The Divine Life Society (DLS) was founded by Swami Sivananda Saraswati in 1937.
Divine Life Society
The original name of Swami Sivananda Saraswati was Kuppuswamy Iyer. He was born on 8th September 1887 in Tamil Nadu to his religious parents in a religious house. Graduated from Medical College and started his private practice at Trichy. His father died in 1913.
Kuppuswamy went Malay and served and served 10 years as a doctor in charge of a hospital run at a large rubber estate. While serving there; he studied Hindu scriptures and religious books[ including the Bible & the Imitation of Christ.
In 1923 he resigned from hospital and returned to India and gave away his wealth and property. He spent one-year visiting holy shrines, sleeping on the ground, eating wild berries.
In the end, he reached Rishikesh – The Field of the Rishis (Seers). It was here he got initiation into Sannyasa order and became Swami Viswananda Saraswati. He practiced extreme austerities and meditation. He settled in Swarga ashram.
While doing austerities he slowly resumed his practice of medicine, visiting sick Sadhus and pilgrims. In 1927 he started a charitable dispensary. After some years he reached his goal of self-realization or Nirvikalpa Samadhi-the thoughtless super-conscious state.
Due to him, many people came to Swarga ashram for spiritual counsel. He became welknown writer of Brahm-vidya – knowledge of God. In 1932 he returned to Rishikesh and founded Sivanand Ashram. In 1937 he founded Divine Life Society which has over 300 branches around the world.
Ministry of Divine Life Society
The society did the work of preaching, publishing and medical programme.
The first thing striking Sivananda’s readers is his pessimistic view of life. According to him, life is ‘ignorance, pain, and misery. It is not worth having a positive attitude towards life. Because ‘mustard of pleasure mixed with a mountain of pain’.
He hates all pleasure in this life, esply sexual pleasure by saying; “Sex-pleasure is the most devitalizing and demoralizing of pleasures. Sexual pleasure is no pleasure at all. It is a mental delusion. It is false, utterly worthless, and extremely harmful.”
He mocks at the foolishness of men by saying; “You know that the body of a woman made up of all sorts of impurities, flesh, bone, urine and faecal matter, and yet you rejoice in embracing it.” For Sivananda, the whole world is nothing but sex and ego. He therefore hates and wants to escape.
His religion is to transcend the very consciousness of the world and self (ego). He has escapist attitude and told his followers that they should never join those offices which are amendable to corruption. Sivananda longs for escape and looks for a utopia.
This expectation of utopia is the third impulse behind his religious search whereas pessimistic view of life; and escape are the first and second impulses behind his religious search. Sivananda seeks perfection, infinite bliss, immortality which cannot be attained in this world.
Chinmaya Mission was founded by Swami Chinmayananda (a disciple of Sivananda). Its teachings have some similarities with that of Divine Life Society. Chinmayananda was born in Kerala in May 1916.
He is a man of sharp intellect and academic career. Before becoming a Sanyasi he obtained a master’s degree in English Literature and worked for some time as a journalist. He also participates in India’s struggle for freedom.
In his religious search he was greatly influenced by H.H. Swami Tapovan Maharaj; and the founder of Divine Life Society. Although, he chose the way of Sanyasahe preferred to work around the cities; then being in the tranquil heights of the Himalayas. You can read Mahabharata’s stories by clicking here…
He introduced a unique technique ‘Gnana Yagna’ in Chinmaya’s words. Gnana Yagna ‘is a cooperative endeavor of a community of understanding. And people are joining together to organize a field for its own inner growth, personality, and character’.
The first Yagna was conducted for 100 days in Poona between 1951 and March 1953. The 2nd Yagna was conducted in Madras in April 1953.
Here his talk on Mundaka Upanisad. Impressed some persons who formed an association called The Chinmaya Mission. Today there are more than 100 centers in India and many more in foreign countries.
Unlike Sivananda, he said that religion is not a negation of life and its joys. But its fulfillment. According to him, religion is not dead or outdated. But it is essential both for individual joy and national prosperity. Philosophically he followed Advaitic(non-dualistic philosophy of 19th-century Philosopher Sankaracharya.