Amongst the various service activities offered by the Society, free medical assistance was one of the first services offered by the Society (1960). The Sivananda Clinic was created for this purpose. The aim of the clinic is to provide a holistic approach to the health and well-being of the patients.
Since its inception, the clinic has been providing allopathic treatment, free of charge, and is open to the public on a Saturday afternoon. This important service is managed by a team of qualified doctors who are ably assisted by senior devotees who came under the inspiring influence of Sri Swami Sahajananda. The service is done on a voluntary basis.
The motivation for this important service activity came from our Divine Master, Sri Swami Sivananda who laid great emphasis on service to the community in all forms. He had an intense desire to serve. "God's plan for man's evolution is service", he wrote.
The wellness clinic situated on the premises of Sivanandashram, Reservoir Hills, has given many devotees an opportunity to apply this spiritual message of the Master by giving their time and effort to engage in selfless service, to serve with love, the sick and needy. Not only devotees with professional medical qualifications such as doctors, surgeons, nurses, pharmacists, and Homeopaths render medical services at the clinic, but also those without such medical qualifications do selfless service by assisting with administrative duties in the clinic.
Clinic at Sivanandashram, Reservoir Hills
Pujya Swami Sahajananda constantly gave the clinic team guidance on how to serve the sick. Often, Swamiji came to the clinic to give little children fruit and colourful pictures of birds, flowers, animals and scenic wonders. This act of kindness by Swamiji set an example to the clinic team—serving the sick is more than just diagnosing and giving medication. The clinic team has tried to imbibe Pujya Swamiji's teachings, resulting in an ever growing number of patients, particularly for the Saturday afternoon session. Over the years, the number of patients seeking treatment at the Saturday afternoon session has increased from around an average of twenty five patients to one hundred and fifty or more.
Patients queuing for treatment on a Saturday session
Swami Sivananda advocated the use of all systems of medicine including alternative and complimentary healing methods. Home remedies such as Apple Cider Vinegar, Molasses and honey are also dispensed. So even though on Saturdays, mainly allopathic medicines are dispensed to patients, Swamiji advised the clinic team to guide the patients on the benefits of home remedies and eating healthy food, particularly a vegetarian diet. He advocated that this is the secret to good health as it ensured good physical and mental well-being. In the early days, patients with poor nutrition were provided with cereals and fruit. To promote a healthy lifestyle and diet, in collaboration with devotees doing Seva at the clinic, Swami Sahajananda launched several publications, which has now been consolidated into a booklet entitled, Secrets to Good Health.
Medication prescribed by one of our senior devotees
On Sunday evenings, with occasional exceptions, alternative and complimentary healing methods such as Homeopathy, Naturopathy and therapeutic Reflexology are offered—mostly to those attending Satsang. In addition to diagnosis and medication, patients are advised to follow the health guidance outlined in the above mentioned publication. As Swami Sahajananda was concerned about the physical, mental and spiritual well-being of patients, he laid great emphasis on vegetarianism, celibacy, Yoga Asanas and health tonics. The service rendered on Sundays is also provided free of charge.
A little known fact that would be of interest to our reading public is the fact that Swamiji encouraged the clinic team to plant the Tulsi herb near the clinic entrance. Swami Sahajananda said that the Tulsi plant can provide a healing environment to the sick people who come to the clinic.
Over the years, Many patients found relief from their illness by taking treatment offered at the clinic. To give just one example, a female patient who was treated for a multitude of serious sores on her lips, reported back within one week her "miraculous" healing. In her opinion, it was not the medication that was dispensed to her that resulted in the healing, but Ganga Jal that was also offered to her as a blessing. Having been healed, it was not necessary for her to come back to the clinic for further treatment, but she was so overjoyed, that she felt it was her duty to report back. The staff was truly amazed at how fast a seemingly very acute health condition was overcome within a week. The patient also demonstrated how faith can affect healing, and also how to show gratitude to those who render service to us. Showing appreciation is one of the six virtues specified by Swami Sahajananda for the "Guru Bhakti Yoga Diary".
