In April 2017, Tobias and I traveled to northern India to visit different holy places in and around Nainital, Rishikesh, and Dharamsala. When we planned our trip to Rishikesh, visiting Sivananda Ashram ended up being quite high up on our priority list. The Sivananda Ahram is the main ashram of The Divine Life Society, created by its founder Swami Sivananda, a famous Indian saint and guru. However, not too long before our trip to India, none of us had ever heard about The Divine Life Society or Swami Sivananda, so how did this place become one of our top priorities during our stay in Rishikesh?
The reason why I went to India in the first place was a vision I had during a spiritual experience. I knew from that vision that we were supposed to go to India and that one of the locations we should go to was Rishikesh, but I did not know why. For this reason, we did not really know what places to visit in this area. However, I felt that the higher Self would take care of that and that I did not really have to worry about finding out. I trusted in God.
When Tobias and I were planning our trip to Rishikesh I remembered that the Indian yogi Sri M had written about a few holy places in and around the city in his book Apprenticed to a Himalayan Master: A Yogi’s Autobiography. In the book, he talks about his meeting with Swami Chidananda at Sivananda Ashram in Rishikesh. I noted this place as one possible location to look into some more. I later googled Swami Chidananda and instantly fell in love with the man I saw in the pictures. He radiated such love and divinity. I watched a short film about him at Youtube called Chidananda, Walk with me and my love for him grew even further. I did not, however, feel any direct pull at the towards his guru and the founder of The Divine Life Society, Swami Sivananda.
After this, a number of strange events occurred, and “the why” of visiting Rishikesh became quite obvious. Well, at least one reason why we should go there became obvious, because I was open to the idea that there might have been multiple reasons (which turned out to be quite right). The following weeks after my discovery of The Divine Life Society the name and the people associated with this society popped up everywhere. It was almost absurd how unlikely these synchronicities were. In particular, the picture and name of the current president of The Divine Life Society show up in the most peculiar ways. By then, I just knew we had to go there, and I had a strong feeling that we were supposed to meet the current president Swami Vimalananda. However, I did not have any high hopes that this would actually happen.
Later, when Tobias and I came to Rishikesh after an amazing time in and around Nainital, we decided to go to The Sivananda Ashram quite early on. The ashram is a huge complex with many buildings. We actually got lost for a short while searching for the main shrine called Holy Samadhi Shrine. We didn’t use the main entrance when entering the ashram since we came with our scooters and had to search for a parking lot and therefore ended up walking amongst the buildings not really meant for visitors. Suddenly I saw this old man walking in front of us together with a younger man and I immediately recognized him from the pictures that mysteriously had popped up everywhere while planning our trip. The old man was no other than the current president of The Divine Life Society, Swami Vimalananda, the very man I had felt we were supposed to meet. He just happened to be the first person we ran into.
We went up to him and talked for a while. He turned out to be a very kind, loving and humble person. We didn’t talk about anything particular. He asked us where we were from and said he had been to Sweden a few times. We then took a photo together as memory and parted ways. Immediately after we parted I knew intuitively that this meeting was the reason why we were supposed to come here and I didn’t feel any need to stay at the ashram any longer. To this day, I have no idea why this meeting was important, only that it was.
Even though I did not feel any need to stay, we stayed for quite some time anyway just because the place was so beautiful. Walking around in the main hall, reading the quotes of Swami Sivananda, I started to see how extraordinary this saint had been and affection towards this man started to grow. All over the ashram, beautiful quotes where written on the walls, and the spiritual messages they conveyed affected me deeply. The Divine Life Society is such an amazing organization spreading love and spiritually worldwide and I would recommend visiting the beautiful Sivananda Ashram if you’re in Rishikesh.
We returned to the ashram for two more days attending kirtan and also the evening Arti at the river Ganga. The ashram became our favorite place in Rishikesh. I did also meet Swami Vimalananda one more time but did not talk to him this time. I just sat in his presence, listening to him reading holy literature. Nothing else was required than sitting in the hall of the master Swami Sivananda, listening to this loving man. I did not feel like searching for anything. Just sit there and Be. Perhaps this beautiful quote of Swami Sivananda says it all, even though I just caught a small glimpse of it: Seek, find, enter, rest in God.