The Twenty Year Cycles

Swami Satyananda Saraswati

I believe that my life turns in twenty year cycles. I was born in 1923, joined my guru in 1943, started Bihar School of Yoga in 1963, and am again becoming a mendicant in 1983. From 1923 to 1943 I was a seeker; from 1943 to 1963, a disciple; from 1963 to 1983, an administrator-cum-teacher.

Before I went to Swami Sivananda in 1943, I had met many gurus, but when I found him, I found the light. I feel proud that I lived with him up to 1956. It was a fantastic time. I had read about Christ many times, but never believed that such a man could live in this world. Compassion, love and consideration for others are very difficult qualities to find, but in Swami Sivananda I found such a man.

He had no attachments, yet he loved everybody. He was large-hearted, yet disciplined and his life was a constant sacrifice. Anyone coming to him for anything, received. He was very powerful. Thousands came to him for relief from sickness. He healed millions, yet never proclaimed it. At the time of his death, his disciples asked him, 'What is your message to humanity?' He did not speak, but took out a pen and wrote this final message to mankind: 'God prays with you. Everything else is unimportant'

In this short period, it is not possible for me to tell you all about him and anyway, I do not like to talk a lot about my guru. Well, I love him; that is my business, not yours. You must find your own guru and have the same feelings for him. On the morning of 19th March 1956, he called me to his kutir and gave me a mission. I had to go into the wide world. At the time he said to me, 'In 1923 you were born; in 1943 you came to me; in 1963 you will start working yourself; in 1983 your institutional work will come to a close, and after that you will be on the cosmic level.' So, I am working according to his instructions.

Often, since Swami Sivananda's disembodiment I have clearly felt his presence. I have distinctly heard his voice: but even today I do not know how to contact him. Even if I want to, I cannot. But when the experience comes, it is very clear, pleasant, calm and quiet. It comes to me when I want to kick everything I have created, whenever I want to close something, I do not like ashrams. Basically I have always believed a swami should live a different kind of life, but I am not able to do it. I must go on, whether I like it or not.

The last time I felt his presence was in November 1982 when I was on the seashore in Puerto Rico and feeling slightly dull and depressed because of the weather. He said to me, 'You are now free from your ashram life', and thereby released me. About ten swamis from America, Colombia and Europe were with me at the time, including Swami Niranjan. I called him over and said, 'Now my plan is clear. I am not going to work any more with the administrative side of Bihar School of Yoga or any institution. You cancel your trips in America and return to Munger as soon as possible.'

I chose him when he came to me at the age of four and trained him without telling him that he would succeed me. Now he will look after the whole mission as far as he can. Whether he manages it well or not is up to him; it is not my business now. I belong to yoga, not the Bihar School of Yoga. An institution is a means not an end in itself.

In the beginning the movement is the means and the philosophy the end, but later the institution becomes the end and the philosophy the means. That happens with all religions, all institutions. We live just to make the organisation or institution survive and I don't think I will be doing that now in this retirement. I am retiring from the institution that I created and worked for sincerely.

This means that I will have nothing to do with that institution as an institution; not that I am against it or that there have been any difficulties, but now I will not confine myself to any institution. A sannyasin should be beyond institutions and religions. For him, all spiritual institutions are a part of his soul and every religion is equally precious, important and meaningful.

During the coming twenty years, I will work for the good of mankind and my sadhana. Personally I consider even yoga to be a means rather than an end. I have been thinking for many years that when people attain success, eminence and power, they forget the purpose. Instead of working for mankind, they work for themselves. We must work for yoga only as far as we can convince people that it can help them. We have to propagate a particular philosophy or science only to the extent that people can be benefited by it, but if we forget that the good of mankind in general is the goal, and not the teaching itself, then we have made a great mistake.

If you think about it deeply and properly, you will realise that institutions become stagnant. They become powerful with big administrators and officers amending the constitution, adding page after page, preparing dogmas for the survival of the institution, and then having links with political parties. This usually ends in complete chaos and it can happen to anyone. So, I thought that I would become free and talk to people about yoga. I realise that yoga has much more to give mankind than it has already given. Teaching yoga is necessary, but as it has been taught by and through various institutions, it has become very limited and unacceptable to many.

All spiritual seekers should have these same aspirations and ideals that I am expressing now. They should be free from any representational movement, organisation, clan, class or sect, and go on moving from place to place, so it cannot be said that they are working for an institution, for name, fame, money or anything. From November 1983 onwards I will move out of the ashram and spend the next twenty years as a mendicant, let us say a 'royal' mendicant.

I will spend some time going from place to place, visiting all the teerthas. I am not fond of crowds; I do not need a feast for my eyes, because I have realised that it is only a few people who become the backbone of a real civilisation. Where you gather the masses into tens of thousands, everything fails in the course of time. History has proved it. So, I will be going only to the teerthas, and how I spend the next twenty years of my life after that, the future will tell.