Swami Sivananda Saraswati

In history there are examples of becoming and being the perfect human being. There are instances of people who have lived in this sensorial world but who have led a divine life. Such people have clearly indicated what the dimensions, aspects and subjects of the divine life are; how to define virtue, goodness, dharma; what is one's relationship with one's seniors, juniors, partners, friends, competitors, etc. They have defined structures, systems and techniques which can lead one to experience the divine life. They have emphasized purusharthas, efforts to attain certain qualities in life, to change the restricting aspects of one's nature.

This has also been the message given to humanity by our Paramguru, Swami Sivananda Saraswati. If you study Swami Sivananda's literature, you will find paragraphs where he writes, “You must cultivate positive qualities, transform the selfish nature, struggle, get up, fight, you will be victorious, you are immortal!” Such phrases have been used generously to provide an insight into different aspects of human dharma, human life, transformation and transcendence of human nature.

Swami Sivananda was a person who was free and transparent. You could see whatever you wished to see in him. If you wanted to see the child, you could see the child. If you wanted to see innocence, you could see innocence. If you wanted to see purity, simplicity or royalty, you could see that in him. If you wanted to see divinity, you could see divinity. He was both human and divine at the same time. Such was the expression of his life.

Swami Sivananda came from a highly learned and respected family who had left their mark on the land. He qualified as a medical doctor and practised abroad in Malaya. He was very generous, compassionate and charitable by nature. His thoughts were never different from his actions. There are times when we think in one way and act in another because that is our nature, but not Swami Sivananda. He acted the way he thought, in a very pure, innocent and simple manner. One day he had a spiritual call. He knew that he was being called from the Himalayas. In one of his poems he says, “The Himalayas are my father, the Ganga my mother, the Earth my bed, the sky my blanket.” He left his medical practice in Malaya, returned to India and travelled northwards, searching and waiting for direction.

Swami Sivananda was initiated by Swami Vishwananda Saraswati, who was a sannyasi of repute, free, open and knowledgeable, yet simple. One day Swami Sivananda was sitting under a tree waiting, with eyes closed. When he opened his eyes, he saw this radiant swami standing in front of him with bhasma on his forehead, clad in geru, holding the yoga danda and kamandalu. The swami asked, “What are you searching for?” Sivananda replied, “For my guru.” The swami beckoned, “Come, I will give you sannyasa.” The guru recognized the disciple. The disciple was ready for full commitment and did not think about the past, present or future. He did not think of personal security. Swami Vishwananda initiated Swami Sivananda into Dashnami sannyasa.

Swami Sivananda then went to Rishikesh and there he stayed, performing his sadhana, going for alms, writing and leading a very simple life. People began to recognize him, were attracted to him and became an integral part of his life. Those in contact with Swami Sivananda could never think in terms of 'I and him', 'me and you'. 'Me' was no different to 'you' and 'you' was no different to 'me'. In this way a close, intimate and beautiful relationship developed with everyone.

The foundations of the Divine Life Society were laid on the banks of the Ganga in Rishikesh. The disciples started to gather and the fellowship began to form. People came such as Swami Satyananda, Swami Chidananda, Swami Satchidananda, Swami Venkatesananda, Swami Jyotirmayananda, Swami Vishnudevananda, Swami Sivapremananda, Swami Nadbrahmananda, Mata Hridayananda and others. They are people of the same group who were together in the formative stages of Swami Sivananda's mission and who developed a strong bond of camaraderie. Many who became associated with Swami Sivananda later became luminaries in their own right. Under his keen observation these future jewels were scrubbed until the lustre appeared in them.

The message of Swami Sivananda was spread through his disciples and his writings. He was an avid writer of hundreds of books on yoga, vedanta and spiritual disciplines. He had phenomenal recall of things that he heard and saw, and he never forgot a face. He gave each one of his disciples a mission. They went to different continents and excelled in propagating the vedantic and yogic vision which had been the instruction of their guru.

Our Paramguru, Swami Sivananda, and our Guru, Swami Satyananda, were very close; they had a very special relationship. Swami Sivananda never questioned the acts and decisions of Swami Satyananda. Swami Sivananda had the deepest feelings for Swami Satyananda and vice versa. Even today, whenever Sri Swamiji is speaking about Swami Sivananda, he refers to him as “my Guruji”, with love, humility, happiness, joy and pride.

The love link which developed between the two has transcended time and object. The connection happens in space, somewhere in a dimension where time and object stand still. And today Swami Sivananda and Swami Satyananda have become one. In his life Sri Swamiji has undergone a rigorous process through which he has become Swami Sivananda in mind, thought, approach, behaviour, action, attitude and spirit.

