Sadguru Sivananda Murthy was born in Rajamundry India on December 21, 1928. His father was a wealthy man, and also a devout Hindu, so even though he grew up in an environment that was affluent, his parents espoused and modeled the practice of spiritual values. From an early age, he displayed a lack of interest in the material world. For example, when he was a small boy and at the proper age to begin primary education, his parents told him that he would be starting school. He said, “I will go to school only on one condition. I must be allowed leave at any time.” Indulging this very unique and somewhat humorous demand of their adamant five-year-old, his parents agreed. When they took him to school and introduced him to the head master, the young Sivananda Murthy repeated his condition and the amused headmaster also agreed. Having extracted his permissions, he spent his initial years at school freely coming and going from class. He told me, “I used to love to swim in the river, so I would stay in class long enough to understand the lesson or pass the test, but then I would get up and leave. I would walk to the river, swim out to the middle, and then float on my back, looking up at the sky. After a few miles of floating, I would walk back to the place I started and repeat the whole thing again.”
Apparently, this approach to his initial education did not deter him from doing well academically. He had a brilliant mind and was a voracious reader. He graduated from college with a Bachelor of Science degree and, later in his life, he was awarded an honorary doctorate degree. One of his remarkable qualities was that, whatever the person’s area of expertise, he could hold a conversation with the person on that subject in a way that demonstrated deep knowledge and understanding. Yet, his interests were never strictly academic. After graduation he decided to renounce his family wealth and inheritance in order to live and work among the poor.
Even as a young man, Sivnananda Murthy was very intuitive. Besides learning and practicing meditation, he also studied Vedic astrology, and became an outstanding Jyotishi. In his early years he worked full time, meditated for six hours a day, raised a family, and somehow also found the time to do Vedic astrology readings for the people of his community.
At some point, all of the spiritual practice and selfless service culminated in a spiritual awakening and full-blown enlightenment. After that, he quit his job and began teaching and tending to his growing community of spiritual devotees. He also no longer needed a horoscope in order to see what was going on in a person’s life. There is an intuitive energy channel, described in the Yogasutras as the Jyotishmati Nadi. When it opens, the astrologer no longer needs the horoscope to make predictions. Some say this is what happened to Sivananda Murthy, transforming his predictions into predictive siddhis (spiritual powers).
In the Yogasutras, Patanjali describes various siddhis that arise spontaneously in the developed yogi when he has established his awareness in a state of self realization. Abilities like subtle perception, seeing the past, present and future and even levitation are described as symptoms of higher consciousness rather than the goal. Sivananda never professed to have any miraculous power, yet amazing things tended to happen around him and to the people around him. He always downplayed that side of his life.
Over the years Sivananda Murthy supported his community, the arts, the poor, and the Vedic tradition. The donations of his students were managed by a charitable trust which and were dispersed to a variety of charities worthy causes. He always lived simply. The word spread and he attracted students and devotees from various parts of India, including the current Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi. Even the Shankaracharyas, the four highest ranking leaders of the Hindu religion, were aware of his spiritual status. In fact, on one occasion, three out of the four Shankaracharas traveled to his ashram together to meet him and receive darshan (blessings).
Although he no longer gave readings, Sivananda Murthy never lost his interest in astrology. Whenever I visited him, we would talk for hours about the state of the world and the various astrological influences that reflect world affairs. In 2009 he asked me, “What do you think about the 2012 predictions, by western astrologers, that the world is going to end?” He was referring to a popular prediction that the world would end in 2012, due to the fact that one of the ancient Mayan Calendars was coming to an end. I told him that I thought that prediction was a misinterpretation of the Mayan Prophesy. I said, “The calendar on my wall comes to an end each year on December 31st, but I wake up the next day, alive and well, and just put up another calendar.” He laughed and said he agreed that the world would not end at that time. Then he followed that by saying, “In 2020, however, the world will enter a period of crisis. That is the year that Dharma (truth and virtue) will be at its lowest point.”
