Sunday, October 24, 2021

Radha's Spiritual Birth at the Sivananda Ashram in Rishikesh [True Story]

Have you ever thought of visiting an ashram in India, such as the Sivananda Ashram in Rishikesh?  Maybe you are searching for authentic spiritual experiences at the feet of a true guru.  Well, before you embark on your spiritual journey let me tell you about this small book that will motivate you even more.   

Not another book, please

Recently, a friend suggested that I read the same spiritual book she was reading.  

Well, it wasn't just a suggestion.  She actually insisted, over and over again that I start reading it, and promised I would love it.  

I was hesitant cause I had just received two books I ordered on Amazon, and I have an endless list of books I want to read.

But I said, ”Alright, maybe I'll read it,” and downloaded the free sample on the Kindle app on my iPhone. 

Every day she kept asking me though, ”Did you start reading it? Did you start reading it?”

So, of course, I started reading it.  Lol.

It didn't take me long to realize that indeed I was going to love this book.  

The book, Radha, Diary of a Woman's Search, is the diary of Sylvia Hellman, a German woman who immigrated to Canada in 1951 and later on, in 1955, traveled to India following the call of her guru.

She stayed for six months, from August 1955 until March 1956, with her guru Swami Sivananda at his ashram in Rishikesh, North India.  

The book is based on the diary entries she wrote during that period. 

It might sound like a brief period but her life was completely transformed in those six months.  It was like a spiritual birth for her.  When she came back to Canada she even started her own ashram, the Yasodhara Ashram.

If you are interested in the path of the Indian yogis and if at some point you are planning to visit an ashram in Rishikesh, or anywhere in India, or even Canada, then I think you will also love this book.

Letters from a disciple

My friend said that this book was similar to my two favorite books, Taming the Kundalini and Steps to Yoga.  

I couldn't see how they would compare.  These two books are letters written by a guru, Swami Satyananda, to a few of his close disciples.  The letters contain profound teachings and detailed instructions on advanced yoga practices.  

Radha's book, on the other side, is just a diary. 

But as I started reading it I realized that my friend was right.  These diaries are like letters written not only to herself but to all those who would eventually read them.   

They include not only the reflections of a disciple, and her experiences living in an Indian ashram, but also the teachings that she was receiving from her guru Swami Sivananda.

And each diary entry is like a small story that is interesting and inspiring to read.  

As I moved through the pages, I felt that the stories were getting more and more fascinating, gradually taking you deeper into your own spiritual journey.

Several times I said to myself,  “Wow, that's unbelievable!” not because I couldn't believe what she wrote but because her experiences were so profound and mystic.  You can see her spiritual destiny unfolding in front of her.  

I tried to read just a few pages per day to prolong the pleasure.  

Inevitably though, as I was approaching the end of the book I started feeling a bit sad.  I didn't want it to end.  I wanted to hear more of her experiences and to discover more about Swami Sivananda's true spiritual stature.  

While I was reading the book it reminded me of that moment where I talked about Swami Sivananda in one of my travel vlogs, A Spiritual Trip to Varanasi.  That's on minute 03:30.  

Ashram life memories

It has been a very long time since I visited an ashram in India.  

Reading Radha's diary brought me back to those special moments that I have lived at different ashrams.  It helped me rediscover my spiritual yearning, faith, and devotion. It even brought some tears of joy and inspiration from time to time.

I have visited about fifteen ashrams in India, but nothing compares to her experience though.  She had a great purpose.

Also, when I read about her living conditions I was shocked. I don't think I could have survived at Swami Sivananda's ashram at that time.  I'm sure the conditions are much more comfortable today.     

A spiritual treasure

This book has become another one of those spiritual treasures to me, a life-changing book.  I would compare it not only to those books by Swami Satyananda Saraswati but also with my all-time favorite, Autobiography of a Yogi.  

I was actually surprised to discover a connection with the guru lineage of Paramahansa Yogananda in Radha's diary.

As a side note, I would like to share what I read once in one of Swami Satyananda's books. That was during my stay at Bihar School of Yoga, in Munger, back in 2012.

I have no idea what the title of the book was but I think it was a transcription of different discourses given by Swami Satyananda.  

Swami Satyananda said in that book that Swami Sivananda was initiated into Kriya Yoga by Babaji himself.  Later own Swami Sivananda initiated Swami Satyananda.    

When I read that I was like “Wow! Really?”  The connections are everywhere.   

Unbelievable but believable

One thing I love about Radha's book is that it is written by a westerner with an inquisitive and skeptical mind.  

Very often, when I have read or heard stories of gurus, like Swami Sivananda, they seem embellished with too much enthusiasm and devotion that I find them hard to believe. 

Her journal entries however are very down to earth.  She talks about her own doubts, questions, fears, and frustrations on the spiritual path.  

You can also notice that she didn't just believe in Swami Sivananda right away.  It was a gradual process, although she had already had a mystical experience that brought her to India especially to meet him.

I also like that the book includes many photos of the moments she describes in her diaries.  So when you read an incredible story and then see a photo you are like, “Wow, this really happened to her!”

I don't want to share any more details from the book.  I won't even include any quotes like I've done with other book suggestions.  It is so brief I think it is best you discover it by yourself.

If you ever decide to visit an ashram in Rishikesh, or anywhere around India, make sure you read this book first.  It will give you a lot of inspiration for your journey.  You can get it here from (affiliate link).  

Radha Diary of a Woman's Search

Don’t forget to also visit my top 10 Yoga Philosophy Books That Will Change Your Life for more book recommendations like this one.  I’m sure you’ll find books that you never heard about before.  

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