Divine Life Society of S.A. celebrated Guru Purnima on Wednesday, 13 July 2022. Since the pandemic, devotees were not allowed to attend Satsangs at our Ashrams. Online Satsangs were arranged to quench their spiritual thirst. For Guru Purnima 2022, we were once again most fortunate to be in the midst of fellow devotees. It was a joyous occasion as a wonderful wave of Guru Bhakti and camaraderie pervaded the precincts of the Ashrams.
Our Divine Master, Sri Swami Sivananda wrote as follows regarding this auspicious event, “Mark fully the deep significance of this great day. Spiritual aspirants seriously begin to put into actual practice all the theory and philosophy that has been stored up in them through systematic and patient study. They commence or resolve to intensify with all earnestness, their practical spiritual Sadhana right from this day. This day of worship of one's preceptor is a day of pure joy to the sincere spiritual aspirant. Thrilled by the expectation of offering his reverent homage to the beloved Guru, aspirants await this occasion with eagerness and devotion”.
It is the Guru alone that breaks the binding cords of attachment and releases the aspirant from the trammels of earthly existence. “The Grace of a Guru is very necessary. That does not mean that the disciple should sit idle. He must do rigid spiritual practices. The whole work must be done by the student. Today, seekers want a drop of water from the water-pot of a Sannyasin and desire to enter into the state of Samadhi immediately. They are not prepared to undergo any kind of spiritual practice for purification and Self-realisation. They want a magic pill to push them into the state of God-realisation. If you have such kinds of delusion, give it up immediately”, said our Divine Master.
Saints and sages have from ancient times emphasised that, “The best form of worship of the Guru is to follow his teachings, to shine as the very embodiment of his teachings, and to propagate his glory and message”.
In Path of Divine Grace, Pujya Swami Sahajananda states, “Just as you can give an orange to a man, so also, spiritual power can be transmitted by one to another. A certain spiritual vibration of the Master is actually transferred to the mind of his disciple. Spiritual power is transmitted by the Guru to the proper disciple whom he considers fit”.
Pujya Swami Sahajananda took our Master’s teachings and sifted out what was most appropriate for us to follow in this modern age. At our workshop for the Society’s officials held at Headquarters in March, we announced that the theme selected for us this year is “Back to Basics”. The following points were emphasized at the workshop:
As devotees of a great Mahatma, we have to remind ourselves of our reasons for coming to the Ashram and for wanting to follow a spiritual path. We should never lose sight of this as it would determine how receptive we are to the guidelines Pujya Swamiji has put in place for us.
We need to constantly offer gratitude for all we have been blessed with ─ both in our secular lives and for our spiritual growth. We often forget to give thanks as we have become so used to basking in the sunshine of the benevolence and mercy of our Divine Master.
Pujya Swamiji has chalked out various programmes and pledges that we should respect. Some of these are the Home Satsang & Daily Prayer Pledge, and the pledges associated with Brahmacharya, Vegetarianism, and Television.
Guru Purnima is a time for spiritual seekers to take stock of themselves, take resolves to improve and rededicate their loyalty and one pointed devotion to the Divine Master’s feet.
The Board of Management is planning on opening up our Ashrams even further in the near future. It is consulting with medical professionals with the hope of a full reopening soon. Officials and devotees meticulously observed the safety protocols when we reopened and need to be commended. The Society has exceptionally disciplined devotees. During the lockdown, rules of the Ashram had to be changed and, by and large, devotees followed the protocols that were in place. We offer our gratitude to all visitors to our Ashrams and centres for respecting the rules posted on our buildings.
It must be noted that the organisation remained very active despite the pandemic and the restrictions that came with it. By the Sri Gurudev's Grace all of the Society's activities have been progressing well.
Our projects committee never rested. We have senior, retired devotees who still travel long distances to oversee projects on a weekly basis. Since the start of the lockdown, we completed 67 projects. These included assistance to 13 temples and Hindu religious organisations.
We also held the official opening of our Centenary Project, the Sivananda Drakensberg Secondary School Hall in Estcourt on 10 April this year.
The sod turning ceremony was performed three days ago at our Sandton Branch in Buccleuch to start off our new Ashram project to cater for the many devotees and youth who have relocated to Gauteng.
