Occasionally such an individual is born who, by following his tradition correctly and completely, approaches perfection and becomes a symbol to the world. Satguru Sivaya Subramuniyaswami was such a man, a living example of awakening and wisdom, a leader recognized worldwide as one of Hinduism’s foremost ministers. Gurudeva Suvaya Subramuniyaswami was the foremost exponent and teacher of Saiva Siddhanta in the West, a self-realized Western spiritual master of an age-old Saivite tradition. The name Subramuniya is from Sanskrit and is formed from subhra meaning, light; intuition, and muni, silent sage. Ya means restraint; religious meditation.
Thus Subramuniya means a self-restrained soul who remains silent, or when he speaks, speaks out from intuition. Saiva Siddhanta, the name of the Gurudeva’s Church is from the Sanskrit language as well and could be roughly rendered in English as The Church of God Siva’s Revealed Truth. Subramuniyaswami as born on January 5, 1927, in Oakland, California, and grew up near Lake Tahoe. He was orphaned by age 11 and raised by a family with deep connections to India. In his teenage years he was trained in classical Eastern and Western dance and in the disciplines of yoga, becoming the premier dancer of the San Francisco Ballet by age 19.
Increasingly drawn to a spiritual life, he renounced his career at its height and sailed to India and Sri Lanka in 1947, on the first ship to sail to India following World War II. There he intensified his spiritual training under renowned yogis. In 1948, in the mountain caves of Jalani in central Sri Lanka, he fasted and meditated until he burst into enlightenment. Soon after that God Realization at just 21 years old, he met his satguru (teacher), Yogaswami, in Jaffna, Sri Lanka. The 72-year-old sage gave him his Hindu name, Subramuniya, and initiated him into the holy order.
Yogaswami, his teacher lived in Jaffna, Sri Lanka during the first part of this century, making his transition to the inner worlds in 1963. During his life Yogaswami gave out his wisdom spontaneously in songs and sayings. He also carefully edited his journal called The Sivathondan (The Servant of God) which was published by his devotees. People of all ages and all walks of life, irrespective of creed, caste or race, went to Yogaswami. They sought solace and spiritual guidance, and none went away empty-handed. He influenced their lives profoundly.
Many realized how blessed they were only after years had passed. Yogaswami’s infinite compassion never ceased to impress. For over five decades Subramuniyaswami, the loyal student of Yogaswami and affectionately known as Gurudeva, has taught Hinduism to Hindus and seekers from all faiths as his teacher had before him. In the line of succession, he was the 162nd Jagadacharya (world teacher) of the Nandinatha Sampradaya’s Kailasa Parampara (lineage of teachers) and Guru Mahasannidhanam of Kauai Aadheenam (also known as Kauai’s Hindu Monastery), a 458-acre temple-monastery complex on Hawaii’s Garden Island..
The monks of Kauai Aadheenam 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. Two traditional Saivite Hindu temples are located on the monastery’s 458 acres, Kadavul Temple and the new San Marga Iraivan Temple, a massive white granite Chola-style temple currently being carved in Bangalore, India, and whose stones are now being shipped to Hawaii and are now being assembled here on Kauai.
Right in the midst of the monastery complex is the renowned Kadavul Nataraja Temple where an exquisite six-foot tall, 250-year-old bronze image of Lord Nataraja is enshrined. Hindu pilgrims have been coming to the temple from around the world for over 30 years, to worship and seek audience and worship with the Guru Mahasannidhanam Monastic life is strict but joyous, a life of renunciation but full of bliss. This daily spiritual center and activity is the anchor for the coming day of service to dedicated spiritual seekers and the Hindu world at large through books, the Master Course and Hinduism Today.
The stated goal of the monastery is to promote the Sanatana Dharma together through four areas of service: Saiva Siddhanta Church, Himalayan Academy, Hindu Heritage Endowment and Hinduism Today international monthly magazine 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.
The Saiva Dharma Shastras is the central text of the Church, setting forth the theology, doctrines, customs and policies by which the members of the Church are guided and governed in their service of the supreme God Saiva. Gurudeva was the hereditary guru of 2. 5 million Sri Lankan Hindus. He also established a seven-acre monastery in Mauritius, which includes a public Spiritual Park. Mauritius is a small island located off of Southern Africa, in the Indian Ocean, east of Madagascar. Gurudeva 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. The Saiva Siddhanta Church, founded in 1949, was incorporated under the laws of the United States of America in the State of California on December 30, 1957, and received recognition of its US Internal Revenue tax exempt status as a church on February 12, 1962. Among America’s oldest Hindu institutions, it established its international headquarters on Kauai, Hawaii on February 5, 1970.
From this Garden Island in the Pacific Ocean, northernmost of the Hawaiian chain that forms the world’s most remote land mass, the Church broadly serves the one billion-strong Hindu faith (fully one-sixth of the world population). The Church’s ministry is dedicated to nurturing the membership and local missions in four continents and to serving, primarily through publications, the community of Hindus throughout the world. Over the last nearly half-century, the Church has created a swami order and a theological seminary to train young men from many nations and mold them into religious leaders.
