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Report: Sri Swami Sivananda's 133rd Birth Anniversary

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This sacred event was celebrated online on Tuesday, 8 September 2020, commencing with Ganga Arati at 5.30pm. The morning session, which commenced at 5am with the final chanting of the Sri Hanuman Chalisa, 11 times, saw the culmination of the 41-day recital. This was followed by Havan which was live-streamed from Sivanandashram, Chatsworth. More than 500 devotees signed the pledge form to undertake the 41-Day chanting of the Sri Hanuman Chalisa. 1881 devotees viewed the Havan ceremony and participated online.

In respect of the birthday of a saint, the Master said: "Few events are more auspicious than the celebration of birth anniversaries of saints." Regarding the celebration of his birthday, the Master explained: "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 to celebrate the birthday, go a long way to promote peace, harmony and spiritual well-being in the country."

On 6 September, a special cultural programme, dedicated to the Master, was screened, depicting his life and teachings. There were 550 views. It featured the day-to-day activities of the Master, with a voice over by Pujya Swami Sahajananda. Our children from grades 4 – 7 also participated in various readings.

At the evening Satsang on 8 September, there were 1067 views. Many tributes were paid to our Divine Master. Pujya Swami Sahajananda, referring to Gurudev as Swamiji wrote the following, "I came to know of Swamiji in 1947 through his book, Practice of Karma Yoga. At that time, I did not know the real meaning of Yoga or that a wonderful state called God-realisation was possible. I was merely attracted by the title of the book and purchased it. Swamiji's book effected an immediate transformation—all desire for success in secular education was given up and a deep yearning for God-realisation was substituted—a yearning that was thereafter constantly nourished by Swamiji's Grace".

Swami Krishnananda, one of the Master's foremost disciples wrote in the book The Mighty Godman of our Age, "The coming of Sri Gurudev on this planet, this Earth—the entry of this divine soul into this world—may sometimes be compared to a shooting star which shines its light on all the dark corners of the planet and illumines every side of it, every aspect of it and every phase of it, as if life enters a lifeless body.

"The purpose of Sri Gurudev's coming into this world and the intention behind the coming of any sage and saint, is the waking of the slumbering soul of mankind. Gurudev Swami Sivanandaji Maharaj was an incarnation of this unending, incessant, eternal human aspiration for perfection. His teaching is usually summed up in a pithy statement: 'God first, world next, yourself last'. This statement, this little message, this one-sentence teaching perhaps sums up the great gospel of life which brings God to the Earth, into our kitchen, into the very room in which we live, into this vestment of our physical personality".

In 1963, after the Master attained Mahasamadhi, Swami Omkar paid the following tribute to the Master in his book, Autobiography of Omkar, "As I heard this sad news, I unconsciously closed my eyes and tried to feel Swamiji's Presence. The very thought that his great spirit of compassion, service and love had entered into me is now my comfort, consolation, joy, strength and inspiration. I feel Swamiji's great love for me and all devotees, now more than ever. How blessed and inspiring it is to feel His Presence and love now and here. This is the only real way to overcome any sorrow or depression".

In the pre-recorded audio message by Pujya Swami Sahajananda, we heard, "Saints are not born, they are made. Every little act goes towards the making of a saint. And every action will make us stronger. If we think big, if we surrender to God, not with ambition, and we do difficult tasks, then we will be able to grow and the will power will also grow. Today, people don't have a strong will power. They give up with a little effort. They don't make a sturdy effort. So that is why, when a problem arises, a moral crisis arises, when a spiritual crisis arises, when some problem arises, we find that we are completely defeated by the mind. So that is why we are asked to do difficult things, not the small things. There is no purpose in trying to mount a molehill. Try to climb the Himalaya Mountains. Then you will grow and then the power will come. Bliss and peace won't come unless the system is purified and strengthened. Courage and boundless faith are required.