This has been the outcome of Swami Satyananda, in his capacity as a disciple, following the divine life and guidelines of Swami Sivananda. It is a transcendental connection spanning the intellect, ego, emotions, personality and the entire nature, as if the images of Swami Sivananda and Swami Satyananda have fused and become one.

Swami Satyananda Saraswati

Swami Sivananda and Swami Satyananda were two bodies with one soul: one body was the guru, the other the disciple; one the jnani, the other the sevak and bhakta. In the guru and disciple relationship one may live at great distance from the other, but they are united in heart and spirit, in inspiration and faith. Sri Swamiji has often said, “I hear the command of Swami Sivananda.” And he hears the commands; there is no ambiguity or uncertainty. At the time of surrender and the placing of complete trust in each other, the only prayer on the disciple's lips is, “Your indications and your support are enough. I seek nothing more than this.”

When Swami Satyananda left his home at the age of nineteen in search of his guru, he went to many parts of India before finally finding Swami Sivananda. When he met Swami Sivananda, the guru, recognizing his future disciple, instructed him, “Work hard and the light will shine from you. You do not have to go towards the light, it will shine from within you.” This was the blessing Sri Swamiji received from Swami Sivananda during their first meeting. Sri Swamiji accepted this mandate and worked along with the other swamis to build the ashram, the library, hospital and printing press, performing secretarial work, accounting, cleaning, kitchen and other ashram duties. Seeing the ability which Sri Swamiji honed to its optimum capacity, Swami Sivananda wrote about him, “He can single-handedly do the work of four people combined in a single day. Despite all this practical skill, he is detached from karmas like Nachiketa.”

Of course Sri Swamiji had many adventures in his life with his guru. The guru is ultimately the winner and the outcome, the victory, is that the disciple becomes like the guru.

One day Swami Sivananda called Swami Satyananda and said, “I will give you sannyasa. Afterwards go out into the world, don't stay here. Go and shine in the world.” He transmitted to him the secrets of yoga, kriya, tantra, kundalini, vedanta and the mysteries of spiritual life. Then he gave Sri Swamiji Rs 108 and said, “Now you are a free bird. Go and teach the world how to fly, to understand how one can live a divine life in which there is practicality, understanding of good and bad, absence of hypocrisy and knowledge of dharma; in which there is expression of harmonious actions, expression of balanced bhakti, and an application of all that knowledge in day-to-day situations.”

After leaving his guru's ashram, Sri Swamiji walked the length and breadth of India for nine years as a parivrajaka sannyasin. He saw that people needed to overcome their grief, sickness and suffering. Remembering the mandate Swami Sivananda had given him to propagate yoga, he took the blessings of his ishta devata, the Mrityunjaya Mahadeva, in Trayambakeshwar, and established the Bihar School of Yoga in Munger, Bihar. But he never made the Bihar School of Yoga or the propagation of yoga his sole aim in life; rather it was a debt to his guru which he had to fulfil.

Sri Swamiji was never attached to any of the institutions which he founded in the later course of his life; rather they became the means to propagate and fulfil the mandate of his guru. He taught and lived for yoga for as long as he needed to work through his karmas, nature and duties. There should be firmness in one's life, not arrogance. There has to be steadiness, not a flirtatious nature. There has to be understanding, not an accumulation of intellectual concepts. Whatever one knows and realizes cannot remain only as a dogma, belief, thought or aspiration; rather it has to become a part of one's life, it has to become a reality. That is fulfilment in the life of a true disciple.

One day Sri Swamiji knew that the time had come when he had fulfilled his debt to guru. He was free. He said, “My guru liberated me from himself by giving me a purpose and a mission in life. I have worked to achieve that purpose. Now a new journey has to begin.” Sri Swamiji then left everything that he had created and now lives as a free sannyasin, not bound by the laws of men, but liberated, as one who is master and in command of himself.

He lives this life today and we can see the expression of this freedom in the various gatherings that we have had in his presence. Whether it be pure darshan, or events like Sat Chandi Maha Yajna, Ram Naam Aradhana and Sita Kalyanam, or an informal satsang with him, he radiates the same all-encompassing energy.

In Sri Swamiji's life we have seen total acceptance of his guru as an intimate, loving and ruling part of himself, and acceptance of the mission. The mission represents the means to overcome the pending karma. Once that is released, one is able to live harmoniously with the expression of freedom. Freedom is then uplifting, transformative and transcendental; it is not rashness or desiring one's independence.

Sri Swamiji is the sage of modern times as he has the ability to accept change and the strength to build on transformation and nurture it.