Swami Shankarnanda founded Divine Life Church in 1974 following his training with his teacher, Swami Premananda. Swami Premananda was the direct disciple of Paramahansa Yogananda, author of Autobiography Of A Yogi. Swami Shankarananda left the body on November 24, 2014. There is no way to describe the love, pure wisdom, and selfless service that he shared in his devotion to truth. Learn more about our lineage of teachers.
The following message from Swami Shankarananda was written on November 18, 2014 and at his request was read at the Installation Celebration of Sri Swami Nityananda Giri on June 21, 2015:
Oh, pure bright light, Swami Nityananda, who knows her eternality, I rejoice and give thanks that to the very last you will be an ever greater light blazing on the horizon of pure spirituality. You have come into my life, as you have into the lives of many others, to teach that we are all sisters and brothers, and beyond that, one in the oneness that is universal and beyond limitation.
I have the joy of seeing with the inner eye that your light will truly shine and carry along with it so many who will come to you and where you will serve your most blessed Lord in and through all. Help people know, “Perhaps I'm only a little flame, but I will do my best to shine as brightly as I can by glorifying the one who is the manifester of all of itself as everyone and everything.”
I know you will carry forth nobly, and every time there seems to be a dip in spiritual feeling of bliss, in truth it is not so. It is but another opening for drinking a greater draught of sweet liberty and joy and new insights, not to adorn a place of worship but to inspire all who come and pass your way with what is possible day by day.
With profound blessings and love of Soul for all,
Announcement of Swami Shankarananda's Transition
To our dear spiritual brothers and sisters, beloved members of our eternal spiritual family and Swami Shankarananda's spiritual family:
We rejoice at Swami's immortality of soul, and share with you that at 10:40 am Monday, November 24th, he left the body peacefully, with total stillness and purity of heart and consciousness. Every breath of his process, he remained totally intact, completely himself, outrageously good-humored, joyful and loving, an expression of pure devotion. And now that he has left the body, he is even more totally intact, completely himself, outrageously good-humored, joyful and loving, an expression of pure devotion. He is so purely with us and within us.
As we go within, in meditation and prayer, we will come into contact with his energy, his essence, which he has given us, and which carries us forth, now and always. As we share ourselves in loving service, in kindness, compassion, wisdom, and steady light, we live the truth of his teachings. We are invited now, more than ever, to open ourselves, to open our hearts, to receive divine grace, which is ever with us. Our teacher's beauty and purity and perfection are what we are. We are one with our spiritual ideal, expressed so infinitely through our teacher. Divine blessings abound, today and always.
Please reach out to one another to share support and love. If you are in need of extra prayers and support, please email DivineLifeChurch@gmail.com Please include your phone number in the email if you would like a call. Someone will respond to your message within 24 hours. The peace of God, Christ, and gurus is with you, today and always.
Swami drafted an obituary 11/9/14, after giving his last service. Here is his own summation of his life.
Achariya Peter, also known as Swami Shankarananda and born 7/21/35, renounced the body 11/24/14. He served as founding preceptor, minister, and spiritual leader of Divine Life Church since 1976. Prior to that he served as Assistant Minister at his guru's church, the Golden Lotus Temple, before moving to Baltimore. He was active in the Masonic Order for many years, in the Scottish Rite Masons, first in the Blue Lodge where he became master of the lodge. He later joined the Scottish Rite bodies, where he was active as a ritualist. As a 32nd Degree Mason, he was active as a ritualist and was recognized as Knight Columbus of the Court of Honor. He has left behind nine books and other publications, including two CD series and many forthcoming titles, such as The Yoga of the Lord's Prayer.
He was a teacher of yoga philosophy and meditation. As a Vedantist, he brought out the universality and mysticism behind all religious traditions. His focus was on promoting the cultivation of Self-realization and unconditional love in action through all expressions of life and service. He leaves behind the most loving, supportive spiritual family. Through the years, he initiated many into Kriya Yoga. His work will be carried on by his appointed successor, Swami Nityananda, who will carry on nobly as spiritual leader and minister of the Divine Life Church in all its functions. The church is truly blessed with an extraordinary spiritual leader and will continue to grow and flourish under her great commitment, wisdom, and Self-realization, and her extraordinary sense of humor and love. Everyone's continuing participation and commitment to the Church and its spiritual ideals will be testimonial that the spiritual community realizes they are the Church. Everyone is important in its continuation.
He was highly educated in the United States and Germany. He received his bachelor's degree in the United States at Middlebury in Vermont and a master's degree from Middlebury in Germany, in a program at the University of Mainz, for which he was awarded a scholarship equivalent to the Fulbright. While completing his master's thesis in Germany, he was awarded a teaching fellowship for the Ph.D. program at George Washington University. Further studies included joining the Swami Order in Washington, D.C., and being ordained as a minister by his guru, Swami Premananda. Years later, he was consecrated by his guru as Swami Shankarananda. His spiritual ideal lives on.
Our beloved teacher did not focus on the past. He lived (and continues to live!) totally in the present, in bliss, in joy, in blessing. Nonetheless, he did mention biographical details to devotees over the years, enabling us to share the following.
