This little book is a documentary compilation of primary autobiographical sources and reminiscences by disciples and friends from the life of the late "Flying-Swami," Swami Vishnu-devananda (1927-1993) of India and Canada, Hindu monk and pilot. Swami Vishnu was one of the twentieth century’s most extraordinary activists for world peace and justice, non-violence, open borders, and the realization of the global citizenship of all humanity in what he called a "true world order" awaiting the spiritual maturation of our race. Swami Vishnu was one of the most remarkable persons of our age on a number of fronts from the 1950’s in Canada and around the world until the time of his death in India in 1993. The book narrates vivid tales of his early life in India, anecdotes about the founding of his many Yoga centers.
Gopala Krishna is a long-time student of Swami Vishnu-devananda and director of the Sivananda Yoga Center in Ottawa, Canada.
This little book is a documentary compilation of primary autobiographical
sources and reminiscences by disciples and friends from the life of the late "Flying-
Swami," Swami Vishnu-devananda (1927 - 1993) of India and Canada, Hindu
monk and pilot. Swami Vishnu was one of the twentieth century’s most
extraordinary activists for world peace and justice, non-violence, open borders, and
the realization of the global citizenship of all humanity in what he called a "true
world order" awaiting the spiritual maturation of our race.
Swami Vishnu was one of the most remarkable persons of our age on a number
of fronts from the 1950’s in Canada and around the world until the time of his
death in India in 1993. He conceived and executed a stunning array of prophetic
and symbolic events as part of his global peace mission on site in most of the
world’s major trouble spots. He was a leader in the Americas, Europe, the
Caribbean, the Middle-East, India, and parts of Asia in the propagation of the
knowledge of yoga vedanta, the practice of yoga for health, non-violence, inner and
outer peace, and hidden potentials of the human soul and spirit for turning "the
darkness into the light," to help our planet survive and to make our world a better
place in which to live.
He was a close friend and for a number of years in the 70s and 80s he asked my
assistance in arranging international conferences and events to call attention to the
relevance of yoga (and the ancient cosmology, philosophy of life, and psychology
upon which it is based) to emerging new sciences of consciousness, the new
physics. the new medicine, new therapies, the growing planetary ecological
consciousness. From my standpoint he understood the significance of our
increased interest in the West in reports by many persons affirming human
immortality after having various extraordinary psychic and spiritual experiences.
‘In one of the early events in which I participated in 1977, he led an unforgettable
45 day pilgrimage and lecture tour of India via Spain on the topic of "Yoga and
Psychic Discoveries." This event featured a Hindu Swami (himself), a Christian
priest (myself), a Psychic (Dr. Marilyn Rossner, my wife, a children’s therapist and
special educator, as well as a practicing yogi and gifted sensitive), and an Astronaut
(Dr. Edgar Mitchell, who had performed a successful ESP experiment between his
lunar capsule and the earth).
Swami Vishnu’s consistent genius and flair for the imaginative and timely
capture of public attention was deeply spiritually motivated. Wherever he went, he
established ashrams and centers through which he was able to touch peoples’ lives.
change their lifestyles for the better, and increase the world’s awareness of the
urgent need for positive thinking, healthy living, a true spirituality and a dramatic
improvement in human behaviours.
When he first arrived in North America from India via South Asia in 1957 as a
young Hindu sanyasin, he had no money, no one to take him in, and precious little
practical knowledge of Western ways or persuasive fluency in English, for that
matter, to smooth his path.
What he did possess was a very bright, focused, dedicated, positive soul
fashioned in its formative years by one of the greatest yoga adepts and sages of the
Himalayas, Swami Sivananda of Rishikesh, a medical doctor and Hindu monk
known to masses in that sub-continent as "the Saint Francis of Modern India."
Sivananda was an important figure in the renaissance of Indian spirituality in the
19th and 20th centuries. Swami Vishnu also possessed the true spirit and
inspiration of the Gandhian doctrine of nonviolent witness to peace and justice in
places of urgent human suffering and need. These gifts and fruits of the spirit were
his only required bank account and polish.
Swami Vishnu had a clear mandate to serve humanity from his teachers. He
regarded this mandate to be from divinely inspired sources of inspiration. These
sources and that inspiration never left him. He remained faithful to them with
heroic determination through thick and thin until the day he left this world back in
India, where his body was finally put into the sacred river Ganges. That mandate—
in the very words of Sivananda—was one which Swamiji has emblazoned on the
walls of all of his ashrams and centers for the spiritual formation of all of his
students: "Serve, Love, Give, Purify, Meditate, Realize!"
His commission from his beloved guru Swami Sivananda was to live the
philosophy and practice of yoga himself, and to teach it to his own disciples so that
all could attain for themselves its goal: divine self-realization—the integration of
body. mind, and spirit with the ground of being, God, Brahman, the Eternal Source
of all life. health, joy, bliss—and the true inspiration and strength to walk in the
sanatana dharma, the eternal, universal divine spiritual law.
Swami Vishnu was himself an authentic guru and a great spiritual teacher. He
was very unprepossessing and humble in appearance. He would often shock
disciples and guests by prostrating himself and asking forgiveness when he had
been impatient, lost his temper, made mistakes, or offended anyone. He had a great
love for people, but an impatience to get on with justice and intelligent courses of
action as he perceived them. Wherever he perceived an individual in human need,
or a great world tragedy, he wanted to race to the spot with aid, or some action of
support, even when all he could do was to risk his life in some symbolic and
prophetic action to call the attention of the rest of humanity to that need or
You will learn in the following pages that he flew over the Arab-Israeli lines
during the 1971 Mideast War in his small twin engine aircraft, "bombing" each side
with flowers and peace leaflets: "Flowers, not Guns, to stop Wars!" He flew to
Northern Ireland with the British comedian Peter Sellers to meet with Protestant
and Catholic leaders. A Hindu Swami—brown skinned and wearing an orange
cloth—affably lectured Christian leaders on the necessity for love, peace, and
Christ-like action in a time of terror! He flew over the Berlin wall backwards into
East Germany in an ultra-light aircraft, bearing the message to the East German
police that, like the wall itself, all man-made barriers to peace dividing humanity
could be transcended by the divine spirit operating within us. He then gave them a
yoga lesson, a lecture on meditation; they fed him a cheese sandwich because he
was a vegetarian, and gave him a subway token to travel back to West Berlin!
What Mahatma Ghandi did to inspire and to change the consciousness of the
world was carried out almost entirely within the Indian sub-continent, with a brief
period in South Africa. From that stage there went out to al! parts of the globe the
magnificent story of ahimsa, the principle of non-violence. and respect for the
rights of all sentient life, and its inherent, gentle persuasive power eventually to
bring racial and religious bigotry to an end.
What Swami Vishnu did in his lifetime for the same noble goal (although far less
publicized), was in fact carried out on a much wider world stage in many
continents and nations in a most spectacular way. He arranged an inspired series of
unbelievable, symbolic, prophetic events spanning the last four decades of this
century. Someday—when humanity has grown a bit and expanded its
understanding of what is really newsworthy—there will undoubtedly be a major
biographical book and film produced on the life of this unsung hero of our age.
Until then, here is a sourcebook of reminiscences by his friends and disciples that
communicates what he taught to the world.
**Contents and Sample Pages**
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