Apparently that prediction came to him along with a sense of needing to set things straight because Sivananda came up with the idea to put on a conference on Mundane Astrology. Mundane Astrology is the astrology of nations and world events. He had repeatedly told me that I should focus more on the astrology of the world rather than the astrology of individuals. He also knew that I had co-produced several world conferences on Vedic astrology in the USA, so he asked me to help him with his conference. I agreed, and in 2010, he put on the World Conference on Mundane Astrology, in Vishakhapatnam, India. We invited astrologers from all over the world to speak at the conference and to give predictions about where the world would be headed in the next 20 years. Each astrologer picked a topic to talk about. I spoke about the Rahu/Saturn conjunction in 2013. Sivananda Murthy spoke about the Jupiter/Saturn conjunction in 2020. At that conference, he went public with his prediction that the world would go into crisis and that dharma would be at its lowest point in 2020.
A couple of years later, Sivananda Murthy invited me, David Frawley, and his wife, Yogini Shambhavi, to come to his ashram in Bimunipatnam, India, for further discussions on the astrology of 2020 from various angles. We spent four days meeting and discussing transits, conjunctions, charts of countries and charts of various heads of state. In his predictions at the 2010 conference, as well has his discussions with the three of us, Sivananda Murthy had predicted that 2020 would be the beginning of a challenging time for the world that would gradually devolve, resulting in a significant decrease in the world population, over the rest of the century. He said that the cause of the population decrease would probably come from a variety of sources, possibly including diseases, wars, geological events, floods etc.
Sivananda Murthy sat with the three of us for several hours each day. Using the hints given by him, between sessions, I spent my time researching various astrological combinations surrounding 2020. In the process, I noticed that the astrological configurations in January of 2020 were similar to those during pandemics in the past. I brought this up during one of our meetings and we all discussed it. I included this prediction in my 2016 World predictions presentation. It is important to note here, however, that this prediction was motivated and guided by Sivananda Murthy. He had already predicted a world crisis and he had already mentioned the possibility of diseases as one of the possible types of crisis. All I did was what he asked me to do, drill down in order to identify the cause and the timing. Great souls like Sivananda Murthy often work through their students. They often remain silent and put the student on a project that is designed to draw out some insight and to give the student direction and purpose. While working in the presence of such a great soul, the student’s awareness goes into a type of sympathetic resonance with the teacher’s resulting in deeper insights. For me, it was an experience of heightened awareness produced by surrendering to the the flow of his energy as I put my attention on his project.
I visited Sivananda Murthy a month before he died. Although his body was failing, he was fully present, lucid and full of joy. He died how he lived, in a state of equanimity. His attitude toward death was that of a yogi. Death is just like changing your clothes. Nothing dies. There is nothing to mourn. Even when his own wife died, earlier in his life, he had the same attitude of detachment. As a loving joke between him and his wife, his wife always used to say, “I want to die in your lap”. One day, he was sitting in the kitchen with his wife and a few students. Out of the blue, he called her to him saying, “Come and sit on my lap.” She did this, even though in Indian society, public displays of affection are not considered good manners. He then looked at her and said, “It’s time”. She dropped dead immediately. Sivananda Murthy gently laid her body down and allowed his students to tend to her. He then sat down and read a book.
The world is full of spiritual teachers. Around every corner you can find someone preaching a sermon, teaching meditation, and attracting students. Many of them are even awakened to some degree. Their partial state of awakening gives them charismatic energy and magnetic personalities. Some even display powerful intuition and other types of abilities. Unfortunately, their actions in the world, don’t always agree with their professed state of realization. What is rare is to find a teacher that fully embodies pure consciousness and also lives a life of equanimity, truth, compassion, humility, and service to others. Sivananda Murthy was such a soul. This is why his devotees called him Sadguru. A Sadguru is not only self-realized, he has also fully integrated that realization into his life. He is a guru’s guru.
About such a guru, Kabir, the fifteenth century mystic, poet and saint who influenced the Hindu bhakti movement, wrote:
"He is the real Sadhu, who can reveal the form of the Formless to the vision of these eyes;
Who teaches the simple way of attaining Him, that is other than rites or ceremonies;
Who does not make you close the doors, and hold the breath, and renounce the world;
Who makes you perceive the Supreme Spirit wherever the mind attaches itself;
Who teaches you to be still in the midst of all your activities.
Ever immersed in bliss, having no fear in his mind, he keeps the spirit of union in the midst of all enjoyments.
The infinite dwelling of the Infinite Being is everywhere: in earth, water, sky, and air;
Firm as the thunderbolt, the seat of the seeker is established above the void.
He who is within is without: I see Him and none else."