Remembrance of a Great Guru

Swami Dharmashakti Saraswati

Offering my pranams at the feet of all the gurus on this divine and auspicious occasion of Guru Poornima, I would like to say a few words. I have been abundantly blessed with the abiding grace of my Guru, Swami Satyanandaji.

It was in 1953 that I saw my Guru for the first time at the ashram of Swami Sivananda in Rishikesh. I remember wondering at the time about how such a Dhruva and Prahlad-like small child came to be there. Later we asked Swami Sivananda to send a sannyasin to Rajnandgaon for satsangs. He replied saying, "You are from a Hindi speaking area and all the sannyasins in the ashram are from South India and do not know Hindi except for one sannyasin who is fluent in Hindi, English and Sanskrit. However, he is my secretary, translates my books, checks proofs in the printing press, is the editor of Yoga Vedanta magazine and attends to banking, marketing and a lot of other ashram work. I will send him some other time."

At last with us

Thus, three years passed. In 1956 when Sri Swamiji set off on his parivrajaka life and was living in Delhi, we received a letter from Swami Sivananda saying if we hadn't been asking for Swami Satyananda. Well, now was the time to invite him, have many programs and help him with his work. It was the grace of God that brought him to our home and we began to stay together as if it had always been that way except for a brief separation. We did not look upon him as a great soul or a stranger, but considered him to be an intimate and integral part of our family.

We organized many programs, the work went on and Swami Satyananda made frequent trips to Rajnandgaon. We had been reading the Yoga Vedanta magazine for many years and read a lot about Guru Poornima. In 1956, we made all the preparations accordingly for Guru Poornima and were ready for pooja and worship, but he said, "Look here, pooja and worship is offered to gurus and I am a mere disciple." We said, "No, you are Guru's representative and we will worship you."He replied, "I will never be a guru nor will I ever have an ashram." We were determined and eventually the pooja and worship was offered, we took him to be our guru, but he never acknowledged or accepted that position.

Time went on and I had the good fortune to be seated at his feet for the many Guru Poornimas that followed. Providence caused many events to unfold and in 1958 we received initiation or diksha from him. Since then our relationship has been that of guru and disciple. The things that we saw, heard, understood and experienced about him brought home to us that he is a great soul through whom the river of God's energy flows incessantly. He was really worthy to be a guru. The teachings imparted to him by Sivanandaji Maharaj were such that he truly became a great guru. We have deep pride in the ideals that he placed before us as a guru. A sannyasin should not be proud, but in this regard we say with great pride that we were his disciples and he was our guru, is our guru and will be our guru forever.

Sankalpa Day

I would like this most auspicious and divine Guru Poornima to be observed as ‘Sankalpa Day'. From all that we have learned from him, let us choose some of those words and make them a living reality in our lives. Any one of his ideals, whether it be his spirit of service, dedication to duty or steadfast faith in guru – let us select any one of those qualities and make a resolve to incorporate it in our lives, dedicated to him. This would be the most appropriate and true offering of our devotion to him.

We spent many Guru Poornimas with him, travelled to many places together, heard his satsangs and discourses, even fought with him at times and received immeasurable love and affection. Following in the footsteps of this great guru, we even came to Munger, carried on doing his work and today such a day has dawned that we yearn for the presence of his grace and shelter. This is our resolve that he is always with us, our life is his life, everything we have is his. Nothing belongs to us and everything that we do is only for him.

As life has moved on I have seen, heard and understood this one truth: he is God, a great rishi, an incredible saint and a great soul. One does not find people like him in this day and age. He showed us myriad forms of himself. When I spent time with him, he was like a father and a brother to me. Now he is Guru, God, my all and when I remember him I experience such deep joy inside the depth of my being for being blessed and to have spent so many years interacting with him, finding shelter in the grace of such a divine being and doing his work.

It does not matter that I cannot do very much now, but I can surely speak of him, tell his stories and talk about him to you. May his journey continue and his work carry on always.

True sannyasin

He had the grace and blessings of his guru, Sivanandaji Maharaj, always with him and that was the foundation upon which he was able to accomplish such unique and amazing Bhagirath-like work. Over the years, I have watched as thousands of Swami Sivananda's disciples have spread the world over. They have worked for yoga and have spread its teachings, but they have done it in their own name, not in the name of their guru. However, I have seen our beloved Sri Swamiji whose every act was dedicated to his guru. Only guru's name and guru's work, nothing for himself. This is the mark of a true sannyasin and this is what exemplifies true guru seva. He is our true guru. It does not matter that he did not see himself as a guru, but I have experienced this truth during the time we spent together that he was omniscient and omnipotent and could accomplish whatever it was that he set out to do.

His whole life was lived in cycles of a twenty-year period. For the first twenty years he lived in his parental home, the next twenty years were spent in his guru's ashram, his work and mission took twenty years and then the sadhana and paramahamsa sannyasa dharma that he lived was also for a period of twenty years. He spent that time meeting and interacting with people, going about his work. Not a day was spent in idleness saying that today I am tired or I cannot do this work. He kept working to the very end. He could have lived on for another twenty years if he so wished, but he thought, "Though my determination is strong, my body might not always be so, and that is why I must go, I must go, I must go."

He went with such ease, like we go on a pilgrimage to Badri-Kedar. I have heard how the eldest of the Pandavas, Yudhishthira, ascended directly to heaven from Kedarnath, leaping from peak to peak. That's exactly how Sri Swamiji went and left us.

The tradition lives on

His ideals, his work and his name live with us forever and along with his name, the name of his guru. We too are very fortunate and blessed to claim our lineage from the tradition of Swami Sivananda. He was an ideal sannyasin who spread yoga all over the world. There have been many great sannyasins and mahatmas before him as well, but they used to do only their sadhana. They definitely scaled the peaks of spiritual attainments, yet did not share their learning with the world. Later a few of them wrote a book or two, but none of them left behind any concrete teachings that could benefit humankind at large.

Swami Sivananda sent out a clarion call to them, "O all ye who do sadhana in the Himalayas, descend from the mountains and travel far and wide to impart your knowledge and teachings to all." He did this work himself. Though his disciples who have gone around the world do not acknowledge his name, they are doing only the work that he inspired.

A man may have ten sons, but his name lives on only through one of them. In the same way, it is through Swami Satyananda, whom he affectionately called Satyam, that Swami Sivanada's name lives on. Sivanandaji loved and cherished Satyam very much. The onus of carrying on Sivanandaji's ideals fell on Satyam's shoulders and he accomplished this with exemplary perfection.

Therefore, it is now our duty to make a resolve that we will defiantly complete the work he started and do what he used to talk about. He will return to live amongst us and whether I am around at that time or not, he will surely come and show humanity a different path. I cannot speak very much now, but will just say this much more about him that each and every pore and cell of my being echoes with his words. I am truly blessed to be seated here in the arena of his work and mission. I am witnessing his work carrying on, I am hearing his name. This is a matter of great pride for me. It is my immeasurable glory that I am his disciple.

Swami Dharmashakti's last talk —25 July 2010, Guru Poornima, Ganga Darshan, Munger