"Coming back to the main point‒talking about Gurudev, I always like to feel that Gurudev was none other than God Himself because God Himself comes to the level of man and serves man. Gurudev wrote several letters to me. In one of his letters he wrote, I am passing it to you if you have faith, 'I am ever at thy back. I am ever ready to serve thee.' And that has been my solace. Whenever I feel any difficulty and any overpowering problem, I reflect on that and I feel that if Gurudev is right in me so there is nothing for me to fear at all. Whatever is going to happen is going to happen, if it is necessary for my Sadhana."

In paying tribute to our Divine Master, our Guest of Honour, The Honourable, Consul General of India in Durban, Sri Anish Rajan, said, "Just as Dr Kuppuswami excelled in the medical field, Swami Sivananda rose to glorious heights in the field of spirituality. Sivanandaji did intense Tapas to purify his mind and climb the spiritual ladder, step by step. He stood in the icy Ganges waist deep since 4am, doing Japa. In this biting winter, most Sadhus dare not enter the freezing waters of the Ganga. Regarding this awesome Tapas, Swami Venkatesananda, a close disciple quipped: 'If we did that kind of Tapas, the next day we would develop a cough and on the third day they would carry us to the cremation ground'.

"Swami Venkatesananda continued, 'He showed us this spot during his visit to Swarg Ashram in 1948. What we saw, struck terror in our hearts—a heap of stones and two walls. Another heap of stones: Sri Gurudev assured us this heap was almost a wall in those days! No roof was visible except for the green foliage of an overhanging tree. Quite plainly, the Kutir must have been crawling with insects and reptiles: it was their natural abode. No one disturbed him, because no one dared to venture into that region even during the day'.

"In spite of his extremely severe austerities and prolonged periods of meditation, Swami Sivananda would find time to serve the sick monks and passing pilgrims. He would clean the rooms of the sick monks and sometimes keep vigil the whole night if the case was serious. He once carried a European monk to the hospital. Orthodox monks of the Rishikesh colony did not believe in any kind of selfless service of the distressed. Many monks were run down by malnutrition and the extreme winter cold. Most of them suffered from frequent attacks of fever and dysentery. Swami Sivananda could not bear to see the plight of these helpless monks. He set about treating them and caring for them.

"Rabindranath Tagore wrote, "We are made for friendship, not for hate; My hand to you, and with it all my heart, My brother!" Like this, Swami Sivananda cemented a firm bond with all Sadhus in Rishikesh. In those days, the condition of Sadhus was pitiable. They all lived in a disorderly manner. Swamiji desired to reorganise the whole Order and to make it useful for the world in a variety of ways. This, he felt, was possible only by training a band of students on proper lines. The desire to serve the world forced him to accept disciples. This is how Divine Life Society began in 1936.

"His disciples say, 'Swamiji is one who cares not for what is called formality. He does not even allow anyone to prostrate at his feet. If one does so, he will immediately reciprocate the prostration. He is able to see God everywhere and in everyone. He is a dynamic worker with detachment and dignity. He works with love and courage, on select lines of Dharma'.

"'How pleasant it is to think of his smiling face wherein one can ever find the glittering, lustre of Advaita Bhava!' said another disciple. 'He takes the first opportunity in saluting or talking to others, both known and unknown. What is the secret behind him? It is pure and crystallized love of a supremely high degree. Meet him face to face and you will agree with me', said a senior disciple.

"The teachers of mankind are few. A thousand years may pass by without the advent of such a one; but when the true teacher does appear, the distinguishing feature by which he is known is his life. His conduct is different from other men and his teaching is never derived from any man or book, but from his own life. The teacher first lives and then teaches others how they may likewise live. The proof of his teaching is in himself, his life. Out of a million preachers, only one is ultimately accepted by mankind as a true teacher and that one who is thus accepted and exalted is, he who lives. Such a one is Swami Sivananda who lives first and then only teaches.

