Pujya Swamiji led Divine Life Society of South Africa with rare distinction since 1949. It is because of Pujya Swamiji that today, thousands in South Africa and abroad have embraced the teachings of Sri Swami Sivananda and are leading a spiritual and divine life. The great faith and devotion that Pujya Swamiji had in the Divine Master was second to none. He did not question the Master but carried out his instructions implicitly. It is this faith, devotion, loyalty and obedience that contributed to the phenomenal growth and development of the Society.
Can we tire of repeating Pujya Swamiji's accomplishments and accolades? Nay!Generations to come will cherish and enjoy the illustrious contributions of this humble South African, Pujya Swami Sahajananda─and his legacy will sparkle like a diamond amongst grains of sand, for posterity.
Pujya Swamiji's contributions to Hinduism and various humanitarian initiatives in South Africa are unparalleled in South African spiritual history. Pujya Swamiji set the foundation and commenced magnanimous and sterling work in the promotion of our glorious Hindu Dharma based on the teachings of Sri Swami Sivananda, by printing and distributing the Master'steachings with silent eloquence.His visionary leadership in establishing the unique Sivananda Ghat, the Sunlit Path Schools' Programme to assist learners cope withand overcomedrug addiction and othersocial ills, construction of schools',poor feeding programmes, grocery hamper distribution to the needy, our clinics and numerous educational, social and humanitarian initiatives, monthly Yoga Camps, Sivananda Day Satsangs, our beautiful Ashrams and Satsangs, are praiseworthy indeed. Such was Pujya Swamiji's sincere, silent, selfless and dynamic leadership! We salute Pujya Swamiji, and thank him, and our Divine Master, Sri Swami Sivananda, for the innumerable spiritual, material and ethical gifts bestowed upon us.
There is no doubt that our Divine Masterand Pujya Swami Sahajananda are inspiring, guiding and looking after the mission in South Africa. The spiritual and social service activities of the Society are progressing at a steady pace and have continued even during the pandemic. The total number of poverty alleviation projects to date is628, of which 37 were completed during the lockdown. The number of tune-ins to our online Satsangs, Yoga Camps and programmes during the lockdown, from April 2020 to the end of November 2021 is 235 249.
Numerous accolades have been paid to Pujya Swamiji in recognition of his spiritual and humanitarian work. "The Natal Witness", a daily newspaper based in Pietermaritzburg, stated on 11 December 2007, a day after Pujya Swamiji attained Mahasamadhi: "A hallmark of Sahajananda's leadership was an emphasis on service to the sick and the poor. In his time,the Divine Life Society completed over 300 projects, many in remote rural areas, including the building of schools, old age homes, clinics, peace and skills training centres, hydroponic gardens and spiritual centres".
In the same news media we read, "Tributes poured in yesterday, including a message from the then Premier S'bu Ndebele, who said: 'Swamiji's unassuming nature, humility, dynamic but silent leadership style and his unwavering commitment and contribution to the poor and needy, irrespective of race, colour or creed, will always be remembered'.Swami Sahajananda was the recipient of over 40 awards, including the Martin Luther King Jnr. Peace Award from the United States, and the prestigious Pravasi Bharatiya Samman award from India".
The best accolade is paid to Pujya Swamiji by our Divine Masteron 10 April 1956, on the occasion of Pujya Swamiji's initiation into the Holy Order of Sannyas. The Master said, "I am Swami Sahajandandji's rupee-eater. I want money for printing paper, art paper, for hospitals, etc. Sahajanandaji supplies the money. You may think that I am exaggerating him. People who have plenty of money cannot give two rupees. Such a man is a kanjusPrabhu (Great Miser)! Swami Sahajananda is spiritual king of Durban, a great organiser, a great supporter, a pillar of the Divine Life Society".
The Master continued, "He talks little. You have never seen him talking. He thinks much and does much. Such a great spiritual Yogi is he. He came some years before also and had remained here.He will now go with redoubled energy, charged with Himalayan vibrations and Mother Ganges Grace, and will work like a lion, Vedanta Kesari, Yoga Kesari. All these titles a man deserves when he becomes a Yogi. When a man becomes God, any number of titles are not enough. His devotion to teacher is unique. He has a pure heart. Such a Yogi is now going from here and he will thrill the whole of Africa, and again he will come. He has the spirit of renunciation. He has given his whole property to me. Just see his noble qualities of devotion, discipline and humility".
