Swami Satyananda Saraswati, born at Almora in 1923, was initiated into the Dasnami Order of sannyas by Swami Sivananda Saraswati, on 12th September 1947 at Rishikesh.
In 1956, after spending twelve years in guru seva, his Guru sent him out into the world and gave him the mission to “spread yoga from door to door and shore to shore”. Although his formal education and spiritual tradition was that of Vedanta, at the command of his Guru the task of disseminating yoga became his movement.
His mission unfolded before him in Bihar where he established the Bihar School of Yoga at Munger in 1963. From then until 1983, Swami Satyananda took yoga to each and every corner of the world, to people of every caste, creed, religion and nationality guiding millions of seekers, establishing centres and ashrams of yoga throughout the world.
His frequent travel took him to Australia, New Zealand, Japan, China, the Philippines, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Thailand, Singapore, USA, England, Ireland, France, Italy, Germany, Switzerland, Denmark, Sweden, Yugoslavia, Poland, Hungary, Bulgaria, Slovenia, Russia, Czechoslovakia, Greece, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Dubai, Iraq, Iran, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Colombia, Brazil, Uruguay, Chile, Argentina, Santo Domingo, Puerto Rico, Sudan, Egypt, Nairobi, Ghana, Mauritius, Alaska and Iceland. One can easily say that Sri Swamiji hoisted the flag of yoga in every nook and cranny of the world. Well-versed in all religions and scriptures, he incorporated their wisdom with such a natural flair that people of all faiths and nationalities flocked to him. He initiated thousands into mantra and sannyas, sowing in them the seed to live the divine life.
It can be said that Sri Swamiji was a pioneer in the field of yoga because his presentation had a novelty and freshness. He introduced the practices in such a methodical and simple manner that it became possible for everyone to delve into this valuable and hitherto inaccessible science for their physical, mental, emotional and spiritual development. Yoga nidra, which was Swami Satyananda’s discovery and has become one of the most popular and sought after practices of yoga is but one example of his acumen and penetrating insight into the ancient systems.
He has authored over eighty books on yoga and tantra, which, due to their authenticity, are accepted as textbooks in schools and universities throughout the world.
Due to his tremendous zeal and energy in the short span of twenty years Sri Swamiji had fulfilled the mandate of his Guru. By 1983, Bihar School of Yoga was well established and recognized throughout the world as a reputed and authentic centre for learning yoga and the spiritual sciences. More than that, yoga had moved out of the caves of hermits and ascetics into the mainstream of society. In 1983 at the peak of his accomplishment Sri Swamiji renounced all that he had created and departed from Munger, never to return again, returning to his original life as a mendicant, without any personal belonging or assistance from his disciples or the institutions he had founded.
During his travels he stayed at Trayambakeshwar the abode of his ishta devata, the jyotirlingam of Lord Mrityunjaya, during which time his future place and sadhana were revealed to him, according to which, Sri Swamiji came to Rikhia in 1989 and began to live in seclusion in this small village, on the outskirts of Baba Baidyanath Dham at Deoghar, Jharkhand.
After his arrival at Rikhia, he undertook sadhanas that one only reads about in books, such as Panchagni and Ashtottar-Shat-Laksh (108 lakh) Mantra purascharana. Here he entered the lifestyle of the paramahansas who do not work for their flock and mission alone but have a universal vision.
The eternal precepts of Vedanta such as atma bhav and atma sakshat became established in him at Rikhia. In that sense Rikhia witnessed in him the flowering and blossoming of all the highest ideals of sannyas, which he emulated throughout his life and his vision became truly cosmic in thought, word and deed.
This reflected itself in the many events and projects he initiated at Rikhiapeeth through Sivananda Math, an institution he had founded while he was in Munger, in memory of his Guru Swami Sivananda. Inspired by the mandate he had received from his Guru of Serve, Love and Give, Sivananda Math adopted the twenty four villages of Rikhia panchayat and offered free assistance to the villagers in need of basic amenities such as food, clothing, shelter and medical care. As a natural progression of this selfless service today the villagers are also assisted in agriculture, employment and education for their children.
About his life at Rikhia Swami Satyananda has said, “Of course I have been treading the spiritual path since I was 18. I have spent more than sixty years in sadhana. There is no sadhana that I have not done and there is no scripture that I do not know by heart. Oh, I did so many things but not once did my number come up in the lottery. But after coming to Rikhia, luck smiled on me and I got the winning number. A metamorphosis took place in my life and my destiny and everything became crystal clear. That metamorphosis was spiritual and universal.”
At midnight on 5th December 2009, Swami Satyananda abandoned his physical body at his Tapobhumi, Rikhiapeeth, and in the true spirit of yoga, became cosmic and universal.