Durga Prasad Upadhyaya (Spiritual Name: Shri. Shiva Shankara) was born into a Hindu Brahmin family at Jagannatha puri (Odisha) on the east coast of India on December 14, 1975. He was raised by his spiritual masters in the ancient legendary cave monasteries and ashrams of the great Yogis where countless generations of Yogis have been trained and initiated into the deepest mysteries of the sacred science of Veda and Yoga.
Shivaji was known from an early age as a foremost exponent and expert of these traditions: their texts and practices. He was a child prodigy with a flair for recitation of Mantras for a prolonged time-span, the practice of Yogic techniques, meditating for hours and studying the ancient Holy Scriptures with great devotion and passion.
After his school education, Shivaji dedicated his whole life to following the journey within by walking on the well-trodden ancient path of Yogic revolution shown by the Himalayan Masters, Sages, Great Yogis and Vedic Scholars. At the age of 13, crossing all familial and social boundaries and limitations, he left his home to attain spiritual enlightenment.
Founding Years of Gaining Wisdom:
The first stepping stone in this journey was in 1989 when he enrolled himself into the ancient Vedic Gurukula tradition of Jagadguru Adishankaracharya, the biggest Vedic University in the world. This is named ‘Maharshi Veda Vigyan Vishwa Vidyapeeth’, Noida, Ghaziabad, India, founded by H.H. Maharshi Mahesh Yogi.
He began to live an ascetic Brahmachari (celibate) life by maintaining Gurukula disciplines and Yogic principles while studying Veda (Vedic Rituals, Manta chants, Sanskrit literature, transcendental meditation and Yoga) in the Maharshi Ashram. He gained proficiency in performing Pujas, Yajnyas, Abhisheka and various other Vedic rituals and ceremonies. Later went on to share these traditions with the wider society outside of the ashram, in order to serve and benefit the welfare of humankind irrespective of cast, creed, gender, status or nationality.
After successfully completing a three-year course in Vedic Science and Meditation (T.M) for which he achieved first rank, Shivaji was selected to visit the West to spread the message of Sanatana Vaidika Dharma.
In 1993, Shivaji met his Sadguru, Swami Chidananda Saraswati (the closest and senior most disciple of Swami Sivananda Saraswati, and the former president of ‘The Divine Life Society’, founded by Swami Sivananda, Rishikesh, Uttarakhand. Himalaya). He was initiated into the Hindu Vedic religious order with the spiritual name Brahmachari Shiva Shankar Chaitanya by Swamiji.
Swamiji led Shivaji through the Bhakti marga for fulfilment on his spiritual journey. As a Sivananda disciple, he was trained under Sivananda’s ideal teachings (serve, love, meditate and realize) and also learnt from world-renowned Yoga experts such as Swami Adhyatmananda, Swami Yogaswarupananda, Swami Vishwarupananda and Rudradev
Gauda. He also attended a short-term course on Yoga at the Sivananda Dhanwantari Ashram founded by Swami Vishnudevananda, Trivendrum, Nayyar Dum, Kerala.
Shivaji visited towns, villages and Sivananda branches throughout India to spread the divine message of Swami Sivananda through various spiritual activities (teaching the people Yoga, guiding the youth through inspiring discourse and rendering selfless service to mankind). By following the advice of his Sadguru, he moved to the Holy Kailas Ashram in Rishikesh, to study the classical philosophies and the Sanskrit scriptures of the Indian Vedic tradition in the monastic order of Maharshi Veda Vyasa and Adishankaracharya, (Bhagavad Gita, Vedanta, Upanishads, Samkhya, Yoga Sutra, Smriti and so on).
Shivaji was inspired to master the technique of Hatha Yoga which he successfully accomplished through the teachings of many experts. He also joined the Iyengar Institute, Pune, Maharashtra, from 1997 onwards to deepen his experience of Yoga (Asanas, Pranayama and Yoga Therapy). To broaden his knowledge in the traditional lineage, he attended a four-month teacher training course at the Bihar School of Yoga, Munger, Bihar (founded by Swami Satyananda Saraswati) in 1999 and trained under the guidance of Swami Niranjanananda Saraswati.
To intensify his spiritual practice and to advance further in the art of meditation, Shivaji joined the Kriya-Yoga course taught by Paramahansa Yogananda (the author of Autobiography of a Yogi) at Yogoda Satsang Society, Ranchi, Bihar.
The inner thirst for seeking the truth took Shivaji to the Himalayas to meet the most revered Sages and Yogis. By spending an extended period of time as a solitary and ascetic monk in the company of the mysterious Himalayan Yogis, he received divine inspirations and heart – rending spiritual experiences with their grace.
Shivaji subsequently met internationally renowned Yoga and meditation expert and great Vedic Scholar; the late Swami Veda Bharati, (a direct disciple of Swami Rama and successor of Swami Rama’s mission, who served as Spiritual Director of Swami Rama’s Ashram). Swami Veda initiated Shivaji into the Himalayan tradition. The Himalayan tradition is distinguished as the first meditative tradition: the most comprehensive, integral and all-inclusive which has given birth to the major traditions of the world. It still continues to enrich them all and does not require adherence to a belief system, but experientially helps to verify metaphysical reality, through an unbroken lineage ensured through transmission of Shakti. It is also known as Mantra-based meditative tradition. Shivaji also accomplished teacher-training courses at SVYASA (Swami Vivekananda Yoga Anusandhana Samsthana), Bangalore and at Kaivalya Dham Yoga Institute, Lonavla, Maharashtra.
From time to time Shivaji visited different spiritual organisations, ashrams, Yoga institutes and lived with experienced Yogis to acquire more knowledge and to deepen his level of experience. Shivaji has been continuously blessed and inspired by divine personalities: Mata Amritanandamayi Devi, Swami Ganapathi Sachchidananda, Sri Sathya Sai Baba, Anandmurti Gurumaa, Baba Sarvadasji Maharaj, Swami Govindananda Giri, and Swami Veda Bharati, just to name a few.
Bestowing education is no doubt an art. The teacher has to understand the level of the student in order to impart it. From his early teaching phases, Shivaji believed in building up the competence level of his students and so therefore chooses the subjects that he teaches according to the individual needs, interests, level of experience, capacity and intensity of his students.
Shivaji is distinctly recognised in the fields of Raja Yoga (Ashtanga – eight limbs), Mantra Yoga (16 limbs), Laya Yoga (9 limbs), Hatha Yoga (4 limbs), Kundalini Yoga, Tantra and Kriya Yoga. His basic curriculum includes the study of Hatha Yoga, Raja Yoga, Mantra Yoga, Bhakti Yoga and Laya Yoga. Other aspects of Yoga are also included, keeping the Holy Vedic scriptures and Yogic texts in perspective.
Shivaji has taught extensively on many teacher-training courses, retreats, workshops and at Yoga festivals throughout India, in various Yoga schools and organisations in several countries throughout Europe, UK, Thailand, Singapore, Russia, China and Japan. He also actively runs various trainings in Rishikesh and in southern India in winter.
Closing Lines to Commence a New Chapter
After gaining an in-depth knowledge in the fields of Yoga and the Vedic realm with ceaseless commitment for the past two decades, Shivaji has taken on the incredible task of imparting this pure, ancient and priceless knowledge for the wellbeing of the common man. One is assured that his work in the world will continue to yield the fruits of success for years to come. Om Shanti