In our Satsang, we included anaudio message delivered extemporeby Pujya Swamiji which was recorded in November 1978. Pujya Swamiji commences with thought-provoking questions, "Now, how does God really help us? How does the Guru help us? We are asked to pray when we are in difficulty. It is a simple method. We're asked to call upon Him and we find in many cases or perhaps in all cases, the answer comes. But often people complain that they pray and they don't get an answer. Now, the answer must come, because any prayer that goes out to God, any prayer that goes out to the Guru, the response must come. But why don't we feel it? Why don't we get the right answer? The reason is that after you pray you must try to keep the mind quiet. If the mind is agitated you will not be able to interpret the answer that comes from the Divine Power or from the Guru. That is where most of the mistakes are made, because we pray and we doubt, we pray and we worry, we pray and we fear. So, even though the answer comes, it is not able to enter you and benefit you. The Guru sends a power, he sends a force to eliminate a particular difficulty that you are experiencing. The power comes to you and because the mind is agitated, the inner being is not receptive, the power is not able to do its work. So, it has to go back to the Guru.
"The answer may not come in the manner which you desire. You cannot pray and expect the problem to be solved in a particular manner. You've got to pray and keep quiet and allow God to solve it in His own manner. You cannot construct a plan by means of which God has to solve that problem, becausein God answering your problem, He sees it from the entire cosmic point of view. He sees your past life, your present life and your future, and He knows what is good for you. He is All-Wisdom and He sees everything simultaneously. So, He gives you the answer not according to what you desire or according to the present situation, but according to what is going to be best for your evolution or based on your past Karma. You'll find that in all cases, God will give you the right answer and the Guru will help you at the right moment."
We felt privileged to view a rare video on Pujya Swamiji, entitled "Memories of the Divine". Apart from pictures with officials and renunciants, the organisers also captured Pujya Swamiji talking at the Guru Purnima Satsang of 27 July 2003. On this day, Pujya Swamiji emphasised the importance of maintaining a spiritual diary. His talk was also directed to those who were seriously ill and he said, "Concentrate (during meditation) on the Trikuti (the space between the eyebrows) and go beyond body consciousness and you will get the peace of mind that you want." Pujya Swamiji also dwelt on the power of renunciation and receptivity. One should not wait for the children and grandchildren to get married, he said. On receptivity, he cited the experience of Sri Aurobindo who had a visit from a strange monk. The monk stood in front of Sri Aurobindo and took a cup and turned it upside down. When the disciples later asked Sri Aurobindo, what it meant, he said the monk implied, "All that you have gained, all your Siddhis, throw them out". Sri Aurobindo did that and made rapid progress thereafter. So, humility and receptivity are important qualities in spiritual life.
The last section of the video, entitled, "From the Lips of Swami Sahajananda", projected a few thought-provoking sayings from Pujya Swamiji:
• Do not get discouraged even if you get repeated failures. Ram Nam will be your strength and solace at all times.
• Only when one gives happiness to others, can one expect happiness in return.
Pujya Swamiji thanked devotees from South Africa and abroad for their "generous contributions for the peace of the country."
As part of the Society's efforts to honour the legacy of Pujya Swami Sahajananda, and as part of the centenary celebrations leading up to the 100th Birth Anniversary of Pujya Swamiji, the Society has completed the building of a school hall at Drakensberg Secondary in Estcourt. This is the school that Pujya Swamiji attended. The hall is named the "Sivananda Drakensberg School Hall", built in the memory of Swami Sahajananda. The keys were handed over to the school and the Department of Education on Thursday 2nd December 2021 and the official opening will take place in the new year when the situation in the country permits.
We wish all a safe and happy festive season. The Society is working with branch committees to plan the reopening of our Ashrams and branches sometime in the new year. This is dependent on factors beyond our control, such as the level of lockdown and infection rates. We thank all devotees, renunciants, well-wishers, patrons and donors for their participation and support in all activities of the Society, and we pray that our Divine Master and Pujya Swamiji will bless all with peace, prosperity, protection, happiness and divine illumination.
REPORT: PUJYA SWAMI SAHAJANANDA'S MAHASAMADHI ANNIVERSARY,
ACCORDING TO THE SANSKRIT CALENDAR
According to the Sanskrit calendar, Pujya Swami Sahajananda's 14th Mahasamadhi Anniversary was on Wednesday, 15 December 2021. Apart from the melodious Bhajans & Kirtans, the programme consisted of readings, an audio message from Pujya Swamiji, a melodious Bhajan sung by Pujya Swamiji, and a video presentation on the "Service Activities" of Divine Life Society of S.A.
