Swami Vishnuji founded the International Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Centers in the 1960s with Headquarters in Val Morin, Quebec, Canada. Today, the organization is comprised of 10 ashrams and many centers in major cities across the world. More than 20,000 Yoga teachers have been trained by this organization to date. Swamiji 's mission in the West started upon his arrival in San Francisco in 1957, at the urging of his Guru, Swami Sivananda. He founded the Sivananda Ashram Yoga Farm in Grass Valley in 1971. At that time, he came yearly to the Farm in Grass Valley for teaching and for seclusion. In 2007, we celebrated this great Yogi and Master's 50 years of Yoga teaching mission in the west.
Swamiji was born in Kerala, South India, in 1927. As a young child one he was a strong willed and determined. His mother said that whenever her son wanted something, nothing and no one could stop him (she later took sannyas, the vows of renunciation, from Swami Sivananda). As a teenager too poor to attend university, he joined the army to receive a scientific education. During this time he found a piece of paper in a wastebasket entitled "20 Spiritual Instructions" by Swami Sivananda. The pamphlet began: "An ounce of practice is better than tons of theory". The practicality of these words led Swamiji to travel during leave to meet the Master. The visit left such an impression on his mind that he resolved to return as soon as possible.
Later, The Master invited the young boy to study at the Ashram to and become a Yogi. Swamiji spontaneously agreed.
On his second visit, the young disciple received a powerful lesson from Swami Sivananda. Swamiji hid because he was too arrogant to bow to the Master. Swami Sivananda prostrated fully before him, demonstrating perfect love and humility.
For 10 years Swamiji remained at the Sivananda Ashram and was trained in all aspects of Yoga by Swami Sivananda. One day the Master gave Swamiji a 10 Rupee note (less than a dollar) and his blessings to travel to the West and spread the teachings of Vedanta. "People are waiting" he said.
Swamiji authored the best selling book "The Complete Illustrated Book of Yoga" (first published in 1960) which brought credibility to Yoga in the West. Swami Vishnu-devananda also wrote Meditation and Mantras and a commentary on The Hatha Yoga Pradipika.
Throughout his life, Swamiji was deeply concerned about the world and the disaster of constant war. This led him to learn to fly and to then personally pilot a small plane over many troubled areas of the world. He created discussion and awareness in the news media, and he also "bombarded" these war-torn areas with flowers and peace pamphlets while repeating the peace Mantra: Om Namo Narayanaya. Swamiji entered mahasamadhi (left his physical body) on November 9, 1993