They have nurtured an extended family membership that upholds and sets new standards of personal dedication, inner effort, home culture and public protocol in these contemporary times when the lives of Hindus have brought them to nearly all countries of the world. The monastic order, their close family members and Satguru Sivaya Subramuniyaswami have worked in one-mindedness playing a crucial role in Hinduism’s transition from the agricultural era into the technological age and on into the information age.
Using modern technology the Church reports globally to a quarter-million readers through the award-winning monthly journal, Hinduism Today, and more through the Internet and the World Wide Web; translating and publishing scripture and religious literature; coordinating related graphics and art projects; collaborating and sharing resources with hundreds of individuals and institutions who share a commitment to effectively spreading Hindu Dharma; conducting children’s schools, youth retreats and gurukulams (cooperative schools); training monastics and providing for members temple services, including sacraments such as name-giving, first-feeding, marriage and funeral rites. In these efforts, we have worked closely with an advisory council of priests, panditas, shastris, swamis and aadheenakartars in India, Sri Lanka, the United States, Mauritius, Malaysia, Europe and South Africa and followed their wise advice and guidance. The congregation has grown as a strict and traditional global family of monastics, close initiates, novitiates and students.
The Himalayan Academy, founded in 1957 by Satguru Sivaya Subramuniyaswami, is a non-profit educational institution dedicated to disseminating the teachings of Saivite Hinduism through publishing Gurudeva’s abundant books on the subject, conducting Travel-Study Programs and providing a systematic study of The Master Course for serious seekers. More than 300 books have been written on Hinduism by Gurudeva and many have been translated into other languages for use in educational settings. His trilogy, “Dancing with Siva,” “Living with Siva” and “Merging with Siva” are his foremost books. Each has been through several printings. All three are popular around the world for their easy readability, and are used in American universities for Hindu courses of study and comparative religion classes.
The Travel-Study Programs are designed to allow followers of the Saiva Siddhanta faith to spread the teachings of Gurudeva though out the world and thereby more fully realize their own faith. The Master Course is for those seeking a more serious for of study; the course contains a trilogy of Gurudeva’s 50 years of philosophical, cultural and metaphysical teachings and experiences. The Hindu Heritage Endowment Fund helps provide Hindu institutions with a permanent and growing source of income. Individual donors may establish a fund which benefits a specific project or organization, or an institution may establish itself as the beneficiary. Donations are invested in a broadly diversified portfolio of marketable securities to provide a regular grant each year.
Currently, the fund holds fifty-nine professionally managed endowment funds that benefit orphanages, temples, ashrams, educational institutes, monasteries, homes for the elderly and various publications in Bangladesh, Fiji, India, Malaysia, Mauritius, Sri Lanka and the USA. While professionally managed the fund is overseen and managed by the monastic stewards and staff. The mission statement of the Hindu Heritage Endowment Fund or “its philanthropic mission is to provide secure, professionally managed financial support for institutions and religious leaders of all lineages of Sanatana Dharma. ” 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. The magazine has the following stated goals: 1.
To foster Hindu solidarity as a unity in diversity among all sects and lineages; 2. To inform and inspire Hindus worldwide and people interested in Hinduism; 3. To dispel myths, illusions and misinformation about Hinduism; 4. To protect, preserve and promote the sacred Vedas and the Hindu religion; 5. To nurture and monitor the ongoing spiritual Hindu renaissance; 6. To publish a resource for Hindu leaders and educators who promote Sanatana Dharma. Gurudeva spells out the motivation for the magazine when he states: “Hinduism Today was created to strengthen all the many diverse expressions of Hindu spirituality, to give them a single, combined voice because everywhere else their voices were individualized.
There was nothing that encompassed the whole Hindu experience around the world. Every religious order has a mission and instead of starting an eye-clinic or an orphanage, we created a global publication to advance the cause of Hindutva. ” 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 Janeiro 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 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 of the island. 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 devotees. In April of 1999 Gurudeva lead 45 spiritual aspirants on an Inner search 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 Inner search 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. 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 Inner search, he completed his last legacy book, ”Living with Siva. ‘ The Hindu master discovered on October 9, soon after he returned from the 30-day pilgrimage to Europe with 72 devotees, that he had advanced intestinal cancer. The disease was diagnosed when he was hospitalized for severe anemia. A battery of tests revealed the cancer and that it had metastasized to other parts of his body. Three medical teams in Hawaii, Washington State and California all agreed that even the most aggressive treatment regimens would prove ineffective, and estimated he had just a few months to live. Gurudeva then went into seclusion and after several days of meditation declared he would accept no treatment to attempt to cure the disease.
He also made the decision to follow the Indian yogic practice, called Prayopavesa, to abstain from nourishment and take water only from that day on. He died on the 32nd day of his self-declared fast, passing on quietly at 11:54 pm on November 12, 2001, surrounded by his 23 monastics. Gurudeva was known to the end for spending personal time with new members, island visitors who pilgrimage 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, Satguru Bodhinatha Veylanswami.