An article entitled True Discipleship by Sri Swami Sivananda was selected as a tribute to Pujya Swamiji, who shone throughout his life as the epitome of true discipleship and Guru Bhakti. We highlight two aspects from this detailed article. First, we present in Sri Gurudev's own words, what it takes to prepare for Sannyas, and the responsibilities that go with initiation. Then, the qualities required to be a true disciple according to our Master, is outlined.
Sannyas and Initiation
Sri Gurudev says: "Do not take Sannyas without proper qualification. If you do so without the necessary qualification, you should stick to it and make fresh efforts to make yourself qualified. To revert to household life after taking Sannyas is deplorable.
"At the time of initiation, you should surrender your body, mind and soul to the Guru. You should be a qualified seeker. If you are not fully qualified, after initiation, you should try to make yourself fully qualified. Every moment you should strive to become an ideal disciple. You might have erred a thousand times, but you must sincerely repent and strive to correct yourself. From the time of initiation, you are your Guru's instrument. You should use your body in his service. After initiation, everything belongs to your Guru. You should keep no possessions or riches. If you want to possess riches even after initiation, you should spend them according to his instructions only. You should not spend the money in wrong channels like drinking, gambling, visiting places of sensual pleasure, etc. If you use the money for legitimate purposes and for charity, it is equal to self-surrender to the Guru. You should shun luxury and ease. You should accept whatever comes by chance—and only the minimum—for just keeping the body going in good condition. Never fight for any of your rights. Never murmur. Lead a simple life."
Qualities required to be a true disciple.
Swami Sivananda boldly expresses what qualities a disciple must have to be true to one's Guru. Doubtless, it takes tremendous effort, determination and devotion to follow the strict guidelines Sri Gurudev prescribes if one sincerely wants to be a first-class disciple of a true Guru. He tells us that to be a true disciple is a lifetime of arduous Sadhana.
In the Master's words, to be a true disciple: "....you should follow the instructions of your Guru to their very letter and spirit. If you make a promise to your Guru, you should fulfil it even at the cost of your life. If you are able to act according to the wishes of your Guru even without his orders, you are a first-class disciple. If you do a thing after his ordering you, you are a second-class disciple. If you fail to do a thing even after repeated orders to you, you are a third-class disciple.
"A true disciple is one who serves his Guru till the end of his life. If the disciple survives after the Guru gives up his mortal coil, he should lead the remaining portion of his life strictly in accordance with his Guru's instructions and live to preach them to others by practising them himself. A disciple should not act against the wishes of his Guru."
All of us who were close to Pujya Swamiji will readily agree that he was an epitome of this bold guidance set out by Sri Gurudev. What a wonderful culmination of Guru Bhakti!
The audio message of Swami Sahajananda.
We outlined above Sri Gurudev's profound teachings on true discipleship. The audio message was a complementary follow-up to the article on true discipleship. Devotees heard an audio-recorded talk by Sri Gurudev's true disciple—Sri Swami Sahajananda. It is well-known that Pujya Swamiji was a strong advocate of self-surrender. He published a booklet entitled Faith and Self Surrender. This precious booklet is the cornerstone of any spiritual endeavour.
In Pujya Swamiji's audio-recorded message, we heard his profound message about the importance of self-surrender for achieving a complete positive transformation of our nature. His bold statement about the importance of transformation of our nature was: "Gurudev and Sri Aurobindo want a complete change. We must completely change our nature, and so some of the change only comes after you realise God. So for that type of change I also like self-surrender. In my own case, I found things will just happen; nothing will change outside, but I will wake up one day and find a certain part of my nature gone for good, and I have done nothing at all. All that I have done is to do Gurudev's work. Whatever book I printed or whatever work, as you know, I put my entire heart, mind and soul into it. Self-surrender is the only path that can completely get rid of all sorrow, pain and suffering once and for all. So for that complete transformation, we have to practise self-surrender, and this is the best period, the period in which we are living, because of the problems we all have to face. That is what you call God's Grace. We must try and understand what Grace means."
Pujya Swamiji gave a profound and pertinent example of what Grace means in the same audio. He said: "So you must never be afraid at all. I get nervous when people express fear of politics or fear of unemployment because we have to be courageous, and that is the gospel that I like to preach for us now. Make the very best use of every situation that is cropping up today because that is Grace."
The above advice by Pujya Swamiji was given to devotees many years ago, yet it is very relevant to our present situation and will also be relevant in the future.
Pujya Swamiji suggested that we can choose between devotion and the difficult path of knocks and blows to go to God. He quoted the following example to highlight this view: "Anandamayi Ma said that if you don't go to God willingly, then you will whipped ..... you got to suffer and go. If you want to suffer and go, then you are going to get knocks and blows; otherwise, go through devotion. Most of our devotees want to take the more difficult path; they want to get knocks and blows, so try to make the best use of it." This reminds us of the following line in our invocation prayer:"Whatever comes to me from you will lead me to your lotus feet."
In his talk, Pujya Swamiji also emphasised that whatever happens is Sri Gurudev's will, as is evident in his words: "Don't moan and groan when anything happens; take that as Gurudev's will because the whole universe is controlled by him. I have so many lessons in the press; sometimes the screw will fall down; it will be right in front of me, but it will never be found and from that, I will learn a lesson that nothing can happen without the will of God only. When God wills it, you will find it. The statement that not a speck of dust can move without the will of God is perfectly true, but you've got to get that knowledge from the heart; that's what they call the higher knowledge. When that higher knowledge descends, then you know everything from the heart, not from the head, and it is known once and for all, and when that knowledge descends, then you know your problems are solved for good, and when Grace descends, it will come and take away everything immediately."
