Sri Swami Dayananda Saraswati Life History

Swami Dayananda Saraswati ji (Hindi: स्वामी दयानन्‍द सरस्‍वती) (born August 15, 1930)[1] is a monk of the Hindu monastic order and a renowned traditional teacher of Advaita Vedanta, and founder of the Arsha Vidya Gurukulam

Early life

Pujya Swami Dayananda Saraswati ji was born as Natarajan in Manjakudi – Thiruvarur district of Tamil Nadu on August 15, 1930 to Shri Gopal Iyer and Smt. Valambal. He was the eldest of four sons. His early schooling was done in the Thiruvarur District Board School and he finished High school at Kodavasal.[2] His father’s death when he was eight, meant Natarajan had to shoulder a significant portion of family responsibility along with his education. After completion of education, Natarajan came to Chennai (erstwhile Madras) for livelihood. Natarajan worked as a journalist for the weekly magazine Dharmika Hindu (run by T. K. Jagannathacharya) and also for erstwhile Volkart Brothers (now Voltas Limited) for some time. He also decided to be a fighter pilot at one point and joined the Indian Air Force, but left after six months as he felt suffocated by the regimentation there.[2][3]


He became interested in Vedanta after listening to the public talks of Swami Chinmayananda in the year 1952-53. He became actively involved with the then newly formed Chinmaya Mission in various roles and was made its Secretary within the first year of its inception. He learnt Sanskrit lessons from P.S. Subramania Iyer, a retired Professor of English. It was Iyer who introduced the mode of chanting the Gita verses (or for that matter, Sanskrit verses that follow the same metre as the Gita verses) that is still followed by Chinmaya Mission, Arsha Vidya Centres and others as well.[4][5][6] Swami Chinmayananda instructed Natarajan to set up Chinmaya Mission’s Madurai branch which Natarajan was able to fulfill. Natarajan also assisted Swami Chinmayananda in editing and bringing out a Bhagavad Gita manuscript for publication. He had an opportunity to meet Swami Tapovanam Maharaj, Chinmayanandaji’s Guru during this time (1954–55). Sri Tapovanam Maharaj advised Natarajan, ‘You have a duty to yourself which is also important. Stay here. Do japa, meditate and study.’ But Natarajan could not take up that offer at that point in time. During this time, Natarajan also studied Sanskrit and the bhashya of the Upanishads with Professor Vijayaraghavachariar. Natarajan also took up the mantle of the editor of Tyagi, Chinmaya Mission’s new fortnightly magazine and shifted to Bangalore in March 1956 for this purpose.[2]

Swami Chinmayananda sent Natarajan to study under Swami Pranavananda in Gudivada (near Vijayawada) to clarify many of his doubts on Vedanta and self-enquiry. It was here during his studies with Pranavananda that Natarajan crystallised the following notion:

‘ Vedanta is a pramana (means of knowledge). I saw the Swami giving direct knowledge to the people he was teaching. This resolved all my conflicts. My problems with Vedanta had been my mistaken notion that it was a system.’



He was given Sannyasa diksha by Swami Chinmayananda on the auspicious Sivaratri day, in 1962[3] and was given the diksha name Swami Dayananda Saraswati. He became involved with Sandipany Sadhanalaya right from its inception in 1963. He moved to Mumbai, (erstwhile Bombay) and edited the Tapovan Prasad, the new monthly magazine of the mission.

Subsequently in 1965, he undertook a study-pilgrimage to Rishikesh and stayed in a grass hut in Purani Jhadi. He spent three years there, studying Brahma-Sutras under Swami Tarananda Giri.

On his return to Bombay from Rishikesh in 1968, Swami Dayananda was asked to start the new Brahmachari/ni training programme in Sandipany. The first course, as designed by Swami Dayananda started in 1972. In a later interview, Swami Dayananda summed up the new courses’ design as follows:

‘ What would take a Sadhu in the Himalayas nine years to learn, the brahmacharis at Sandipany learned in two-and-half years.’


Arsha Vidya Gurukulam


Swami Dayananda has been teaching Vedanta in India for more than four decades, and around the world since 1972. His depth of understanding and nuanced appreciation of Western culture makes him a rare teacher who can communicate the vision of non-duality to modern listeners.

Swami Dayananda designed and taught six residential in-depth Vedanta courses (1. 1972-75 Mumbai, 2. 1976-78 Mumbai, 3. 7.11.1979 – 1982 Piercy, the USA, 4. January 1987-December 1989 Saylorsburg, the USA, 5. 1990-94 Anaikatti, 6. 1995-98 Anaikatti), each spanning 30 to 36 months. Thus, four were conducted in India, and two in the United States. Each course graduated about 60 qualified acharyas, teachers, who are now teaching around the world. More than two-hundred of his Sannyasi-disciples are teaching Advaita Vedanta, Paninian grammar, Indian culture in India and abroad.


In 1986, Swami Dayananda Saraswati founded the Arsha Vidya Gurukulam, a Gurukulam that has branches in India and the United States. Arsha Vidya Gurukulam is an institute for the traditional study of Advaita Vedanta, Paninian Grammar, Vedic/Clasical Sanskrit Chanting. Additionally camps are conducted for teaching Yoga, Classical Music, Ayurveda, Jyotisha and allied disciplines. The word Arsha means that which is from the Rishis – the great seers of ancient India. The word Vidya means knowledge. Thus, Arsha Vidya means the knowledge flowing from the Rshis. The word Gurukulam, means “family of the teacher”, referring to a residential center for learning with the Teacher. Arsha Vidya Gurukulam offers Indians and non-Indians, Hindus and non-Hindus, men and women alike, an opportunity to study the profound knowledge of the Upanishads, Bhagavad Gita, Brahma-Sutra, and other classical Vedanta texts.