Another patient, Zandile Mkhize wrote the following, "If the world had more Societies like you, it would be a better place. You do make a difference! I visited your clinic in Reservoir Hills on 19 December 2012. I was unable to talk, unable to swallow even my saliva, because of the pain I was feeling in my throat. I explained my condition to the lady that was there. She reassured me and gave me the medication, health education and fruit. When I reached home I followed her advice and took the medication. Within an hour I was able to speak, swallow and eat without feeling any pain. It was like a dream really, only I was not dreaming—it was real! Thanks a lot! You are a blessing to us. Your staff with their kindness, empathy and courtesy, they deserve to be praised."
"The best medicine or tonic for any complaint, physical or mental", wrote our Master, "is to constantly think: 'I am the Spirit or Brahman, which is independent of the body and the mind, which is disease-less'".
Another powerful Vedantic assertion is, "By the Grace of God, I am becoming better and better, day by day, in every way". It works on the subconscious mind and gradually brings about a cure. We offer our deep gratitude and appreciation to our Divine Master and Pujya Swamiji for their ongoing grace and blessing to both staff and patients at the Sivananda Clinic.
I am not your enemy,
I am your friend,
I am a messenger from God,
I am an angel from heaven
To teach you wisdom,
To instil in your heart,
Mercy and dispassion,
To turn your mind towards God,
To destroy your intense clinging
To things earthly and mundane,
That are perishable and illusory;
I am your guide and silent teacher,
I AM PAIN—the best thing in this world.
—Sri Swami Sivananda, "I am Pain, Thy Teacher"
Sivananda Luwamba Wellness Centre
Divine Life Society has recently opened its most prestigious project in Luwamba, Ntambanana, a rural area not far from Empangeni. Initially intended to be just a clinic, it grew into a formidable project, with buildings alone will occupy an area of about two and a half hectares. It will provide much needed medical and other facilities for the poor in the area. The project is being undertaken in collaboration with the Premier of KwaZulu-Natal. The Society is contributing R7 000 000,00 (seven million rands, about rupees fifty-four million) towards this massive project.
The entire complex is built with beautiful white bricks and the outside walls are decorated with colourful tiles like those that we use in our Peace & Skills Training Centres. This complex will be the most important and prestigious project in the name of our Divine Master, Sri Swami Sivananda, who himself was a medical doctor in Malaysia before he left back for India to become a monk. Our Divine Master deserves this great honour.
Official Opening of Sivananda Luwamba Wellness Centre
On Friday 3rd April 2009, over 6000 people attended the grand and historic opening ceremony of the Sivananda Luwamba Wellness Centre in Ntambanana, a rural area some 30km from Empangeni. The centre was the outcome of a joint venture between Divine Life Society and the Provincial Government. Divine Life Society contributed R7 Million towards this R17 Million project.
Amongst the eleven buildings, all of which are built in the same style as the Sivananda Ghat, with beautiful face bricks and colorful tiles, are a clinic, a pharmacy, two wards that can house up to 60 beds, a crÃ¨che and a Peace and skills training centre. Pujya Swamiji performed the sod-turning ceremony in August 2007, and has written that this is "the most prestigious project of Divine Life Society and a fitting tribute to the Divine Master who himself was a medical doctor."
The date of the opening was changed a few times, but finally settled mysteriously on 3 April, which coincided with the Holy Festival of Ram Navami. Moreover, while devotees were reciting the invocation prayer prior to the cutting of the ribbon and the unveiling of the plaque, a gentle shower of rain descended upon the proceedings. As soon as the official opening was done, the shower miraculously stopped! These events have strengthened our firm belief that Sri Gurudev's and Pujya Swamiji's unseen hands were guiding the project from start to finish.
There is still some work to be done before the final handover, which will be some six months before the scheduled date. This is all due to the Grace of Pujya Swamiji and our Divine Master, and the dedication of many devotees who worked tirelessly and selflessly on the project. We place on record our gratitude to all devotees who contributed financially and otherwise, in bringing to fruition Pujya Swamiji's dream a hospital in the name of the Divine Master.