Golden Jubilee 1973

From Mere Aradhya by Swami Dharmashakti Saraswati

The dates for the Golden Jubilee had finally been decided – 9 to 15 October 1973. Swami Sivananda had been a doctor in Malaysia. In 1923 he left his lucrative profession and, returning to India, he finally arrived in Rishikesh. In May 1923 he received inspiration and initiation from a divine medium. It is a happy coincidence that on 25 December 1973, his dedicated disciple and the founder of the International Yoga Fellowship Movement and the Bihar School of Yoga, Swami Satyananda Saraswati, will be stepping into the fiftieth year of his life. Thus, the Golden Jubilee Convention will be celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of the sannyasa of the guru as well as the birth of the disciple. The printing and posting of forms, pamphlets and cards started on a war footing.

Delegates for the convention began arriving in Munger at the beginning of October. By 8 October, more than ten thousand devotees, disciples and delegates had already arrived and more were on their way. Swami Shantananda, the Jagadguru of Jyotirmath, was the chief guest of the convention. Maharshi Mehidas, the tantric scholar Sri Surat Chakravarti, Gayatri Devi, Swami Chidananda from Rishikesh, Avadhoot Swami Karunananda, Mata Sevananda, Sri Shuddhananda Bharti, Sri Viragiji, Sri Manuvarya and Dr. Baldev Prasad Mishra from Nandgram also arrived to attend the convention.

Swami Niranjan came from South America with a group of twenty-four devotees. Representatives from twenty countries, yogis, doctors, professors, scientists, artistes and yoga teachers turned up in great numbers for the convention.

Daily routine

The convention began at 5 a.m. on 9 October with a yajna conducted in the ashram. By 8 a.m. the program venue was packed to capacity. The attendants of the Shankaracharya, Swami Shantananda, loudly proclaimed his arrival in the venue. After benedictory vedic chants by his attendants, the Shankaracharya began his opening address. He talked about Swami Sivananda and heaped lavish praise on his life and deeds. He also praised the monumental mission undertaken by Swami Satyananda and gave his best wishes for the success of his endeavours. Thereafter Maharshi Mehidas addressed the gathering. Throughout the day and over the next few days, the assembled saints and mahatmas, including Sri Swamiji, delivered inspiring discourses.

Bhajans and kirtans would start at the venue at 3 a.m. itself. Meditation and kriya yoga classes were conducted from 4 to 6 a.m.. Thereafter from 8 to 11 a.m., 2 to 4 p.m. and 5 to 7 p.m., the invited dignitaries, including saints, doctors, researchers, educationists and eminent thinkers, gave discourses, demonstrated asanas and conducted discussions on topics useful and relevant to the common man. Sri Swamiji spoke in every session. The stage was always occupied by sages, saints, rishis and maharshis. People sat on the rooftop of the dharmashala and nearby treetops to listen to the wonderful discourses being given in the convention. Despite the massive crowds, the proceedings of the convention, both on and off stage, were conducted impeccably, with great decorum and discipline.

Lord Indra's dance

On the evening of the 11th, dark clouds began to gather to have darshan of this assemblage of sages and saints as well. They voiced their approval in deep rumbles and the sprinkling of water all around. The audience grew anxious at the sight of the swirling black mass above, but Sri Swamiji continued his thundering discourse without skipping a beat, "...even the trees, twigs and leaves have come alive in this convention. Everyone must attend these Golden Jubilee celebrations of Gurudev's renunciation of the world. There is no forgiveness for those who don't come. You have to come at all costs..."

Lord Indra's dance of destruction began in full swing at midnight. At Sri Swamiji's instruction, kirtan was started in the ashram as well as in the schools and rest houses where the delegates and guests were staying. A keen competition ensued the whole night; sometimes the sound of the kirtan gained the upper hand and sometimes the sound of Indra's wild dance. Indra's violent thunderstorm was pouring torrents of water upon us while Sri Swamiji was facing it impassively like Govardhana giridhari Krishna.

Gurudev's decision-making and management skills must be seen to be believed. From 5 am dozens of jeeps began running all over town. The situation was such that with the cyclonic winds and incessant rain, it was impossible to even step out of one's room onto the veranda. Under such trying conditions, the convention volunteers would load tea and breakfast into jeeps from the ashram kitchen and drive around town, serving hot breakfast to the guests and delegates of the convention. At the same time, they kept encouraging everyone to keep the akhanda kirtan going.

While the delegates were engrossed in the bhajan and kirtan, Sri Swamiji was busy negotiating with the divine energies. The entire day of the 12th witnessed the fierce fury of the storm, but towards evening Lord Indra began winding up his operations. It seemed as if he had finally agreed to sign the truce. Twenty hours of rampaging winds and torrential rain had left the program venue in a shambles. Most of the tube lights and bulbs had been shattered. There was nothing but water everywhere.

