Subramuniyaswami, Satguru

   American founder of the Saiva Siddhanta Church
   The American-born Satguru Subramuniyaswami was an important teacher in the Saiva SIDDHANTA tradition. Through his organizational work, fund-raising, and many books he helped spread Hindu teaching in America and around the world.
   Born in Oakland, California, on January 5, 1927, and orphaned in 1938 at age 11, Robert Hansen spent his childhood and youth in the San Francisco Bay area and was, before he renounced the world, a lead dancer in the San Francisco Ballet Company. He was raised by a family friend who, as a student of Indian art, dance, and culture, had lived as a guest of the maharaja of Mysore, India. As a child, he wore Indian clothing and learned to appreciate many elements of Indian culture. As a teenager, he was exposed to Swami VIVEKANANDA’s writings and the lectures of other SWAMIS. He relates that he studied MEDITATION and classical YOGA disciplines with several teachers.
   At age 21 Hansen traveled to India and Sri Lanka, searching for a spiritual teacher. In Sri Lanka he studied with Shaivite elders and pun-dits (see SHAIVISM), one of whom, a member of the Chettiar caste, adopted him into his extended family and introduced him to temple worship. He meditated in the jungle caves at Jalani and attained SELF-REALIZATION by experiencing the absolute real-ity of SHIVA, which transcended all time, space, and form. This experience of Self-Realization became the cornerstone of his mystical teachings. Also in Sri Lanka, he met his GURU, Jnanaguru Yoganathan, also known as Shiva Yogaswami (1872–1964) who initiated him into the Shaivite tradition of siddha yoga and named him Subramuniya. Yogaswami was a direct descendent of the original gurus of this Sri Lankan lineage known as the Nandinatha Sampradaya, a tradition that has its roots in the 2,200-year-old sacred text Tirumantiram, by the saint TIRUMULAR. He followed his initiation with years of spiritual practice (SADHANA) and began to be referred to as Satguru, or “one who has attained God-realization and assumes responsibility for the spiritual life of his disciples.” Upon the passing in 1964 of Shiva Yogaswami, Subramuniya (or Gurudeva, as he was affectionately known) became the spiritual successor of the lineage.
   In 1950, he returned to the United States and continued his spiritual path, developing various psychic powers, including clairvoyance and clair-audience. In 1957, at age 30, he began his pub-lic ministry by founding the Subramuniya Yoga Order and the Christian Yoga Church, both in San Francisco, California. During the 1960s, the latter was disbanded; in 1970 the Subramuniya Yoga Order moved to Hawaii, where it was renamed the Wailua University of the Contemplative Arts. In 1973, the organization became the Saiva Sid-dhanta Yoga Order, and later the Saiva Siddhanta Church. Subramuniya called the Church the “first Hindu church, organized according to the American church system.” In an attempt to sus-tain Shaivite orthodoxy, the church recognizes the celibate monk as the ideal spiritual practitioner and requires at least 12 years of adherence for a man to become a SANNYASI. Women may follow the celibate life of the BRAHMACHARINI, but they are not, strictly speaking, monastics in this church.
   In addition to the church, Gurudeva created the Himalayan Academy, an educational publica-tion house, and Hindu Heritage Endowment, a public service trust begun in 1995 to establish and maintain permanent sources of income for Hindu institutions worldwide. These organiza-tions serve the growing Hindu DIASPORA. Local missions are on five continents. Subramuniya was instrumental in founding and building 37 Hindu temples around the world, including his own Irai-van Sivalingam temple on the island of Kauai, the first all-granite Agamic (built to Shaivite canonical specifications) temple ever built in the West-ern world. He founded Kauai’s Hindu Monastery, known officially as Kauai Aadheenam, the first orthodox Shaivite monastery in the West.
   Throughout his years of teaching, Subramuni-yaswami traveled widely and met leaders of many faiths and heads of state. He participated in the World Parliament of Religions in Chicago in 1993. In 1995, he named three of his longtime initiated swamis as his consecutive successors, beginning with the present satguru, Bodhinatha Veylanswami.
   Subramuniya wrote over 30 books explaining Hindu philosophy to adherents and others. His lessons on Shaivism are designed to preserve the teachings among youth, and his illustrated Master Course trilogy—three inspired 1,000-page texts—summarize the religion, culture, and metaphysics of Hinduism.
   The academy’s quarterly magazine, Hinduism Today, originally begun as a newsletter in 1979, seeks to promote Hindu solidarity in the face of global pluralism and educate Hindus around the world about their heritage. It covers the practices and beliefs of all lineages and traditions within the Hindu fold, and addresses the issues of the day in light of orthodox Hindu teaching. The Web site Hindu Resources Online, a public service inspired by the message of Subramuniyaswami, is another vehicle for dissemination of Shaivite teachings.
   According to the teachings of Subramuniyas-wami, Shaivism is ageless, the SANATANA DHARMA or eternal faith. An enduring spirituality innate in every man and woman, it is the source of all religions on Earth.
   Subramuniya died on November 12, 2001, at age 74.
   Further reading: Sivaya Subramuniya, Dancing with Siva, 4th ed. (San Francisco: Himalayan Academy, 1993); ———, Hindu Catechism (San Francisco: Hima-layan Academy, 1987); ———, Merging with Siva: Hinduism’s Contemporary Metaphysics (Kapaa, Hawaii: Himalayan Academy, 1999); ———, Raja Yoga (San Francisco: Himalayan Academy, 1973).

Encyclopedia of Hinduism. . 2007.

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