Before Discovering Yoga
Swamiji was born in Kerala, South India, in 1927. As a young child one of his main character traits was a strong will and determination. His mother, now known as Mataji who later took Sannyas (vows of renunciation) from Swami Sivananda, said that whenever her son wanted something, nothing or no one could stop him. An interesting anecdote tells how as a 5 year old youngster he had the strong desire to go to school and learn. When told that it was not possible since the nearest school was located more than 5 miles away, the child took upon himself to pack and go early the next morning for the long 5 mile walk through the jungle. He walked back that evening and would do the same for many years to come.
As a teenager without financial resources for University, he turned to joining the army to receive the scientific education he yearned for. During this time as he looked for a lost paper in a waste basket, his eyes fell upon a paper entitled "20 Spiritual Instructions" by Swami Sivananda. The pamphlet began: "An ounce of practice is better than tons of theory". The practicality and inherent power of these simple words lead Swamiji to travel across India during a 36-hour leave to meet Swami Sivananda in far away Rishsikesh in the Himalayas.
This short visit left such an impression on the young boy's mind that he resolved to return as soon as possible.
Meeting The Master
On his second visit, the young disciple received 2 powerful lessons from Swami Sivananda. The first lesson came when Swami Vishnudevananda felt too timid and a bit arrogant to bow to the Guru Swami Sivananda. So the Master Swami Sivananda prostrated fully before the young student demonstrating the lesson of humility. The second lesson came during Arati (worship ceremony) to Ganga (Ganges river). Swamiji was perplexed and doubtful as he pondered why intelligent people would worship what scientifically is merely H2O. The Master then smiled subtly and gazed at Swamij who instantly beheld the river as a vast, bright, cosmic light. Swami Sivananda then invited the young boy to remain at the Ashram to study and become a Yogi. Swami Vishnudevananda spontaneously replied "Yes".
For 10 years Swami Vishnudevananda continued at the Sivananda Ashram and was trained in all aspects of Yoga by Swami Sivananda. Swami Vishnudevananda quickly became an exceptional adept in the path of Hatha-Yoga and was a very keen and tireless Karma Yogi. One day Swami Sivananda 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" were the words of the Master.