On the importance of a Guru in an aspirant's life, Sri Swami Sivananda says in his book, Bliss Divine, "The Sadguru is Brahman Himself. He is an ocean of bliss, knowledge, and mercy. He is the captain of your soul. He is the fountain of joy. He removes all your troubles, sorrows, and obstacles. He shows you the right divine path.
"He tears your veil of ignorance. He makes you immortal and divine. He transmutes your lower, diabolical nature. He gives you the rope of knowledge, and takes you up when you are drowning in this ocean of Samsara (cycle of birth and death). Do not consider him to be only a man. If you take him as a man, you are a beast. Worship your Guru and bow to him with reverence.
"Guru is God. A word from him is a word from God. He need not teach anything. Even his presence or company is elevating, inspiring, and stirring, His very company is self-illumination. Living in his company is spiritual education. Read the Granth-saheb (the holy scripture of the Sikh religion). You will come to know the greatness of the Guru.
"Man can learn only from man, and hence God teaches through a human body. In your Guru, you have your human ideal of perfection. He is the pattern into which you wish to mould yourself. Your mind will readily be convinced that such a great soul is fit to be worshipped and revered.
"Guru is the Moksha-dvara (door to liberation). He is the gateway to the transcendental Truth-Consciousness. But it is the aspirant who has to enter through it. The Guru is a help, but the actual task of practical Sadhana (spiritual practice) falls on the aspirant himself".
The Satsang Programme at Sivananda International Cultural Centre comprised the "Song of Salutations", Kirtans, Bhajans, readings appropriate to the occasion from Swami Sivananda in Pictures, entitled, "Gratitude and Obedience", Pujya Swami Sahajananda's audio message, and a dance by Kashmira Bhajan, senior dancer of the Kala Darshan Institute of Classical Music and Dance, under the tutelage of Sri Manesh Maharaj. The Satsang was live-streamed and approximately 1 700 views were shared. Two views from the live-streamed audience are recorded as follows: "It's wonderful to see the reach it has had. I am watching again this morning. It was beautiful to be part of the celebration with you all". Another viewer said, "Thanks. I enjoyed the service. My daughter also listened and surprisingly she was quiet and listening".
In the audio message, Pujya Swami Sahajananda paid tribute to all the Brahma-Vidya Gurus of the past and present and prayed for their blessings, including that of our Divine Master, Sri Swami Sivananda. Thereafter he focused on the importance of a Guru in Hinduism and in an aspirant's life. Pujya Swamiji said, "...the great peculiarity in Indian spiritual life is this Guru Parampara, the Guru-disciple relationship. You will not find it anywhere else, in any other religion – the type of relationship that we have". Pujya Swamiji further explained that great Gurus have come and that they and their disciples have been able to maintain our great spirituality. Such is the Guru-disciple relationship, that a disciple will sacrifice "a million lives or anything for the sake of our Guru". Pujya Swamiji extolled the great devotion of well-known saints to their Gurus - saints such as Mother Krishnabai, Mother Mirra of Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Swami Muktananda, Parmahansa Yogananda, Sadhu Vaswani and our beloved Gurudev. On the importance of Guru Bhakti, Pujya Swamiji said, "...Guru Bhakti Yoga is the easiest and safest path". He encouraged us to practise self-surrender, "because here God holds you by the hand, and when God holds you by the hand, there is no chance of him leaving – but if you hold God, there is all likelihood that you might let go of the grip. When God holds you, then he never leaves you". Pujya Swamiji told us that prior to taking Sannyas initiation, he was timid. However, upon taking Sannyas, Gurudev infused power into him, enabling him to face any situation. His assurance that for instant peace, surrender to the Guru is essential, is a poignant and striking facet of his message.
An update on the Society's activities was also done as it instils pride and provides inspiration to devotees, donors and well-wishers. It is also an expression of gratitude to our Divine Master, Sri Swami Sivananda and Pujya Swami Sahajananda, by whose Grace and guidance these activities can be accomplished.
Our total number of poverty alleviation, educational and social projects since Pujya Swamiji started this programme in 1974, is 670. This includes assistance to Hindu religious organisations and temples. The Society also undertakes humanitarian activities during crises and natural disasters such as the recent storm damage in Inanda, Durban. Our new Ashram project in Gauteng is about to commence as the ground-work is now complete. To date 11 151 learners have graduated from our sewing schools. Hundreds of thousands of our Master's books on religion, ethics and morals have been printed and distributed amongst devotees and schools.
Sivananda Ghat continues to provide much-needed solace and dignified facilities for the ash immersion of post cremation ashes and Shradh ceremonies. As of 2 July 2023, 38 271 ash immersions and 10 004 rituals were performed at the Sivananda Ghat. The Sivananda Ghat is also a major outlet for our books, compact discs with Kirtans and Bhajans, and picture frames. By the Grace of Sri Gurudev and Pujya Swamiji, our Satsangs, Yoga Camps, prayer services, hamper distribution, health clinics, and maintenance of all our Ashrams and centres are ongoing.
Our Divine Master states, "Ideal institutions are the dire need of the hour. They are a blessing to the world as they contribute to the peace and spiritual well-being of the people at large. The spiritual institutions will take care of the souls of people. In turn, the people should take care of the institutions. Thus nourishing each other, both will reap supreme good". Through Sri Gurudev's and Pujya Swamiji's omnipotent and all merciful guidance, the Society is fulfilling this vision.
Whilst the world is experiencing turmoil at every level, our Divine Master has given his written assurance about the work of Divine Life Society of South Africa to Pujya Swami Sahajananda. "God will look after the divine work. Lord will look after everything". For this, our eternal appreciation and gratitude to our Divine Master and Pujya Swamiji.
The Society thanks all devotees, well-wishers, patrons and officials of the Society. We pay reverential obeisance and deep gratitude to our Divine Master, Gurudev Sri Swami Sivananda, our beloved Spiritual Head, Pujya Swami Sahajananda, and to all the Divine Incarnations, Brahma Vidya Gurus, Vedic Rishis, saints and sages for their inestimable contribution to the peace, harmony and spiritual evolution of the planet.