The two readings taken from Divine Life for Children by Sri Swami Sivananda, consisted of moral stories entitled "Mind your own Business" and "The Wolf and the Lamb". The Master concluded the first story as follows, "Do not meddle in the affairs of others. Be cautious. Do not give your opinion unless it is asked for". The moral lesson of the second story is, "It is very easy to find fault with others. There are many wolves among children also. Such mischievous children who hurt others are really wolves. Remove the brute in you. Be good and do good".
In the pre-recorded audio message of July 1983, Pujya Swamiji advised us not to be judgmental about the spiritual life of others. He said, "You must remember that in spiritual life, there is no person who is really advanced and there is no person who is really backward. It must be clearly understood that the so-called people who are advanced, might not be very much advanced according to God's way. And, a person who might not appear to be advanced, might appear to be very backward, he might be nearer (to God). God looks at the heart, at your past samskaras. Gurudev quotes the case of a great Mahatma. He was ever absorbed in reading books, studying, lecturing and praying. When he went to a devotee's home, he stole something. At first, he denied it, and later on, he admitted, because the samskara was deep inside and when an opportune moment came, he fell a victim. There are others who do their work humbly and don't pretend to be too religious and show people who they are, but they are truly religious and very near God. So, no one can judge or say how far a person is. It is God alone who really can judge.
"So, let us start and go on steadily. The secret is to go steadily. It is more important than to start with enthusiasm and then give it up. Many of Gurudev's disciples were very enthusiastic in the beginning, but practically most of them have given up their Sadhana because there was a one-sided development, which is not conducive at all. If we discontinue it is very difficult to come to where we are. Even the great saints have undergone these tests and trials. So, you should not feel it is nothing and just relax for a while, give it up for some time and go for a holiday. Even if you go for a holiday, you should see that wherever you are, you have your meditation. Sarada Devi, that great saint said that she used to get up at 4 o'clock in the morning. Just one day, she missed it and she said it took her 6 months before she could control her mind and get up at 4 o'clock. How difficult it is. That is what the mind is. Another aspirant from Sri Aurobindo Ashram was very strict with his diet. But just one day he relaxed. He said it took him 5 years to get control.
"So, there is no time to relax. If you relax too, you must be vigilant ─ to get back to where you were. It is very difficult to make progress but very easy to lose it. God has every right to put temptations in our way. To test you, to see how far you have gone. It is necessary. Without a test, how would you know if you have progressed in your Sadhana. There is no end to God's tests and trials until we come to a stage when our mind is within. So, try not to worry what happens outside. Take complete rest in God's Name. Have trust and repeat one or two auto suggestions: God's Name is invincible; God's Name is all powerful; God's Name is all-purifying."
In the Bhajan, "Eighteen ities", Pujya Swamiji's golden and melodious voice described the qualities necessary for a successful spiritual life. "Practise daily these eighteen "ities", you will soon attain immortality", was the friendly advice given to us in the Bhajan.
In the informative video presentation on the "Service Activities" undertaken by the Society during the period 2020/2021, we were pleased to learn that despite the several impediments imposed by Covid-19, the Grace of our Divine Master and Pujya Swamiji prevailed as the Society completed 40 projects. These projects included building of crèches, classrooms, a school hall, upgrading of current facilities, repairs and renovations to DLS Ashrams as well as Temples, contribution towards the construction of three Covid-19 screening centres in the Durban area, poor feeding, etc. A pleasing feature was the completion of the Drakensberg Secondary School Hall in Estcourt, the school that Pujya Swamiji attended. The hall is named the "Sivananda Drakensberg School Hall", built in the memory of Swami Sahajananda.
Our guest artiste, Isaiselvamani Sri Karthiegasen Pillay, internationally recognised and South Africa's leading Carnatic vocalist, offered a melodious pre-recorded outpouring of the Bhajan, "Om Namo Narayanaya". Our deep gratitude to him.
As the year draws to a close, a new year awaits us with many challenges and also promises of joy & happiness. Let us all still be mindful of the threat of COVID-19 and take the necessary precautions. Remember, there is no place like home for the holidays. Let the year ahead be one where all your dreams and spiritual aspirations come true.