Guru bhais

The natives of Bihar were of the opinion that storms brought on by easterly winds usually last for days if not weeks, and the chances of the rain stopping were minimal. But by the grace of God, the clouds disappeared during the night. In the morning, the task of re-erecting the tents and stage area started on a war footing. Hundreds of people joined in draining the area of water, cleaning up, fixing the wires and putting up the lights. At 9 a.m. the program restarted in the ashram hall with a song eulogizing Sri Swamiji.

Thereafter Swami Chidananda sang a bhajan and delivered a stirring discourse. He gave his dear guru bhai a few presents as a token of the good wishes and felicitations of his guru ashram. This was the golden moment of this Golden Jubilee of the guru's tyaga and the disciple's birth. The founder of hundreds of ashrams worldwide, yet remaining unattached in the midst of all this wealth and glory, Swami Satyananda received the gifts from his guru ashram with childlike emotion. Wrapping the shawl around his shoulders, keeping the box of books in front of him and placing the fruits, dried fruits, biscuits and toffees in his lap, he said with a wide smile on his face, "Now I am rich!"

Then pushing the items to one side, as Sri Swamiji bent to prostrate before his revered guru bhai, the ‘revered guru bhai' caught the ‘dear guru bhai' midway and locked him in a warm embrace. Their hearts (and eyes) were overflowing with emotion. Everyone watched this rare sight transfixed and my mind traveled back in time...

On 23 May 1957, on the eve of our departure for Gangotri, Swami Sivananda had said in the evening satsang, "Looks like Satyam's pockets are full." To which Swami Satyam had replied, "The pockets of this sannyasin are empty, Swamiji. Satyam will proceed on his journey only after you have filled his pockets to the brim."

We are rarely able to understand the true intention behind the apparently chaotic ways of destiny. In this case the true intent behind Indra's ‘fury' was to ensure that the felicitation of a ‘dear guru bhai' by a ‘revered guru bhai' took place in front of the akhanda jyoti, the symbol of Swami Sivananda, the great ‘father' of these illustrious ‘sons', that the blessings of the father may saturate the bodies and minds of both his ‘successors'. It was only to manifest this possibility into reality that Indra had to create all this havoc and fury.

Swami Chidananda of Rishikesh

By mid-afternoon, the entire program venue had been resurrected. The ground was still quite wet for which truckloads of hay were brought in and spread all around. Carpets were laid over the hay and the afternoon session was conducted there. The two guru bhais could once again be seen sitting together on the stage. Everyone in the audience sat spellbound, as the two swamis related their ashram experiences filled with mischief, happiness and mutual affection.

"The true nature of man is overshadowed by his animal nature," said Swami Chidananda, "which is the reason for his many miseries. That life alone is worth living which has the potential to unveil the latent divinity in man. Despite being engrossed in mundane affairs, our real purpose is not just to live and die. We have to move towards the state of eternal joy and bliss. Darkness is nothing but the absence of light. And light is verily truth itself. O man! Wake up, that light is calling you! By forgetting the eternal truth and adopting the path of untruth, you can never achieve lasting bliss. Only the eternal truth can bestow upon you everlasting joy and bliss." In this manner, Swami Chidananda distilled the essence of spiritual life and went on to explain the gross, subtle and causal realms and the demonic and divine energies inherent in each one of us. He also praised the various endeavours of Swami Satyananda and prayed for their success. Conveying his best wishes to the assembled delegates and aspirants from India and abroad as well, Swami Chidananda ended with Shanti Path, praying for the peace and welfare of the entire world.

Felicitation

In the satsang session on the 14th, before the thirteen-year-old Swami Niranjan began his discourse, Sri Swamiji introduced his youngest disciple to all present and said, "As far as Niranjan is concerned, I am there for him."

In the afternoon satsang, the assembled delegates requested an opportunity to publicly congratulate Sri Swamiji. Their request was acceded to and they were allotted an hour for the purpose.

The vast crowd that gathered for the concluding session in the evening had the organizers and volunteers on edge. The marquee, veranda, rooftops, walls, trees and roads were chock-full with people. After the concluding address and Shanti Path, receiving the affectionate blessings of Sri Swamiji, the vast crowd dispersed quickly and peacefully. The anxious volunteers were dumbstruck by this unheard-of spectacle!

Thus did the seven-day Golden Jubilee Convention come to a successful conclusion. A highlight of the program was the dugdh abhisheka of the shivalingam in the beautifully decorated Shiva temple next door. An exhibition of ashram books and literature, together with a graphic description of each and every aspect of kundalini, was also worth seeing. Throughout the seven days, the audience had the good fortune to listen to the most eminent sages and scholars. The bhajan, Brahma murari surarchit lingam, sung by avadhoota Swami Karunananda, the soulful bhajans and kirtans of Smt Amarsangeet, the spellbinding discourses on the Ramayana by Smt Krishna Devi – all left an indelible imprint on our minds.