The Master's life-style did not prevent him from performing his daily spiritual practices and seeking the company of holy men. As discrimination began dawning in his mind, he began reflecting:
"Is there not a higher mission in life than the daily round of official duties, eating and drinking? Is there no higher form of eternal peace and happiness than all these transitory and illusory pleasures? How very insecure is existence on this earth-plane, with all kinds of fears, worries, anxieties, diseases and disappointments. The world of names and forms is ever changing. Time is fleeting. All hopes of peace and happiness in this world end in pain, despair and sorrow".
Such were the thoughts constantly arising in his mind. The doctor's profession provided him with ample evidence of sufferings in this world. He realised that true, lasting happiness cannot be had merely by acquiring wealth. With the purification of heart acquired through selfless service, he had a new vision. He was deeply convinced that there must be a place-a sweet home of divine splendour, purity and pristine glory-where absolute security, perfect peace and lasting happiness can be had. And that was by realising God.
So he abandoned the life of ease and comfort and reached India in search of an ideal centre for purposes of prayer, meditation, study and a higher form of service to the whole world.
When the Master reached home after many years, he was fondly received by his parents and other family members. We are told that while his goods were being taken off by the cartman, the Master was found missing. He had not even entered his home. The family thought that he had perhaps gone to visit friends. But in truth the Master had promptly bolted away! Such was his burning dispassion and desire to seek God that at a single stroke he renounced the whole world of wealth and family.
Initiation into the Holy Sannyas Order
The Master arrived at Rishikesh, in northern India, in 1924. One day, as he was sitting on the banks of the holy Ganges after being refused food at a local alms-house, a venerable saint, Swami Vishwananda, happened to cast a glance at him. Attracted by the young man's unusual spiritual aura, the saint was prompted to initiate him into the Order of Sannyas then and there. The Master entered the Holy Order on June 1, 1924, as Swami Sivananda Saraswati, and settled at Swarg Ashram.
The Master's approach to spiritual matters was unique and original. He imitated none. He just allowed his natural inborn tendencies to blossom forth and spread their sweet aroma to all those around him.
Service of Monks
In spite of his extremely severe austerities and prolonged periods of meditation, the Master 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 Lek, a European monk, to the hospital. Orthodox monks of the Rishikesh colony did not believe in any kind of selfless service. So the Master's activities were ridiculed.
Many monks were run down through malnutrition and the extreme winter cold. Most of them suffered from frequent attacks of fever and dysentery. The Master could not bear to see the helpless plight of these holy monks. He wanted to serve them, but he needed drugs and medicines for which money had to be found. Remembering his savings in an insurance company in Malaya, he managed to salvage Rs5,000. He deposited the sum in the post office and utilised the interest to obtain medicine and essential food items for the suffering monks.
Within a few months the Master felt the urgent need to organise this relief programme better. So the Satya Sevashram Dispensary thus came into being to serve the monks and the passing pilgrims.
A touching incident is recorded of the manner in which he served the pilgrims.
One morning the Master realised how absent-minded he was in not having given a certain very useful medicine to a passing pilgrim. The pilgrim had already begun his journey very early in the morning. When the Master started after him, he was already well on his way. Undeterred, the Master ran kilometer after kilometer, until he finally caught up with him at the tenth kilometer and handed him the precious medicine! It was such breathtaking sincerity of purpose and intense love of selfless service that became the crowning glory of the Divine Master's mission in life.
While at Swarg Ashram, the Master kept a diary in which he recorded his thoughts. He used to meditate even up to sixteen hours a day. His method of developing a virtue was to take one at a time and practise it for a month. He admitted that he, too, used to kill scorpions in the beginning.
About his own realisation of God, the Master revealed to one of his students:
"I did not have any outstanding experiences during the period of my spiritual practice. There was no external or internal obstruction in the progress of my practice (Sadhana). That was the only outstanding feature. I made meditation-deep meditation-the keynote of my inner life. It gave me smooth and continuous progress and rapid arrival at the final spiritual experience."
The Master founded the Divine Life Society in 1936, in premises that were once used as cowsheds. But it did not take long for seekers to be drawn to his magnetic personality and the Society grew rapidly.