"Sri Swami Sivananda had an intense passion for sharing spiritual knowledge to all, not only in India but to all parts of the world. He said that he will continue to write until he becomes blind. If he becomes blind, he will dictate and someone will write for him. Pujya Swami Sahajananda often reminded devotees that there is a great Shakti in the writings of Swami Sivananda, because he not only practised what he preached but also because Mother Saraswati glitters in his writings. His 'spiritual lessons' appeared in magazines that dealt with sex matters. He said, 'The minds of those who go through sex matters will be purified by going through spiritual matters.' As a result, thousands turned into avid readers of the Master's articles and became his students and devotees.

"Former President of India, the late Dr Abdul Kalam said, 'I have read Sivananda's books and they have influenced my attitude to a great extent, especially, his book, Thought Power. Abdul Kalam said, 'Swami Sivananda asked me to repeat the statement Defeat the defeatist tendency three times. (Sri Krishna said this to Arjuna in the Bhagavad Gita) I repeated it three times and I was cheered up'.

"The Master wrote in English to turn the minds of the Indian youth back to the glory of their own tradition and culture. He wrote more than 250 books on various topics ranging from Hinduism, Yoga & allied topics to health and diet. His literature was like a spiritual Tsunami and it stormed many parts of the world. Dr R.T. Werther of Perth spoke of it as the greatest Christmas experience of his long life and went on to add: 'There and only there, I found the peace which comes when all your inner conflicts are resolved. Yes. Only there I found real Christianity, which I did not find in our western world'.

About Divine Life Society of S.A., the Honourable Consul General said, "I wish Divine Life Society of South Africa every success, and applaud the exemplary work done by the Society in the arenas of Hinduism, education, health care, poverty alleviation and other fields. Let us find comfort, hope and direction in Swami Sivananda's creed, which states: 'To be a cosmic friend and cosmic benefactor, to be a friend of the poor, forlorn, helpless and the fallen, is my creed. It is my sacred creed to serve the sick persons, to nurse them with care, sympathy and love, to cheer the depressed, to infuse power and joy in all, to feel oneness with each and every creature, and to treat with equal vision.'
"I conclude with the words of Paramhansa Yogananda, 'The life of the great Rishi, Swami Sivananda, serves as a perfect example of selfless activity. He blesses India and the world by his presence.'"

We were treated to a dance item by guest artistes from the Shivohum Fine Arts Group from Johannesburg. Director of the company, Thirumathi Roshel Ramsamy Nardhamuni, accompanied her young proteges to the popular classical Bhajans, "Ponnaar Mehni Yaneh" and "Nada Bindu". Our sincere thanks to Roshel and her young team for this beautiful offering.

In a carefully compiled DVD entitled "Wisdom of Sivananda", the Master outlined the efficacy of prayer, enjoyed a little educative humour with the little ones, sang melodiously the Bhajan, "Apadbandhava Narayana", beseeching the Lord for blessings and protection and said the Universal Prayer that he himself composed. In the DVD, the Master said, "Prayer elevates the mind. It frees the devotee from the fear of death, brings him nearer to God and makes him feel the divine presence everywhere. If the prayer is sincere, and it proceeds from the bottom of your heart, it will at once melt the heart of the Lord". Devotees felt privileged to listen to the sacred and divine voices of our Divine Master, Sri Swami Sivananda and Pujya Swami Sahajananda as they radiated healing energies across various parts of the globe.

The great light and guiding force of our Divine Master, Sri Swami Sivananda, is no more in physical form but his subtle form, his spirit, is present everywhere to earnest seekers who yearn for spiritual sustenance and guidance. The rich literary legacy, his awesome Tapas, his indefatigable energy, his compassion and his intense passion to serve mankind, is what Swami Sivananda left behind for us to emulate, and in so doing, one day to merge in the "stupendous bliss of God".

Last modified on Thursday, 10 September 2020 10:20
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