Sri Swami Satyananda Saraswati was born in 1923 at Almora (Uttaranchal) into a family of farmers. His ancestors were warriors and many of his kith and kin down the line, including his father, served in the army and police force. However, from an early age it became evident that Sri Swamiji had a different destiny, as he began to have spiritual experiences at the age of six. During his early childhood many saints and sadhus blessed him, including Anandamayi Ma, and foretold that he would have a very developed awareness. Sri Swamiji also met a tantric bhairavi, SukhmanGiri, who taught him tantric practices and directed him to find a guru in order to stabilize his spiritual experiences.
In 1943, at the age of 20, he renounced his home and went in search of a guru. This search ultimately led him to Sri Swami Sivananda Saraswati at Rishikesh, who initiated him into the Dashnam Order of Sannyasa on 12th September 1947 on the banks of the Ganges and gave him the name of Swami Satyananda Saraswati.In those early years at Rishikesh, Sri Swami Satyananda Saraswati immersed himself in guru seva. At that time the ashram was still in its infancy and even the basic amenities such as buildings and toilets were absent. The forests surrounding the small ashram were infested with snakes, scorpions, mosquitoes, monkeys and even tigers. The ashram work was arduous and difficult, requiring Sri Swamiji to work long hours in the various departments of the nascent ashram.
Of that glorious time when he lived and served his guru, Sri Swamiji says that it was a period of total communion and surrender to the guru tattwa, whereby he felt that just to hear, speak of or see Sri Swami Sivananda Saraswati was yoga. Through his nishkamaseva he gained an enlightened understanding of the secrets of spiritual life and became an authority on yoga, tantra, Vedanta, Samkhya and kundalini yoga. Sri Swami Sivananda said of Swami Satyananda, “Few would exhibit such intense vairagya at such an early age. Swami Satyananda is full of the Nachiketaelement.”
Sri Swami Satyananda Saraswati’s knowledge unfolded from within through his untiring seva as well as his abiding faith and love for Sri Swami Sivananda Saraswati, who told him, “Work hard and you will be purified. You do not have to search for the light; the light will unfold from within you.” In 1956, Sri Swami Sivananda Saraswati taught him kriya yoga and gavehim the mandate and mission to “spread yoga from door to door and shore to shore”.
Sri Swami Satyananda Saraswati set out as a wandering sannyasin and travelled extensively by foot, car, train and sometimes even by camel and elephants throughout India, Afghanistan, Burma, Nepal, Tibet, Ceylon and the entire Asian subcontinent. During his travels, he met people from all strata of society and began formulating his ideas on how to propagate the science of yoga.
From 1963 to 1982, Sri Swamiji took yoga to each and every corner of the world, to people of every caste, creed, religion and nationality. He inspired millions of seekers in different countries. One can easily say that Sri Swamiji hoisted the flag of yoga in every nook and cranny of the world. Nowhere did he face opposition, resistance or criticism. His way was unique. Well-versed in all religions and scriptures, he incorporated their wisdom with such a natural flair that people of all faiths were drawn to him.
Sri Swamiji was a pioneer of yoga as he presented techniques of pratyahara, dharana, dhyana, asana, pranayama, mudra and bandha in such a methodical and simple manner that it became possible for everyone to experience their physical, mental, emotional and spiritual development.Sri Swamiji brought to light the knowledge of tantra, the sublime truths of Vedanta, the Upanishads and Puranas, Buddhism, Jainism, Sikhism, Zoroastrianism, Islam and Christianity, including a modern scientific analysis of matter and creation. From the ancient scriptures he interpreted, explained and revealed practices hitherto unknown.
He authored many books on yoga, which are accepted as textbooks in schools and universities throughout the world. These books have been translated into Italian, German, Spanish, Russian, Yugoslavian, Chinese, French, Greek, Iranian and most other prominent languages of the world.Thus, by 1983, Sri Swami Satyananda’s tireless efforts to spread the message of yoga had touched the whole world. 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.
At the peak of his accomplishment, Sri Swami Satyananda appointed Swami Niranjanananda as his successor and gave him the mandate to continue the work.Sri Swami Satyananda then gradually withdrew from all activities and in 1988, he left Munger to begin a new phase of his life as a sannyasin. Sri Swami Satyananda arrived at Rikhia on 23rd September 1989, at mid-day, the day of vernal equinox, when nature is in perfect balance as the day and night are equal. Soon after, he lit a dhuni or fire and called it Mahakal Chita Dhuni. He began a life of intensive spiritual practice, entering the lifestyle of paramahamsas. In 1991, Sri Swami Satyananda Saraswati received a divine mandate: “Take care of your neighbours as I have taken care of you.” Seeking to strike a balance between the personal aspect of spiritual liberation and the social aspect of helping others, he was guided by a new inspiration: service to and improvement of the living conditions of the tribal people in the thousands of villages surrounding Rikhiadham.
In 1994, in a month-long darshan, Sri Swamiji gave the message of bhakti yoga. He said that the purpose of human life is to realize God through love and to serve God by helping humanity. He prophesied that while hatha yoga and raja yoga were the panacea of the twentieth century, devotion to God and bhakti yoga would be the panacea of the twenty-first. In 2007, Sri Swamiji announced the formation of Rikhiapeeth as an ashram where the three cardinal teachings of Sri Swami Sivananda – serve, love and give – were to be practiced and lived. In 2009, after participating in and giving darshan during Sat ChandiMahayajna and Yoga Poornima where Sri Swamiji inspired everyone to lead the righteous life, he entered into Mahasamadhi on the midnight of 5th December and merged into Shiva consciousness.