The 131st Anniversary Celebrations were held over the weekend of 8 & 9 September. On 8 September, despite inclement weather, devotees turned up in large numbers at 6am as well as for the evening Satsang at Sivanandashram, Reservoir Hills where more than 600 attended.
In a message from our Divine Master, which was delivered on 8 September 1957, the Master stated, "All the problems facing mankind today hinge around peace. Given the secret of securing peace, man will be able to build up a sane civilization, prosperous society, happy home, and intelligent individual". In order to attain this uninterrupted peace, the Master advised as follows: "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".
Salient parts of Pujya Swamiji's audio message on 8 September were taken from the speech delivered on 8 September 1987: "Wherever you go, you will find problems. We wish all of you spiritual progress, material progress, good health, long life, much service to Gurudev and extreme loyalty. That must be the theme. Stick to one path, listen to one path, then you will get what you want. Never lose an opportunity of serving."
Guest Dancer, Kashmira Bhajan, inspired us with a beautifully executed dance, choreographed to the Bhajan Sur Ke Gungroo. Our sincere thanks to her.
In the DVD, Wisdom of Sivananda Vol 2, (Control of the Mind) the Master said, "Mind is nothing but a collection of Samskaras or impressions. It is nothing but a bundle of habits. Never wrestle with the mind. Do not use any violent efforts in contemplation or concentration. When the mind is jumping or wandering much, make no violent effort to control the mind but rather allow it to run along for a while and exhaust the efforts. It will take advantage of the opportunity and will jump around like an unchained monkey at first. Then it will gradually become quiet and listen to you for orders."
On Sunday, 9 September the Birth Anniversary Celebrations moved to the Sivananda International Cultural Centre, attracting 1600 devotees from all part of KZN, Gauteng and Cape Town. At 6am, in the biting cold weather, devotees commenced with the final chanting of the 41-day Sri Hanuman Chalisa Vrata. This was followed by a Havan conducted by Pundit Bhagprakash and Sri Sarawan Bridglall. Ganga Arati and breakfast concluded the morning session of the programme.
The vibrant March Past by branches commenced at 9.15am at the Sivananda Stadium. Satsang followed at 10am. One of the first items on the programme was the release of the Centenary Publication No 15, entitled Facing the Challenges of Youth. The honour of releasing this book was accorded to a senior mother of long-standing association. It contains precious knowledge and guidelines on Celibacy, Thought Power, How to Develop Memory, How to Develop Will-Power, Concentration, Health & Diet, etc. all designed to help our youth, not only to face the challenges of Kali Yuga but also to become true leaders
In the reading, taken from the Book, Questions & Answers, the Master revealed why devotees celebrate the birthdays of saints.
Devotee: If the soul is immortal, why does Swamiji celebrate his birthday, which relates to the body?
Master: I do not celebrate my birthday. It is the devotees who do it. Celebration of such birthdays is equal to worship of Para Brahman. Worship of the Guru is worship of Para Brahman. The devotees take delight in celebrating the birthday, and they 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 the Divine Life Society and my teachings. The celebration of the birthday is an annual reminder to aspirants of the purpose of their life. It is a fillip to their spiritual practices. The pious, receptive attitude prevalent on such an occasion draws forth the Grace of 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.
It is not without purpose that Hindus celebrate the birthdays of religious leaders, saints and sages. We have Buddha Jayanti, Shankara Jayanti, Mahavira Jayanti, etc. The Hindu calendar is spotted with many such Jayantis and other holy days, so that the observance of these Jayantis and holy days may give people the needed spiritual impetus to strive with increased zeal for the attainment of the purpose of life, namely, God-realisation. The more we have such special, holy days, the more we have the chance of being inspired to intensify our spiritual progress.
Pujya Swamiji, in the audio message, emphasised the importance of chalking out our own programme of Sadhana. He said, "We should never imitate other people in our Sadhana. Wherever we go we must be natural and simple. We must find out our own defects. One of the Desert Fathers used to keep a pebble in his mouth to stop talking as he felt he was talking too much. We should also do this."
The keynote address was delivered by Smt Phumzile Mthiyane, an educator at the Sivananda High school in KwaMashu who is associated with the Society for the past 12 years. She drew from her wealth of experience to show how one can practise the teachings of Swami Sivananda in the daily battle of life. Herewith, a few excerpts from her brilliant inspiring address:
"The books written by Swami Sivananda, Guru Bhakti Yoga Workshops, Satsangs and Yoga Camps have shed light on my spiritual life."
"Forgiving instantly is what I try to do. On Monday, 13 August, a student punched me on my face and the lower jaw was displaced. He was expelled. However, a week thereafter, I reflected on the teachings of Swami Sivananda and Swamiji. I immediately said to myself, he has to return to school. I then took a book by Swami Sivananda entitled, Peace, the Goal of Life, opened it and found the phrase, "Pray for the man who tries to harm and persecute you. Love the man who injures you. Embrace all". The boy is back at school.
The Sivananda Drill programmes received warm applause from an appreciative audience. The individual performances of the youth girls, mothers (ranging from ages 38 – 74) and the youth boys was accompanied by the supportive clapping of excited viewers. The energetic display by the youth girls, accompanied by the vibrant chanting of a recording of the Sri Hanuman Chalisa, was a prayer offered by them in gratitude to Sri Hanuman for His protection against the perils of Kali Yuga. It was a brilliant exposition of the Sri Hanuman Chalisa in dance form. The creative movements of the mothers, using saris and umbrellas, also won the hearts of devotees. Learners from the Sivananda Technical High School performed a dance, ending with the key words, "God is my Guide! God is my Guide! God is my Guide!"
After lunch, 500 devotees proceeded to the main prayer hall to be inspired and entertained by a feast of cultural items by the branches, comprising melodious Bhajans & Kirtans, two dances and two plays. It was pleasing to see that almost all the items were in praise of the Master or his teachings. The mirthful dialogues did much to soothe tired bodies and minds. The theme of transformation and loyalty to the Guru was the take-home message of the afternoon.
The play, "The Selfish Swami" aptly concluded with the voice of the narrator as follows: "We have many Gyanananda's who have a wealth of spiritual knowledge, but who do not practice what they peach. On the other hand, we have our Divine Mater, Sri Swami Sivananda, who lead his life according to the scriptures and who practiced Integral Yoga to the fullest, i.e. Serve, Love, Give, Purify, Meditate, Realise. Be Good. Do Good. He was even called Givananda because he gave away everything he possessed. Why do we have to run hither and thither when we have our Master who is an ocean of mercy, compassion and infinite knowledge? He has blessed us with one of his foremost disciples in Sri Swami Sahajananda. He has given us the best facilities and the best opportunities for our spiritual progress. Why do we have to run after rivulets when we have the mighty ocean?
We are happy that 51 devotees joined us via live stream from China, India, UAE, Australia, the US and various parts of South Africa. Many felt inspired to share in the joy of the celebrations.
Kindly permit us to conclude this report with the cogent words of Sri N. Ananthanarayanan taken from the book, From Man to God-man, "Sivananda's life is a moving panorama of success through struggle. Of noble attainment through effort. The life of the great sage is a pointer and an assurance. It points the way to supreme blessedness, and assures success to those who would care to follow the lead. It has a message to offer to strife-torn humanity—a message of love and service, of hope and courage and burning optimism —a message for today.