During the past year we distributed health supplements and grocery hampers.
Maintenance at our Ashrams and centres is ongoing. We are glad to note that during the recent floods, our Sivananda International Cultural Centre at La Mercy was saved from serious damage. The additional drainage and retainer blocks that were installed at the beginning of lockdown was the Master’s unfailing guidance in action. Had this not been done we could have had lots of wash aways.
Our devotees responsible for our Press and publications devotees responsible for our Press and publications worked as Pujya Swamiji would have expected them to. Many thousands of books are being printed and the work of Jnana Yajna or dissemination of our Master’s literature is progressing extremely well. We are glad to note that our retired devotees and some younger devotees have given time each week to work in our Press and at our Sivananda Ghat. This is what Pujya Swamiji would expect from us – to renounce part of our lives to serve our Master regularly.
Sivananda Ghat was open throughout the pandemic and provided solace to thousands.
Our school-book distribution is also progressing well. We set stretch targets for printing the book, Divine Life for Junior Children this year, and our press workers and volunteers are working enthusiastically to produce them.
The importance of Guru Purnima is reaffirmed by our Master in the following words:
Do you realise now the sacred significance and the supreme importance of the Guru's role in the evolution of man? It is therefore not without reason that India, year after year, age after age, commemorates anew this ancient concept of the holy Guru, adores it and pays homage to it again and again, and thereby re-affirms its belief and allegiance to it. For the true Hindu knows that the Guru is the only real guarantee for the individual to transcend the bondage of sorrow and death, of pain and misery, and experience the bliss and peace of the Reality”.
Our Divine Master says, “Take care of my mission and I will take care of you”. Devotees have reported how through firm faith in the Master and dedication to his work they have recovered from serious illnesses. Devotees are also accepting our Master’s Will more readily in situations that they cannot change. This is most inspiring. Many have lost close family and friends during the lockdown. Their spiritual strength and courage are evidence of our Gurudev’s Grace and the benefit of regular Sadhana.
Our readings for the evening online programme, entitled “Try & Try Again” and “God’s Darshan” were taken from the book, Sivananda’s Gospel of Divine Life. In reply to a visitor’s request for instructions, the Master said, “Complain not. If you do not receive food or tea, do not complain. If anybody abuses you, remain like a block of stone”. Certainly, good advice for all spiritual seekers!
In the audio recording, Pujya Swamiji describes his reverence for the Master in the following manner:
“In my own case, from the very beginning of my association with Gurudev, there was that acceptance, almost in totality. I couldn’t remember any period in my life when there was any flickering of faith in Gurudev, although Gurudev did many unconventional things. We heard recently Mother Krishnabai saying that when a saint goes beyond Dharma and Adharma, why should he comply with the social rules or any rules made by man. So, Gurudev departed from many of these rules. Many of the Mantras that were not supposed to be revealed, he revealed. He started giving Sannyas, partial Sannyas, what is called Jnana Sannyas to householders, something that was never done before and many other things.
“I’ve seen Gurudev doing the funniest things in the Ashram, things that might shake any one’s faith. In my own case, one of the questions I asked myself was whether he was a man of God. And, once that question was answered and accepted by me, then I didn’t question whatever Gurudev did. Saints everywhere act unconventionally. So that faith was there and because that faith was there, I was able to see Gurudev’s hand in everything ─ in the good and the bad.”
Pujya Swamiji then spoke about the importance of Divine Grace on the spiritual path and concluded that if we wish to make spiritual progress, “our surrender to God must be unconditional.”
We express our deep gratitude to all devotees, well-wishers, patrons and officials of the Society who sustain the Society and who work to promote our Divine Master’s Name and Mission in this country. We thank all devotees who attend Satsangs and religiously perform their daily Sadhana and keep the strong positive vibrations growing in the troubled world we live in. Most importantly, we offer our deep gratitude to our Divine Master, Sri Swami Sivananda, Pujya Swamiji and Ganga Mata for the love, guidance and protection that they bestow upon us all.
“I bow to the great Guru, the first and perfect Being, the revealer of the Vedas, who like a bee extracts its essence, comprising Jnana and Vijnana, and gives to devotees.”
─Guru Bhakti Yoga, Sri Swami Sivananda