This quote from Sir Swami Satchidananda sums up the philosophy of one of the most revered spiritual masters of our time. The founder of Integral Yoga, the Yogaville ashram in Virginia, and spiritual guru to many, his message emphasized harmony among people of all faiths and races. One of his favorite sayings was, “truth is one, paths are many.” Sir Swami Satchidananda believed that we are all one in spirit and once we find it within ourselves, we will recognize it in others. As such, Swami Satchidananda was also considered to be an apostle of peace.
Sir Swami Satchidananda was born on December 22, 1914 in southern India to privileged Hindu parents whose home was the hub for poets, philosophers and astrologers. From the time he was a small boy he was a deeply spiritual child who loved to play guru and disciple with friends. But before finding his spiritual calling as an adult, Satchidananda married and had two sons. After his wife passed away, he went on a spiritual quest and discovered his guru, Sri Swami Sivananda, who ordained him in the order of Sannyasa.
Throughout the fifties and sixties, Satchidananda led one of his guru’s ashrams in the hill country of Sri Lanka, where he first taught his style of Integral Yoga. In 1966, he visited the United States at the request of one of his disciples, the artist Peter Max. Soon after he moved to America permanently and became a citizen. He came to public attention as the opening speaker at Woodstock in 1969. Some of his other famous followers have included Allen Ginsburg, Jeff Goldblum, Carole King and Alice Coltrane.
Integral yoga is a synthesis of various branches of yoga, what Swami Satchidananda called “a scientific system for the harmonious development of every aspect of the individual.” As Satchidananda attracted more students with his integral yoga, many began banding together in communities. This led to the desire to create ashrams for large numbers of devotees to live together following the principles of integral yoga. Yogaville communities opened in California and Connecticut in the early seventies, and eventually the need for even more space led to the purchase of 1000 acres in central Virginia. Today, 25 years later, the Yogaville community is thriving, with 150 residents and more than 2,000 guests and event attendees each year. There is a monastery as well as a dormitory for guests on the property, as well as a large community surrounding the ashram which includes a school, organic garden, auto repair shop, a photo department and three shrines—all the accoutrements of the bustling community that it has grown into. Yoga seminars and workshops are held each weekend, along with yoga teacher training programs.
Yogaville and integral yoga are important testaments to the continuing influence of Sir Swami Satchidananda, who left his body on August 19, 2002. He always told people, “I will always be with you in Spirit. Even if my body is not there, you will never be without me,” which is the reason his followers say he has “dropped the body,” or “left the body.” His work lives on as well.