture. That mission is now carried forward by his monastic and family communities. The congregation of Saiva Siddhanta Church is a disciplined, global fellowship of family initiates, monastics and students who follow the sadhana marga, the path of inner effort, yogic striving and personal transformation. Gurudeva was the hereditary guru of 2.5 million Sri Lankan Hindus. His various institutions form a Jaffna-Tamil-based organization which has branched out from his Sri Subramuniya Ashram in Alaveddy to meet the needs of the growing Hindu diaspora of this century. He also established a seven-acre monastery in Mauritius, which includes a public Spiritual Park. Gurudeva gently oversaw more than 50 independent temples worldwide. Missionaries and teachers within the family membership provide counseling and classes in Saivism for children, youth and adults.
Hinduism Today is the influential, award-winning, international monthly magazine founded by Gurudeva in 1979. It is a public service of his monastic order, created to strengthen all Hindu traditions by uplifting and informing followers of the Sanatana Dharma everywhere. Gurudeva was author of more than 30 books unfolding unique and practical insights on Hindu metaphysics, mysticism and yoga. His Master Course lessons on Saivism, taught in many schools, are preserving the teachings among thousands of youths.
Hindu Heritage Endowment is a public service trust founded by Gurudeva in 1995. It seeks to establish and maintain permanent sources of income for Hindu institutions worldwide. In 1986, New Delhi’s World Religious Parliament named Gurudeva one of five modern-day Jagadacharyas, world teachers, for his international efforts in promoting and chronicling a Hindu renaissance.
Then in 1995 it bestowed on him the title of Dharmachakra for his remarkable publications. The Global Forum of Spiritual and Parliamentary Leaders for Human Survival chose Subramuniyaswami as a Hindu representative at its unique conferences. Thus, at Oxford, England, in 1988, Moscow in 1990 and Rio de Janiero in 1992, he joined hundreds of religious, political and scientific leaders from all countries to discuss privately, for the first time, the future of human life on this planet. At Chicago’s historic centenary Parliament of the World’s Religions in September, 1993, Gurudeva was elected one of three presidents, along with His Holiness Swami Chidananda Saraswati of the Rishikesh-based Divine Life Society and Kerala’s Ammachi, Mata Amritanandamayi Ma, to represent Hinduism at the prestigious Presidents’ Assembly, a core group of 25 men and women voicing the needs of world faiths.
In 1996 Gurudeva upgraded the newspaper Hinduism Today to a magazine, a quantum leap that placed it on newsstands everywhere, alongside Newsweek, Time and India Today. In 1997 he responded to the US President’s call for religious opinions on the ethics of cloning from the Hindu point of view. Later that year, he spearheaded the 125th anniversary of Satguru Yogaswami and his golden icon’s diaspora pilgrimage through many of the over 75 Sri Lanka temples and societies around the globe. In 1998, the Vishva Hindu Parishad of Kerala sent an envoy to Kauai to honor and recognize Gurudeva as the “Hindu Voice of the Century.”
In the last few years of his life Gurudeva was a key member of Vision Kauai 2020, a small group of community leaders that includes the Mayor, former Mayor and County Council members. They met monthly to fashion the island’s future for twenty years ahead, based on moral and spiritual values. If you ask people who know Gurudeva what was so special about him, they may point to his great peace, presence and centeredness, to his incredible power to inspire others toward their highest Self, to change their lives in ways that are otherwise impossible, to be an unfailing light on their path, to be a voice of Indian spiritual life, to bring the best of the East and the best of the West together, to be a father and mother to all who draw near, a living example of the pure path taught by his guru and followed by his devoted shishyas.
In April of 1999 Gurudeva lead 45 spiritual aspirants on an Innersearch from Vancouver to Anchorage, Alaska. Their ship, the MS Noordam, journeyed for 7 days and nights as they studied meditation and the mystical life together, explored the glaciers and redefined the cruise experience along the way. In Anchorage, Gurudeva founded the first Hindu temple in that state, calling together the native American Indian leaders to participate in the event. He also initiated a powerful series of book signings in California, Washington and Alaska, introducing his newest legacy book, Merging with Siva, to thousands of seekers.
In August he traveled to Malaysia and Mauritius, where he met with the nation’s leaders on several family-related topics, opened his Spiritual Park for 3,000 special guests, spent precious time with his Church members and continued the dynamic book signings, this time adding his newest book, Weaver’s Wisdom, to the list.
In March and April of 2000 he lead another Innersearch Travel-Study program to the Caribbean, visiting six nations with 53 of his devotees and meeting the Hindu leadership in that remote part of the world, with special events among 4,500 Hindus who came to honor him in Trinidad.
On August 25, 2000, he received the prestigious United Nations U Thant Peace Award in New York (previously bestowed on the Dalai Lama, Nelson Mandela, Mikhail Gorbachev, Pope John Paul II and Mother Teresa). He addressed 1,200 spiritual leaders gathered for the UN Millennium Peace Summit, with the message, “For peace in the world, stop the war in the home.” Upon his return to Kauai, 350 citizens and county and state officials gathered to herald his accomplishments on the island and beyond. Governor Benjamin Cayetano wrote: “I am especially grateful for your efforts to promote moral and spiritual values in Hawaii. May our people forever embrace the message of peace you have so eloquently supported in your gracious wisdom.”
In August of 2001 Gurudeva took 72 devotees on an incredible journey through Northern Europe, founding new Hindu temples along the way and visiting the Tamil communities in a dozen nations. It was a fitting end to his remarkable life. Just before departing for the European Innersearch, he completed his last legacy book, ''Living with Siva.’' Only weeks after returning from that dynamic odyssey, he attained his Maha Samadhi. Gurudeva was known to the end for spending personal time with new members, island visitors who pilgrimaged to his sacred home on Kauai and new young monks who have come to the monastery to give their life in selfless service and the Great Search for God within man. All of his work and mission, his amazing vision and all-encompassing projects now go forward under the able guidance of his successor, Bodhinatha. Aum Namasivaya!