Meet a Guru: Sivaya Subramuniyaswami

Sivaya Subramuniyaswami is the guru of the Himalayan Academy, the organization that puts out the magazine Hinduism Today. He’s written many books and established a Shivite monestary in Hawaii. From all I can tell, he was a very respected member of the Hindu community, even being given an award by New Delhi’s World Religious Parliament naming Sivaya Subramuniyaswami one of five modern-day Jagadacharyas, world teachers, for his international efforts in promoting and chronicling a Hindu renaissance.


He was born Robert Hansen in California in 1927. I think a lot of people are surprised to find out that he is not Indian (I know I was!) He traveled to India as a young man shortly after World War II.

One day, his teacher arranged a meeting between Sivaya Subramuniyaswami and his long awaited satguru, SageYogaswami. After a deep and inner meeting, Yogaswami gave him the name Subramuniya. Subra means “the light than emanates out from the central source.” Muni means a silent teacher, and ya means restraint.Subramuniya means a self-restrained soul who remains silent or speaks out from intuition. After a few visits, Jnanaguru Yogaswami initiated Subramuniya into sannyasa and ordained him into his lineage… -Wikipedia

After seven more years of study, he founded his own monastic Hindu order and lived as a devoted monk, spreading Hinduism to the world, until his death in 2001.


When the instinctive mind becomes lifted into the light, a person is strong enough to be kind when he could have become angry. He generates enough spiritual power to be generous when he might have reacted selfishly. Disciplined periods of meditation nurture a magnanimous and benevolent nature. Such a being is naturally in the light of the supreme consciousness. His great strength is humility, a shock absorber for the malicious experiences in life. Humility makes one immune to resentment and places everything in proportion and balance within the mind. -Quotes from From Darkness to Light

Love is the source of understanding.You know intellectually that within you resides the potential, expressed or not, for all human emotion, thought and action. Yet, you no doubt meet or observe people occasionally whose life and actions are repellent or unacceptable to you. The absence of love has created a vacuum of understanding. For the meditating person, there should not be a single human being whose actions, habits, opinions or conduct lies beyond your ability to love and understand. Try this. This week look at everyone you meet, and feel, from your finger tips right down to your toes, love welling up from your deepest resources and radiating out to them through every cell of your body and especially through your face. Say to yourself, “I like you” – and really feel it. There are many thousands of things that most people do not understand from their confused states of mind, and they therefore act in unseemly ways, due to the ignorance of past karma. Should their ignorance confuse you? Should it cloud your own understanding? Certainly not! We do not love the flower and hate the muddy roots from which it grew, and we cannot hate the instinctive roots of mankind. -Quotes from From Darkness to Light

Subramuniyaswami wrote many books and I highly recommend them. There are many fantastic resources for new Hindus too, such as:

His tradition is carried on by his successor. The magazine Hinduism Today continues and the website is a wealth of information for the “Hindu renaissance.” They also have videos at YouTube.

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My Experience

When I was a teenager, my mother and I came across this book in a library’s sale of old books:

We picked it up for $1 and I began to read it every day. It is a huge book, but broken up into easy sections to read one page each day. I learned so much about Hinduism and it helped clarify my own beliefs. I still love to read this book, even as its pages are falling out!
I had a mention in the back of the magazine once, in an article gathering Internet resources for Hindus. It was very thrilling to see my blog mentioned there!

Learn More:

* I am not endorsing any of the teachers highlighted in this feature

About Ambaa

Ambaa is an American woman of European ancestry who is also a practicing Hindu. She is fascinated with questions of philosophy, culture, and the meaning of life. Join her in the journey to explore how a non-Indian convert to Hinduism experiences her religion.


    @ Ambaa

    what is your perception of Gurus or who do you call a Guru and why?
    Just curious?


    • Ambaa

      As I’ve spoken about before, I do have a lot of trouble with trusting gurus. I try to remember that they are human beings. Maybe one or two are enlightened, but I don’t think the hundreds of gurus out there are/were all enlightened!

      I do trust this guy. He’s been vouched for by people that I respect, his lifestyle seems to match his teachings, and I’ve found help personally in his writings.

      Easwaran is another guru I trust in the same way and for the same reasons.

      My parents’ guru Sri Bharati Tirtha I trust, though I don’t feel ready to declare him to be my guru.

      Even these gurus that I “trust”, I’m still keeping my mind open and prepared to hear some scandal or some other humanizing information.

      • Hosni Hernandez

        Hello Ambaa, I was wondering what were you feelings about Sathya Sai Baba and the scandals and rumors attributed to him? I asked this since I see you have been going to Sai Centers quite often now. Also do you know about the original Sai Baba from Shirdi? Peace

        • Ambaa

          I know a little about the original Sai Baba, but I’d like to do more research on him.

          I’m not sure what to think about the rumors about Sathya Sai Baba. I hear both bad and good about him and don’t know what to believe.

          However, the center that I’m going to is wonderful and I like and trust the people there. I am keeping my mind and eye sharp whenever the guru’s teachings come up and there’s been nothing questionable as of yet.

          I’m sorry to say, but I feel a bit relieved that the guru died.

          At this point I have not been asked to worship him as God and I don’t think I would be able to do that.

          So yeah, I trust the people I’m worshiping with even while I’m on the fence about the guru.

          • Hosni Hernandez

            A good place to start for researching the original Sai Baba of Shirdi is in the book Shri Sai Sat Charita, which contains all his recorded teachings and miracles. Here is a pdf of the book, Enjoy finding your guru and just like you, I don’t know what to think of Sathya Sai but to me Shirdi Sai Baba is authentic.

          • Ambaa

            Thanks for the book! :D