The two main centers in India are the Arsha Vidya Pitham in Rishikesh, and the Arsha Vidya Gurukulam in Coimbatore (est. 1990). In the U.S., the main center is the Arsha Vidya Gurukulam at Saylorsburg, Pennsylvania (est. 1985). At present there are at least sixty centers in India and abroad that carry on the tradition of Vedantic teaching.

Other Organizations

In addition to teaching, Swami Dayananda has initiated and supported various philanthropic efforts. The All India Movement (AIM) for Seva, inaugurated in November, 2000, brings medical, educational, nutritional and infrastructure assistance to villagers in the remote areas of India. This movement enjoys the blessing of all traditional Hindu spiritual leaders who have united as a single body, the Acarya Sabha, through the coordinating efforts of Swami Dayananda. In November 2001, Swami Dayananda convened the first World Congress for the Preservation of Religious Diversity in Delhi, inaugurated by the Dalai Lama and the then Prime Minister Mr.A.B.Vajpayee. An important outcome of the Congress is the formation of a Global Commission for the Preservation of Religious Diversity, spearheaded by Swami Dayananda. The Commission had its inaugural meeting in Bangkok in June, 2002. Swami Dayananda was active in forming and participating in the Women’s Global Peace Initiative, which convened at the United Nations in Geneva in October 2002. He has also participated in the Millennium Peace Summit organized by the United Nations. Swamiji also started the Dharma Rakshana Samithi for preserving the Dharma and the culture of Bharath. Swamiji is the President of this organisation.


Many of Swami Dayananda Saraswati’s lectures, talks and discourses have been published in the form of books. These books deal with Vedantic teachings and its applicability to various situations in life. A non-exhaustive list of his books (in alphabetical order) include[7]:

  1. Action and Reaction
  2. Bhagavadgita Home Study (His magnum opus running into 3000 pages, now in 4th Edition)
  3. Can We? (Essays: 6)
  4. Compositions
  5. Conversion Is Violence
  6. Crisis Management
  7. Danam (Essays: 4)
  8. Dialogues With Swami Dayananda
  9. Discourses on Important Topics
  10. Discovering Love
  11. Do all Religions have the same goal? (Essays: 1)
  12. Eight Significant Verses of Bhagavad Gita
  13. Exploring Vedanta (Sraddha- Bhakti-dhyana-yogad avaihi & Atmanam ced vijaniyat)
  14. Freedom
  15. Freedom from Sadness
  16. Friendship (The Essence of Vedic Marriage)
  17. Gurupurnima (Essays: 3)
  18. In the Vision of Vedanta
  19. Insights
  20. Introduction to Vedanta – Understanding The Fundamental Problem
  21. Japa
  22. Kenopanisad
  23. Knowledge and Action – The Two Fold Commitment
  24. Living Intelligently
  25. Living Versus Getting On
  26. Mahavakya Vichara
  27. Mandukya Upanishad
  28. Moments with Krishna (Essays: 7)
  29. Morning Meditation Prayers
  30. Mundakopanisad – (2 Vol. Set) Bhasya and Tika unfolded
  31. Need for Cognitive Change
  32. Need for Personal Reorganisation
  33. Om Namo Bhagavate Vasudevaya
  34. Personal Re-engineering in Management
  35. Personnel Management
  36. Prayer Guide
  37. Problem Is You, The Solution Is You, The
  38. Public Talks-2: Discovering Love & Successful Living
  39. Purnamadah Purnamidam
  40. Purpose of Prayer, The
  41. Ramayana
  42. Satyam and Mithya
  43. Self-Knowledge
  44. Sri Rudram
  45. Stressfree Living
  46. Successful Living
  47. Surrender and Freedom
  48. Talks and Essays (Vol.I)
  49. Talks and Essays (Vol.II) of
  50. Talks on “Who Am I ?”
  51. Talks on Meditation
  52. Talks on Sri Rudram
  53. Tattvabodha
  54. Teaching of the Bhagavad Gita, The
  55. Teaching Tradition of Advaita Vedanta
  56. Ten Essential Verses of Bhagavad Gita
  57. Understanding Between Parents and Children
  58. Value of Values, The
  59. Vedanta 24 x 7
  60. Vedic View and Way of Life
  61. Visnusahasranama (with translation and commentary)
  62. Vivekacudamani (Talks on 108 Selected Verses)
  63. Wedding Ceremony Based on Hindu Concepts
  64. What is Meditation? Meditation Series: 2
  65. What You Love Is The Pleased Self
  66. Yoga of Objectivity
  67. You Are the Whole


  1. ^ Dialogues with Swami Dayananda, Sri Gangadhareswar Trust, 1988
  2. ^ a b c d e Swami Dayananda Saraswati: His Life and Work. Arsha Vidya Newsletter, pp. 13-16, Arsha Vidya Gurukulam, Anaikatti, Coimbatore. August 2009 [1].
  3. ^ a b c Glimpses of Swami Dayananda Saraswati’s life. Arsha Adhyayan Kendra, Bhuj, Gujarat, INDIA. Video commemorating Swami Dayananda’s 7 December 2008 visit to Bhuj
  4. ^ Gita Chanting by Swami Brahmananda
  5. ^ Gita Chanting by Swami Paramarthananda
  6. ^ Swami Sandeep Chaitanya’s Gita Yagnam
  7. ^

External links (List of Websites of Swamiji’s Ashrams, and some of his disciples)