Siva’s Experience

Compiled by Swami Vigyanchaitanya Saraswati

Swami Sivananda has often been described as walking and talking divinity. It is difficult for an ordinary person to describe the high state of a self-realized saint. The saint’s own words are a much better indication of that reality. We give below some gleanings from Swami Sivananda’s autobiography and sutras from Nirvanopanishad. The sutras give the qualities of a self-realized person and Swami Sivananda’s description frequently brings these sutras to life.

Soham. I am That.

Anandamala. I wear a garland of bliss.

Amrita kallola nadi. My heart is the river of immortal waves.

I have seen God in my own Self. I have negated name and form, and what remains is Existence-Knowledge-Bliss Absolute and nothing else. I behold God everywhere. There is no veil. I am One. There is no duality. I rest in my own Self. My bliss is beyond description. The world of dreams has gone. I alone exist.

Ankusha margah. Discipline is the path.

I do about five or six items of sadhana all the 24 hours: japa, meditation, exercises including asana and pranayama, worship, study, writing work and service to the world, help to mahatmas, the sick and the poor. Thus I charge my mind with divine consciousness at all times. I nicely combine rest and relaxation with deep breathing exercises. I have thus spent my 35 years of life at Rishikesh and derived wonderful fresh spiritual energy and strength in abundance. I maintain a high standard of health and enjoy peace and bliss at every moment. I just come out of my kutir for one hour in the morning and manage all the affairs of the ashram and give work to those who live in the ashram and think of others who live at distant places. Yet I feel I can work for another ten hours every day. The secret is my systematic sadhana and the grace of the Lord.

Mano nirodhini kantha. Mental restraint is the clothing.

Satya siddha yoga matha. The self-realized live as if in matha (monastery) where there is total discipline and spontaneous flowering of the yamas and niyamas.

I am by nature serious. Even today I am very serious in my sadhana, study and service. Nothing can disturb me from my concentration and peace. I can remain blissful and attend to my work steadily under all circumstances. Sometimes to elevate the depressed, to cheer up the dull, I appear to be humorous. I may joke and play with my students and visitors and make them laugh like children. But behind every joke, fun and humour, there is a purpose. I have a limit for everything. Every action or word has a definite purpose in the evolution of the people around me. Through fun and humour, through presentation of biscuits, fruits and clothes, I find out the taste, temperament and weakness of the students and teach them a way to get over their difficulties and defects.

I am dead against gossip, giggling and guffaw. I ask my students to avoid loose talk and to live alone with introspection or work. When they go out to bathe in the Ganga or for meals or for a walk in the evening, I ask them to go alone and to do japa.

I am economical. I do not spend much on my personal needs. I have lived for years a hard life by depending on the kshetra food. I am very happy when I lead a rough and hard life. Simple living helps in high thinking and getting mastery over mind and body. Even today, I love the alms I get from the kshetra and use torn clothes. I always hammer the mind with the words: Kaupeenavantah khalu bhagyavantah. “Blessed are the dispassionate.” I live in a rented building by the side of the holy Ganga, even though there are many palatial buildings in the ashram with all comforts and conveniences. There is a special joy in simple living. But I do not suffer in the name of tapas. When there is need for certain items for the improvement of the ashram or any individual’s evolution, I insist on the needful being done immediately.

Parechchhacharanam. To fulfil others’ needs is my desire.

At every step I think of the welfare of the world and the evolution of the aspirants. When devotees give me valuable items and sweets with great devotion, I accept them with great love and affection. I use them to please the donors or give them away at once to deserving people. When I serve and help others, I want the best quality in everything. When I get a superior fountain pen, coat, a shawl or an easy chair, immediately I want to give similar items to all in the ashram. I await a chance to purchase the items. I attend to the needs of all the inmates of the ashram one by one.

When I get sweets or fruits, I do not eat anything secretly in my kutir. I carry the bundle to the Satsang Hall and distribute them to the people assembled there and then take a small portion at the end as prasad. Even with my diabetes trouble, sometimes I take a lot of sweets brought by devotees with so much of devotion, love and affection. I am not affected at all.

Karunaiva kelih. Compassion is my joy.

In the same manner, I carefully attend on the visitors also. They cannot change their habits in a day at the ashram. That may affect their health, and they cannot do any kind of sadhana if they make a sudden, drastic change in their food, dress and relaxation. I do not, therefore, insist on strict rules and restrictions regarding diet for anyone. Even if there is some bad habit like that of tea, coffee and smoking, I allow them to continue their ways for some time. When they attain mental purity and will power, all negative habits drop by themselves. The mysterious influence of the ashram atmos-phere has its own effect also. This sort of freedom enables even a dull type of aspirant to feel quite at home in the ashram and to plunge himself in dynamic work and develop his hidden faculties. I permit people to have their own ways and to work in any field suitable to their taste and inclination for some time, and create in them a natural taste for the right line of work and sadhana. I do not compel anyone.

A letter I wrote in 1938 to one of my students will explain the method of my work and my consideration for the welfare and temperamental preferences of my students:

“You are in need of plenty of rest. You will have it as soon as the present work is finished. You need not work hard. There is no hurry. Take your own time. Do not worry unnecessarily about anything. I will take all responsibilities, mistakes, on my head. You need not worry anything about the activities of the Divine Life Society. Whatever little help you can do, you may do in future, if you want. You have done enough now. Be cheerful and happy.”

Para apavada muktaha jivanmuktaha.

He is liberated in life who is free from speaking ill of others.

Viyogopadesha. The instruction is non-attachment.

I don’t believe in scandal-mongering. Pardon even the worst sinner. There is hope for everybody to improve and progress in the spiritual path. I want my disciples to be strong, bold and cheerful. I want them to carry on dynamically the mission of the Lord. I want my disciples to mind their own business and not to waste their energy and time in cavilling at others. I want them to have a broad vision, to acquire balance of mind and cultivate the spirit of tolerance and forgiveness. My letters attest this attitude:

“Forget the past. It is not a noble act for a sannyasin. Sannyasa is magnanimity. You should try to love all, even the worst man who wants to destroy you. That is sannyasa. A sannyasin is one who feels that he has no body. We should live amidst people who want to destroy us, amidst unfavourable surroundings and then work and meditate. Then only can we grow. Then only can you have the unruffled mind of a sage. For this you must have tremendous inner spiritual strength and faith through sadhana.”