In conclusion we can say that it was a fitting tribute to Pujya Swamiji, that so many devotees, young and old, attended this sacred Mahasamadhi Anniversary Satsang and participated in the proceedings with a well-disciplined demeanour.
PUJYA SWAMI SAHAJANANDA'S 15TH MAHASAMADHI ANNIVERSARY ACCORDING TO THE SANSKRIT CALENDAR: 24 NOVEMBER 2022.
Today we observed Pujya Swami Sahajananda's 15th Mahasamadhi Anniversary according to the Sanskrit calendar. Pujya Swamiji gave up his teaching career to embrace the holy order of Sannyas on 10 April 1956. After the Sannyas Ceremony in 1956, the Divine Master, Sri Swami Sivananda said, "Swami Sahajananda is styled as the spiritual king of South Africa, Durban. He is also called the African Chota Guru. He does not want anything. He is a silent worker. He is a man of renunciation, Vairagya and meditation. He is a very good organiser".
Sri Swami Sahajananda, Spiritual Head of Divine Life Society of South Africa, the epitome of loyalty, compassion and Guru Bhakti, lived to serve ─ and he served tirelessly and unconditionally. He lived a life of absolute self-surrender and Guru-Bhakti Yoga. He attributed all accolades, achievements of the Society and spiritual merits to the Divine Master's Grace. Pujya Swamiji never took any credit for anything. Sri Gurudev worked directly through Pujya Swamiji. We are indeed blessed to have such a great Mahatma, whose Chit Shakti has been ingrained in every facet of the Society, due to decades of his intense Sadhana.
Pujya Swami Sahajananda led Divine Life Society of South Africa from humble beginnings 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 unique. He did not question the Master but carried out his instructions implicitly, surrendering completely to his Divine will. It is this faith, devotion, loyalty and obedience that contributed to the phenomenal growth and development of the Society over the past 73 years. We are eternally grateful to Pujya Swamiji for his remarkable contributions to this country in the fields of religion, promoting our glorious Hindu Dharma, moral and cultural education, poverty alleviation programmes and projects, youth development, as well as social and spiritual growth.
Pujya Swamiji's contributions to Hinduism in South Africa and humanitarian initiatives in the country are noteworthy and stand out in South African Spiritual History. Since Pujya Swamiji's Mahasamadhi in December 2007, both the spiritual and social service activities of the Society are progressing at a steady pace. There is no doubt that our Divine Master, Sri Swami Sivananda, and Pujya Swami Sahajananda are inspiring, guiding and looking after the Mission in South Africa. This is testimony to the Master's own words, which Mother Hridayananda related in1985, "My favourite disciples are in South Africa. Even if my mission fails elsewhere, in South Africa it will not. God Himself is looking after the work there."
The attributes of a true Sannyasin as outlined by Sri Swami Sivananda in the article, ATest of True Sannyas, read at the evening Satsang, can be aptly attributed to Pujya Swami Sahajananda. In the article Sri Swami Sivananda said, "What the true Sannyas spirit is, is not properly understood even by very many Sannyasins themselves. Of course, Virakti (detachment), solitude, observance of Mouna, living on Bhiksha, constantly chanting Om may all be some of the eternal characteristics of a monk but quite apart from all this is the real inner Bhav (feeling) which constitutes the basic essence of the Sannyas spirit. This is the absolutely dispassionate sameness to all the pairs of opposites – heat and cold, pain and pleasure, grief and joy, failure or success, insult or honour. The Sannyasin receives and regards them all with same-sightedness and with calm forbearance".
In Pujya Swami Sahajananda's audio message, he spoke eloquently on the greatness of loyalty, and the correct mental attitude which are necessary for spiritual progress. In response to aspirants' questions to the Master that they could not see their spiritual progress, the Master said, "I can see your spiritual progress although you are not able to see it." Pujya Swamiji used the analogy of the rock, which after being hammered up to ninety nine blows, splits at the hundredth blow. Pujya Swamiji explained, "The split was going on inside, but we were not able to see it. Now similarly the progress is going on inside. So we need never be discouraged, that we are not making progress, and that we not getting what the other person is getting, because in some cases you can see the progress people are making – in other cases you don't see it." Pujya Swamiji said that only God can judge who is making spiritual progress and who is not. On the need for implicit faith, Pujya Swamiji said that faith is a gift of God, and that spiritual progress centres around this quality.
On this, Pujya Swami Sahajananda's 15th Mahasamadhi Anniversary, we pay reverence and homage to our Divine Master, Sri Swami Sivananda for the most precious gift bestowed on South Africa: Pujya Swami Sahajananda. During these difficult times, let us intensify our Sadhana, and find resonance in Pujya Swamiji's advice on the power of the Divine Name. "We worry about the little things. Instead of clinging to God's Name, we worry about all the little things. So, we must divert the mind from there. Bring it back to God and the problem that is confronting us will settle itself. The Divine power from the Name will get that problem settled. So, our whole aim, our whole duty, first and foremost duty, is to take the Divine Name. Try to make it as continuous as possible. The more continuous you can make it, you can be quite sure that the Divine Grace is working actively. Regardless of your mental condition, whether you have worries or whether bad thoughts are coming, that is not so important at that time. If the Name is going on continuously, you can be quite sure that the higher Divine Grace is working actively. So that is the message. Take the Divine Name and see the results, especially in these troubled times."