Swami was born in Berlin, and lived near there for the first five years of life, in a house that had been in his family for as long as four to five hundred years. His parents did not align with Hitler, so when he was five and for his own safety, his parents sent him to a boarding school in southern Germany. Due to their work for freedom and justice, it is presumed that his birth parents were killed by the Nazis. He never saw them again. Swami lived at the boarding school until about age 11, when he was adopted by German-American parents in Charleston, South Carolina, through a Red Cross program. Swami said that throughout all of these years, he always felt totally loved and provided for, taken care of, by divine love expressing itself through his parents, everyone at the boarding school, and his adoptive parents.
Even as young as the age of ten, he desired with his entire being to meditate. He felt a restless yearning to know God totally. As a teenager, he came across a picture of Ramakrishna in divine ecstasy, and tears of recognition flooded Swami's eyes. That was what he wanted—total immersion in the Infinite. When he was in high school, he was in the public library when a book literally fell off the shelf and hit his foot. Yogananda's Autobiography of a Yogi had entered his life. He read the book, and about a year later, was drawn by inner recognition to meet his guru, Swami Premananda, who had been Yogananda's student and who was pictured with Yogananda in Autobiography of a Yogi.
While he was in his first year of study at Middlebury, Swami visited Washington and met his teacher. By the time he was a second-year student in college, Swami was ready to renounce the world, in order to become a Brahmachari. But his teacher told him to continue his college and university studies, saying that the skills he learned in school would allow him to be of greater service later. So Swami graduated with a bachelor's degree from Middlebury. He then went on to a master's program run by Middlebury in Germany at the University of Mainz, and obtained his master's degree there, prior to enrolling in doctoral studies at George Washington University. He completed all Ph.D. coursework and passed his Ph.D. exams. The only thing remaining was the dissertation. But at that point, the divine called him so clearly and totally that he left his doctoral studies to serve full-time at his guru's church. His guru asked him, "What will you do? How will you live?" And Swami answered, instantly, without a moment's hesitation, "God will provide."
In time, God provided a church in Baltimore. When Swami walked onto the grounds of what would become Divine Life Church, tears streamed down his eyes. He knew he was home. The grounds were already sacred, having been blessed by Native Americans as a holy site. Swami Premananda added his blessing when Swami inaugurated Divine Life Church.
Divine Life Church was further blessed by Swami's years of tireless, joyful service. His light was and is so bright, so blazing, so all-encompassing, that it is hard to believe he could expand in the light. And yet, every moment of his life, every breath—and even now—he continues to share even more shining and glowing light. Always he was devoted totally to serving God with all his heart, all his strength, all his mind. He lived in pure consciousness, pure love, pure dedication, pure service.
In 1994, Swami created the Universal Swami Order, which continues the Ancient Swami Order and expands it to include women as well as men, married as well as unmarried devotees. The Universal Swami Order allows us to commit to the ideals of Vedanta, spiritual oneness, unconditional love and service, and to help carry the Church forward. Swami served the divine joyfully and enthusiastically, 24/7, until his very last breath, and continues to spread divine light and uplift us even now.
He loved the yogic teachings that guide us to see the divine everywhere, in everyone, and everything. And he lived that ideal. Always his mission was to distill the truth so that it reached hearts, so that it was divine nectar we could all partake of. Always he guided us to put the truth into practice, to love with our entire beings, to share of ourselves, to be of service.
His sense of humor continues even now, when he is at play in the fields of the Lord. If you let yourself enter the Stillness, you can feel Swami's laughter and smile in your heart. Shortly before he passed, he said, "When you develop a sense of humor, you are in the court of the Beloved." And as he was in the process of passing, in total peace and bliss, total love and joy and delight and gratitude, he said, "Enjoy everything."
He lived that truth, as he lived all other truths he loved. He drew his last breath with a smile on his face, so filled with the sweetness and presence of Love and Bliss that he was already one with the Infinite. For him, letting go of the body was an act of divine ease and grace. Because he was already one with the Infinite, there was and is nowhere for him to go! He is already everywhere. He is ever-present with us and within us.
He is the author of beloved books, including Creating a Life You Love: 1001 Intentions, Spiritual Perfection, and forthcoming books on The Yoga of the Lord's Prayer and on Psalm 91, Psalm of Divine Protection. His CDs on Kriya Yoga and the Prayer of St. Francis are spiritual treasures. Also on its way is a book about Swami by Srimati Shanti Mataji, a blessed story of the guru-disciple relationship that tells the story of Swami as she knew him. That book will be edited and forthcoming as soon as divine grace makes it possible.
Message from Swami read at church November 23, 2014
To my dear brothers and sisters on the spiritual path, beloved ones, eternal spiritual family to one another and to me:
Nityananda, the Swami of Divine Life Church, and spiritual head of our Universal Swami Order, will always be eager to serve you daily divine bread and libation to quench your thirst. You are blessed that she is with you.
