Two thousand six hundred devotees attended the function at the Sivananda Stadium where various tributes were paid to the Master. One such tribute was written by Sri N. Ananthanarayanan, "Swami Sivananda was unique in more ways than one, which entitles him to pride of place in modern India's spiritual horizon! Whether in physical appearance, intellectual stature or spiritual excellence, he was second to none. But the hallmark of his life was the way he tangibly influenced innumerable individual lives in every corner of the world. This influence crossed man-made barriers of religion, race and colour, of language, country and sex, and even political systems. Perhaps no saint in the 20th century had personal contact with as many followers as Swami Sivananda had."
In reading about the Master's life one learns that his compassion, coupled with equal vision, knew no bounds. He saw God in all. Surely this must be the answer for all the problems of this day and age. Pujya Swami Sahajananda wrote, "It is easy to say that all beings are the forms of God, but to serve all beings with love and compassion is not easy. The heart has to expand and the power of God has to settle in it through meditation and prayer for this to happen."
In a written message by the Master we heard, "Peace is the nature of the innermost Self of man. He who ever strives to realize this Self, who has begun to direct his attention towards this Self, enjoys this peace that prevails in the Self. Therefore, turn the gaze within. Shut the doors of the senses. Restrain the turbulent mind. Slay the doubting intellect. Fill your heart with the nectar of faith and devotion. Serve humanity selflessly. Do Japa. Concentrate. Meditate. Pray and wait. Seek the Peace within. Realise the Self. Shine as a Yogi, the greatest benefactor of humanity."
Speaking on behalf of the High Commissioner, the Honourable, S.K.S.Rawat, acting Consul General of India in Durban, spoke eloquently about our Divine Master, "Sri Swami Sivananda is recognised as one of the foremost sages of modern India and has been an inspiration behind the Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Centres. His method of disseminating spiritual knowledge via spiritual literature was unique. The deepest wisdom is couched in the simplest and most lucid style of his writing. Swamiji's teachings are summarized in these six words: Serve, Love, Give, Purify, Meditate, Realise."
The Sivananda Drill Programme once again captured the attention of devotees. It was heart warming to see all devotees singing the Ram Bhajans whilst participants were performing the drill. In keeping with the ideals of our Divine Master, the Society pays great attention to physical education. Pujya Swamiji wrote, "An unusual feature of our gymnastic drill exercise is that it is a spiritual offering to our Divine Master. The Ram Bhajans accompanying some of the exercises gives a beautiful spiritual touch to the drill. Drill is an excellent means of learning a variety of disciplines simultaneously. The type of gymnastic drill we have introduced has manifold benefits, especially in these stressful times"
In the afternoon there was a rich cultural programme presented by our branches. Almost 1000 devotees attended this session. Devotees felt a sense of pride as they viewed these offerings to the Master. A sketch, Bhajans & Kirtans, cultural dances, readings, a video presentation, musical items, Sivananda Quiz, and a power-point presentation held the audience captive for almost two hours.
On Thursday, 8 September, the celebrations moved to Sivanandashram, Reservoir Hills, commencing at 6am with a short invocation, Ganga Arati and pilgrimage to Sahaja Kutir and Sahajananda Diamond Jubilee Centre. In the evening, Ganga Arati commenced at 5pm, attracting a large number of devotees. A number of devotees from Gauteng and Cape Town attended. Such is their Guru Bhakti!
In the reading that evening, we heard the Master's response to a question posed by an incredulous reader regarding the reason why he allows these birthday celebrations, "The devotees take delight in celebrating the birthday and are uplifted and benefited. A spiritual wave is created year after year when the birthday is celebrated, and more and more people get a chance of knowing the existence of Divine Life Society and my teachings. The pious, receptive attitude prevalent on such an occasion draws forth the Grace of the Guru and God upon the devotees. The thoughts of peace, devotion, love etc., sent out by the innumerable devotees that assemble together to celebrate the birthday go a long way to promote peace, harmony and spiritual well-being in the country".
Pujya Swamiji, in a pre-recorded audio message, expressed thanks to the Master for giving us the sophisticated Sivananda Press, the inspiring books that will help transform us and the magnificent buildings. Pujya Swamiji hastened to add that all these material objects are perishable and we should place emphasis on spiritual values.
Sivananda Dance Academy performed a brilliantly executed creative dance-offering to the Divine Master to the live accompaniment of the melodious voice of Smt Mahenthri Pillay and her musical troupe.
Without doubt, the highlight of the evening was the DVD release and presentation, entitled, "Wisdom of Sivananda", Volume 1 which was painstakingly prepared by two young devotees. We are indeed grateful for their labour of love. The 10 episodes that constitute this first volume contain some of the spiritual injections that the Master administered to his disciples and the many thousands who flocked to him at his Ashram at Rishikesh, India. The Master's audio messages, many of which have taken the form of conversations and songs bring out beautifully the Master's Godlike personality and his simple teachings which are extremely practical in their application, proving to be fresh even after so many decades. What magnificent spiritual treasures flowed from his divine lips–soothing, enlightening and comforting all those who sought his refuge! We offer our eternal gratitude to our Divine Master for the great spiritual inheritance he has left us. We are sure that this multimedia production will be welcomed by the disciples of our Master and aspirants worldwide and that the spiritual nectar received directly in the Master's own voice will have tremendous benefits to all!
After the screening of this captivating video, devotees spontaneously applauded this centenary production which they found hilarious and educative and were also enchanted by the Master's melodious voice. Needless to say, the DVDs were in great demand at the bookstore and were sold out. An order has been placed to make more copies to meet this demand.
Phumzile Mthiyane, one of our devotees from KwaMashu, and her learners from the Sivananda Technical High School, also came for Darshan during the day. In spite of the fact that they were writing exams that same day, they took a taxi, and, adorned with birthday paraphernalia laid their offerings at the feet of our Divine Master at the Shrine in Reservoir Hills. They also sang a birthday song for our Master. It was extremely moving to see this type of love and dedication.
We are pleased to report that both the functions were streamed live throughout the world. We received the following responses for the Satsang on 4 September:
"I express my heartfelt gratitude to the team responsible for facilitating the live stream on Sunday! I was lucky to have had the sessions coincide with my free lessons at school as Sunday is the first day of the work week here. It was the next best thing to actually being at the Ashram. I even got to share the experience with my colleagues. They were most impressed with the drill presentations. I am looking forward to my internet Satsang on Thursday!" (Devotee from Dubai)
A devotee from New Zealand wrote as follows, "It brought tears to my eyes. I felt like I was there. As usual Swamiji's presence was felt and the vibes were felt here in my home. The function was held at the usual high standards that beloved Pujya Swamiji set. What a wonderful job the devotees are doing. Thank you so very much for arranging the live stream. I am so grateful. I hope that we can attend more Satsangs via live stream."
We close this report with the words of one young devotee from Reservoir Hills, "Witnessing functions of this nature, is proof that our Mission in SA will never fail." Yes, in his handwritten letter to Pujya Swami Sahajananda, dated 12 February 1960, the Divine Master, Sri Swami Sivananda, gave this assurance about the work of the Divine Life Society of South Africa:
"God will look after the divine work."
"Lord will look after everything."