Prior to my coming to Swami Sivananda in 1943, I was already practising meditation and other spiritual things. I practised various sadhanas. I learned hypnotism, the modern system of psychotherapy, tantric practices in the burial-ground, and I also had some training with a tantric yogini for some time. Then I lived with an old man who was a master of tantra, but I was not satisfied.
I knew very well that family life was not for me. I always wanted to live alone and wander alone. I never wanted anybody with me to protect, help or sympathise with me, neither did I want a lot of money, property and friends. So, the only way left for me was to take sannyasa.
Even if I married a girl of the same temperament and state of mind, still it would not help me, because the moment you marry, you become a part of the great society and you are obliged to that society. In my early days, I thought society was a bundle of idiosyncrasies. Even now I hold the same opinion, more or less.
So I came to Rishikesh and met Swami Sivananda. The influence was spontaneous, I did not have to assess him. J did not have to decide whether to stay with him or not. In his presence, my analytical mind became stupefied. If your mind is shut, at that time you will not think. That was my first experience with my guru.
In the presence of guru, the intellect is silenced. Only the heart grows. You don't have to think through the power of reasoning. That is called surrender. Surrender does not mean prostrating flat before a man. Surrender means the surrender of ego and intellect, but you cannot do this on your own. If there is anything difficult in life, it is the surrender of ego.
I came from a very affluent background, a prominent family with social prestige. I had never experienced poverty. I knew nothing but comfort and luxury. In fact, I did not even know that man could survive on only vegetables. We had many villages with land under cultivation, thousands of sheep, and hundreds of ponies, but when I came to Rishikesh, I did not even have a mat to sleep on. I had nothing to eat, and there were a lot of mosquitoes, scorpions, serpents and monkeys. The Ganga water was very cold.
For many years in Rishikesh ashram, I suffered from diarrhoea, dysentery, hepatitis, paratyphoid, and many more illnesses. Still, I did not think to leave that place. I used to work very hard. That was the beginning period of the ashram. In order to get my food, I had to walk four to five kilometres in the hot sun every day, and come back, and there was only one meal a day. I did not take tea and could not even get it, but I never noticed this at all, I never thought about it. That was the second experience.
When you have love for someone, difficulties are not difficult. You become aware of the difficulties only when you have no-one to love. If you love your guru, or anybody, even if the whole world kicks you or criticises you, you don't realise it. The personality of Swami Sivananda was so compassionate and peaceful that the diseases and sicknesses which I suffered from, I never felt. When I look back on those years, I myself am surprised as to how that happened. Was I dreaming or was I under hypnosis? When you have deep and abiding love for someone, how can you be aware of the extraneous experiences? When you are in the warm embrace of a young boy or young girl, you do not even notice the passage of time. When you are under the grip of passion and violence, you do not think of anything else. So, when you are in the presence of your guru, how can you be aware of yourself? Like this, I lived with Swami Sivananda for a full period of twelve years, when he told me to go and work outside.
In my life, I have seen many people whom I call magicians. I have lived with great intellectuals. But I have never lived with such a man who had love, compassion, understanding, eternal forgiveness, not only in his heart and mind, but in his lifestyle. I distinctly remember three persons, not more. One was Mahatma Gandhi, another was Swami Sivananda and the third was Jesus Christ. If you lived with Swami Sivananda, you would think of Jesus Christ all the time.
When Jesus Christ said, 'God forgive them, for they know not what they do.' I thought it could not be; no man could do this. However, in the lives of Swami Sivananda and Mahatma Gandhi, this was practised. This was a very great experience in my life.
When Mahatma Gandhi was about to be assassinated, the department of police wanted to guard him physically with revolvers and pistols. Rumours were already afloat that attempts to kill him were going on. The government wanted to screen the people who came into his meetings. They wanted two police bodyguards by his right side, left side, front and back. Gandhiji refused. He said, 'The real protector is God and not the revolver. Man does not have to defend himself because he is a replica of the divine. If one has faith in God, he has to have faith in his own Self. If you do not have faith in yourself, it means you have no faith in God. Then, in order to live and survive, you need the worldly pleasures.' That was the type of man Gandhiji was, and of this same type was Swami Sivananda.
Whatever anyone asked of him, he gave in charity. Even if there was no money in the ashram, still he would take a loan from the market and give it. He was the most generous person I have ever seen. We earn money and amass wealth by exploiting others. Nobody can become wealthy without utter exploitation, but when the question of helping others comes, we do not want to because we are misers without a heart. Why can't we think that God gave us the wealth only so that we could give it to others?
Now, insofar as the spiritual life of Swami Sivananda was concerned, it was complete. The whole twenty four hours, he used to remain immersed in the thought of his mantra. When he was leaving the body, one lady who was by his side, asked him to give his last message. He took a pen and wrote, 'God is real, all else is unreal.' That was the philosophy of Swami Sivananda throughout his life, and nothing else.
I left Swami Sivananda in 1956 and travelled throughout the Indian subcontinent. In 1963, on the 13th July, I had an experience. That inner experience was more real than this one and at that time, the direction in my life became complete and after that, I started this yoga movement in 1964, on 19th January.
Frankly speaking, I don't like ashrams, I don't like to have disciples, and sometimes I get exhausted from all these surroundings. I want to give up the ashrams and go away into seclusion in a forest and just sit down there. I think, when I have left my parents and property, why to make another property? When I have left all my relatives, why to have these relatives? It is at that time that I always get a vision. I don't know if it lasts for long or for seconds. At that time, I am transported into another realm of consciousness. During that time, I am not Swami Satyananda, and I hear very clearly, 'No, keep on moving. Don't withdraw yourself.'
It has happened quite a few times like this since 1964, and I don't want that vision at all, because I know that it is the voice of Swami Sivananda. He has many outstanding disciples spread all over the world and they can do a lot of work, because they want to do it, because they have that ambition. They want to serve, they want to help humanity. I don't want that. I would just like to sleep, eat and sleep again, because I have renounced everything.
Renunciation has to be complete. Each and everything we are attached to, should be renounced. My house has become old and I can renounce it. My robe has become old, I can renounce it. But can I renounce the person I love, the object I love? That is very difficult. Most of the time we practise convenient renunciation. We renounce those objects which we dislike. But when you renounce what you like, that is real renunciation.
I know very well that, sooner or later, I am going to get out of this cycle. I wrote this short poem some time ago:
'With nothing on the body,
And with nothing in my hands,
Let me roam on the banks of the Ganga,
With the name of Shiva on my lips
And the thought of Devi and Durga in my mind.
Let me not even know that I exist,
And when I die, I will not know that I am dying.'
That is the type of life which Swami Sivananda infused in me and I have to follow him now.
Once he told me that we are all instruments; we are all mediums. We have to love and serve everybody without passion and attachment, without expectation. We have to love God without asking anything from Him. The purpose of our spiritual life has to be to have the vision of the divine. God has given us everything, we did not ask for it. Then why do we ask him for anything at all? He knows what we need; He knows what we deserve; He knows what we should not have. So, we must throw off the desires and just submit everything to the 'divine will'. Whether we are in pain or happiness, we are in his hands.
If you ever meet such a person as Swami Sivananda, then please let me know and, until you find such a one, keep on doing your sadhana. Unfortunately today, the world is devoid of such persons. I have been keenly and eagerly trying to discover if there is one such person around me. I find good speakers, I find very good people, but I don't find God-intoxicated people. So, try to seek and follow, renounce and surrender to God-intoxicated people.