The time comes when we receive our marching orders, and when that happens your heart will rejoice and hear the blessed word of the Beloved One. That voice declares, with total assurance and love, We are waiting for you, nay, we have prepared a place for you, that where we are in the light, you will be with us beside. We know what you could only know by realizing the truth. There is no separation if oneness you choose. And even if you choose not oneness, to realize at this time, rest assured, you cannot alter that which is truth, what is divine. You are destined to be a star in the firmament of luminaries to add to their light.
For each one of you, that is your purpose; Nityananda will help you to see with inner sight. You may think of your own journey, "Oh, I am no one special, I am not the light." And if you are not, what is there of you to pass along, to make life glow, to help a weeping heart heal a feeling of loss, to heal fear of not being enough, to set even one foot into heaven, metaphorically speaking? Be the light you are. You are perfect as you are.
What is the problem? Just that. One that doesn't exist. When you find that to be so, you once again discover the fulfillment of bliss.
With forever love and eternal blessings of soul, Swami
Message from Swami read at church on November 16, 2014
It is my heartfelt desire to share with you this extraordinary adventure, this great gift, that I have been accorded by the Source of all living. I am participating with total clarity in this stage of the healing journey. It is an extraordinary blessing, allowing me to celebrate the most meaning and powerful recognitions. I am assisted inwardly in the peaceful process of release, the most auspicious release. It is a process of divine acceleration, the most important letting go. It involves passing into the divine surrender to support the letting go of all limitations. Passing into the greater light is the passage of the soul's liberation. Do not weep for that which is God's gift to each of us. Let this be the acknowledgement that there is no greater gift than to acknowledge infinite grace, the release into what can strengthen us and deliver us from attachment, into true freedom. Slipping quietly and thoughtfully into the greater light is all peace, freedom, and celebration, when one remembers that the light is always with us, for the light is us. The light supports us and will never leave us.
May we all come to realize the expansion of ever greater light and the fulfillment of our own destiny. Let us rejoice beyond human intellect, beyond all categories of time and space, that we are all being jettisoned in the resplendent brilliant light of perfection. Let us remember that life is forever, beyond all limitations, and that we are all being transferred into the light of wholeness, where the power of divine love transforms us into that which is beyond all limitations. Oh, what joy! to experience the love that has no limits and brings freedom of such magnitude that the light shines ever more brightly within us and brings total freedom. Let us remember that the release beyond form is the true release and freedom.
We have a strong spiritual community, and the church will continue because of the beauty of the ideal. Everything is in place. Nitya will be in charge of the full ministry of the Divine Life Church and all its functions. She will be in charge of all aspects of the church, and will carry on honorably and wisely, nobly, spiritually, and with highest integrity. This decision is final. She will be able to demonstrate most fully the movement forward for our spiritual community. Divine grace is ensuring that there is continuity. Thanks to divine grace, the guru-disciple lineage will continue through her. As Swami Nityananda, she is fully authorized to initiate into Kriya Yoga. Swami Nityananda is the only one in the Divine Life Church and the Universal Swami Order who is authorized to initiate into Kriya and she is the only one who is authorized to give Hong Swa and Aum.
Swami's profound gratitude is with you all for all the support you have given every step of the way. Swami asks us especially to participate in Karma Yoga and to attend services wholeheartedly and faithfully. He says, "It's your church," and that we help the church carry forward by the ways we step forward to share our gifts, our talents, our presence, our heart, our love, our courage. He asks us to work together and to support the church and each other in all ways. He says to each one of us, "It's your work now to help carry the church forward, with faith, with love, with open hearts, with courage, with dedication, working always with one another to support each other." Swami says you will always support him by doing Karma Yoga and by allowing grace to unfold through you. He says to each one of us, "You have everything you need within you and within your community to move forward."
Divine grace abounds in every time and every place, most particularly in our teacher and in the precious ways we now step forward in pure love to stand with and for him and one another, with and for the light, with and for pure love and truth, healing and gladness. We are infinitely grateful for our teacher and for the divine grace present in every member of our beautiful community. Aum Shanti Shanti Shanti, Amen.
Appointment of Successor
I, Swami Shankarananda Giri, as senior Swami of the Universal Swami Order of Absolute Oneness, presiding Minister of Divine Life Church of Absolute Oneness, Dharmapriti of the Board of Ministers of the Order, serving to continue the Guru-disciple lineage, hereby appoint Srimati Nitya as my successor. After I renounce the body, she will be known as Swami Nityananda, a title I have conferred upon her in consecrating her as a Swami. She will serve as senior Swami of the Universal Swami Order of Absolute Oneness, presiding Minister of Divine Life Church of Absolute Oneness, Dharmapriti of the Board of Ministers of the Order, and will serve to continue the Guru-disciple lineage. As spiritual leader, in accordance with the powers and responsibilities set forth in the Constitution of the Universal Swami Order, I appoint her as the next spiritual leader.
In the name of God, Christ, Gurus, and in accordance of the divine law of spiritual continuity and the all-loving will of the Supreme Being, I hereby acknowledge Srimati Nitya as the highly qualified successor and spiritual leader of the Divine Life Church of Absolute Oneness and all other aforementioned titles attributed to me during my ministry, so that when my earthly sojourn is concluded my testimonial will be official and honored.
Aum shanti shanti shanti