My guru, Swami Sivananda, never interfered with his disciples. He was not at all a dictator. He was a very benevolent man. He minded his own business, his own work, but surely he influenced me. There is a difference between him impressing me and him influencing me. I had my own personality and still do today, but the way he lived, thought, behaved and interacted with people was a very interesting way. His behavior was natural. I can't follow him and I don't follow him.
When a wretched person, or a real rascal, came to Swami Sivananda, he used to worship him. When the people who spoke badly about him came to Swamiji, he used to give them special respect. He used to say, "Those who prick you, give them the flower." He practised it every day. Even if Swami Sivananda was alerted that a certain person had come to cheat him, he would say, "That is his karma, and this is my karma."
He was very generous. If you went to him and asked for anything, he would give it to you. He was generous in giving food and distributing money, books, clothes, blankets, sweets and fruits. If you would have gone to his ashram you would have been very happy. His main motto was: "Give, give and give."
Here is an example of Swamiji's extraordinary personality and his ability to act according to his high principles without compromise.
One day, Swami Sivananda went to give satsang at a devotee's home. The hostess had spent a lot of time preparing the food and the house to make sure that everything was ready to receive the guru and guests. The satsang went on a little longer than usual and Swami Sivananda had a train to catch. The disciples around him were saying, "Swamiji, you have finished the satsang. We will miss the train if you continue any longer." So Swami Sivananda got in the car and went towards the train station.
On the way, he remembered that he hadn't thanked the hostess for the effort she had made in making such a pleasurable and beautiful evening for everyone. He said, "Stop the car. I am going back. I haven't thanked the hostess." The organizers and disciples in the car said, "Swamiji, you can't go back for you'll miss the train and if you miss the train, you'll miss the next program." Swami Sivananda was adamant and said, "No, I must go back. I must thank the hostess. It is not right that she should have made so much effort and I just left the house without saying a word to her."
He went back to the house, went in and asked her forgiveness. He bowed down, touched her feet and said, "Forgive me for not thanking you for the beautiful hospitality and everything that you had arranged for me. It was very amiss of me to have left the house without thanking you properly."
Again he got in his car and went onto the station. Swami Sivananda's high principles did not allow him to go away without behaving correctly and appropriately.
So naturally, these qualities impressed me very much, but when I thought about myself, I found that it was not my nature. I am made up of a different metal. If I imitated him, it would be unnatural for me.
Swami Sivananda used to touch the feet of his disciples, like a disciple touches his master's feet. Every morning he would touch them. Some of the disciples of Swamiji also did this, but it was unnatural for me.
He came to my room one day and saw that my room was simple. There was only one bed, one little bucket, one or two dhotis, the Gita and Upanishads. He told me that I should keep many blankets in my room, tea, coffee, cups and firestone. I told him, "I don't need these things." He said, "You are selfish." Selfish means only for myself. He said, "Keep things for others."
That was his nature, but I never did it. Even now I don't keep anything in my room. I don't like it. If you ask for paper I say, "Go to the office." I have a different nature and he had his nature.
Some of his disciples imitated him, but I didn't like it. Imitation has a negative effect on me because it is unnatural. Love has to be natural. If I just say, "Oh, I love you," that is unnatural. Love has to be put into action and come from the spirit. If you bring a crow and you put peacock's feathers on it, it doesn't become peacock. So I am what I am.