The Guru of the World
A talk by Swami Satchidananda on the occasion of the Jayanthi (birthday) of his own master, Sri Swami Sivananda
Beloved friends, I am extremely delighted to see you all gathered here, to have a celebration in the name of my Master, Sri Gurudev Swami Sivananda, a saint of our age who lived in the midst of us until 1963.
Many times we come across miracles happening, but many times we miss the miracles, to see them as miracles. In Master Swami Sivananda’s case you see such a miracle which is not presented as a miracle. To a common man it might appear something normal. But in his case the miracle is something unique.
He spent his life serving the entire humanity, irrespective of caste, creed, race, religion, colour, country, or sex. He was called a Jagat Guru – the Guru of the World – an appropriate term to call him.
Without moving any further than India and Ceylon, he reached so many people. He lived mostly in the Himalayas, in a place known as Rishikesh, which means Abode of the Rishis, to all corners of the globe.
Thousands and thousands of people came across his teachings, mainly through his hundreds of books. His words are very simple, even an ordinary schoolboy can easily understand his works. In that way, the highest philosophical truths have been given very simply so that anyone can understand them. He used to write as if he were talking to you personally. That’s why, though he always remained in the Himalayas, he was able to send out his teachings all over.
His ashram was a miracle. Things just happened, nobody knew how. He just went and stayed in a small cowshed to begin with, and within a few years it grew up into a small township, which we call the Sivanandanagar. And everything grew up without any plan. There were always creditors, and there were always people around the ashram who gave the ashram loans, by way of material. There was never a proper bank balance in the ashram, there was never a budget. The ashram was always in debt, and with all that he used to send his books free, thousands of rupees worth, hundreds of thousands; nobody knew where he got the money to send those books. One morning we would be thinking of starving for want of food in the kitchen, but that very night cartloads of food, materials, would come in. At a particular time we thought that we would have to close the ashram because of the large amount of debt, and we were all getting ready to go out to lighten the burden of the ashram. The following morning, from somewhere, a devotee came, and he made a check just good enough to take care of the entire debt, so many thousands of rupees.
These are not even miracles, there are much more. Many disciples come from school and from other places as just raw hands, not all of them were talented; once brought into the ashram he made them really great men. There is a saying in the Bhagavad Gita: ‘If his grace is there, nothing is impossible; the dumb can be eloquent, the lame can cross the hills.” By his grace nothing is impossible, we see this is his life. You need not go out to search for proof; I am here sitting in front of you as a proof. If I can come and do some work for you, that is the greatest miracle of Swami Sivanandaji.
He never went out you must remember. Once in his lifetime he went for a small tour all over India and Ceylon, just for two months, and that’s all. And that through the great effort of some of his disciples. Otherwise he always used to say, ‘Why go round? If the flower has plenty of honey, should it send invitations to the bees? They will come by themselves.’ Thus people come from all over the globe. And his teachings-very simple, no secret. He never denied anything. He accepted everything. His way is called Poorna yoga, Integral Yoga. Now we hear a lot of talk about ecumenism; Swami Sivananda is an embodiment of that spirit. If you have seen his pictures you might wonder who he is, sometimes you see him with a nice Muslim cap, sometimes with a hat, you can see him with a tennis racket in his hand, you can see him with a beautiful cross adorning his broad chest. He was everything; be was Buddhist, Christian, Muslim, Jew. And not only in the religious work; he was a doctor, he was a playmate, he was everything. There was a uniqueness in him.
I still remember a few wrestlers who visited the ashram once. They wanted to show their talent, so we created a nice arena for them, and they were demonstrating their talents. All of a sudden we saw another wrestler jump into the arena. He actually pulled out his cloth, just tucked his dhoti around and jumped into the arena: ‘Come on!’ You can just imagine a swami doing this! With the children he used to play like child. He used to go sit in the swing. He used to play with them the spoon and Potato Race. You know the Spoon and Potato Race? We still have pictures of him biting a spoon and holding a potato on the spoon and running. He was a mixture of everything; he accepted everything. That is the secret of why every felt at home, and by his mysterious and miraculous touch he was able to lift people up.
One day, a young man came to the ashram. He was the son of a well-known musician who used to play the flute. So immediately Swamiji said, ‘Oh, I know your father, be is a great musician; you too must be knowing something, come on, play a little.’ ‘Well; Swami, I don’t know much, I have a pipe, but I don’t know..’ ‘No, no, come on, you must play immediately he was asked to come and play.
But even before playing, Swamiji ‘ said, ‘Hey, you must be tried, drink a cup of hot milk; have some fruits. And he is a musician, so he must learn all about music. Swamiji wrote several books about music – ‘Sankirtan Yoga’, ‘Bhajan’ and ‘Music and Yoga’ and more. So he said, ‘Give this man all the books I wrote about music’ ‘Swami, I can’t read them’ ‘Oh, I don’t worry, you will read one day. Do you Practice Yoga?’ ‘I….uh….I know a little bit of shoulder….’ ‘Oh, that is enough. That is the great Yoga. Shoulder stand is the biggest practice. Come on, bring all the Hatha Yoga books to him.’ Immediately he got a bundle of books. He hasn’t started playing.
Then he started playing. Well, no one could relish the music he played. It was so absurd. Nobody could enjoy it. I even saw most of the people closing their ears. But Swamiji enjoyed it. ‘Wonderful! wonderful! How nice it is, how good!’ He even had a form there, ready to give titles. He wrote in the titles. ‘I’m giving you the title of Sankirtan yogi. See?’ We were all wondering, ‘What is this. Swamiji? Your title will be meaningless’. ‘Shh, don’t worry,’ he said. ‘Give it to him because, he plays so wonderfully.’ The man himself said, ‘Swami, why are you telling me this? Are you really appreciating me? I didn’t play anything’, Swamiji insisted, ‘Probably to you didn’t. You know, when you do something, you don’t appreciate it, but we can appreciate it. I see a great musician in you. How can you be otherwise? A tiger’s cub cannot be a kitten. Are you not the son of so-and-so? Come on. When you come again, play. I will be waiting for you play again.’ The man bowed down and went back.
And the following year the same man returned as a real musician, an exponent of that instrument, to play beautifully. He said ‘Swami, I don’t know. I never practiced specially. But you said that I will come next year and play. I am here. I am happy with the music I am playing, to my surprise.’
That is his way. Teaching need not be always through books. Many people think that the Master should sit in the classroom and give a text book, questionnaires, exams. It’s not necessary; the ancient teachers never did it, particularly in the forest. You just live with them and learn from their examples. You may not know when you will get some advice. If he sees you carrying a bundle of cloth, he might take that excuse to tell you how to wash it. And from that everything will follow: how to wash your mind, how to make it clean and calm, the entire physical and mental and spiritual laundry business will be there. That is Swamiji’s. He is a modern saint. He always taught us to see the good in everything and accept it. That is why his teachings are accepted by one and all. And he always wanted an individual to develop harmoniously, not a one-sided development. The physical, the vital the mental, and the spiritual. So he would sing a song, the Song of little, in which he says to do a little of everything:
‘Eat a little, drink, a little, sleep a little, pranayama a little, do japa a little, meditate a little. The golden middle path, don’t go to the extremes.’
He never wanted anybody to be very rigorous.
I still remember one day, one winter evening, I was sitting near the River Ganges and meditating, I forgot the time, it became almost dark, very chilly in the winter in the Himalayas. All of a sudden I felt somebody touching my shoulder, lifting me up. I looked back to see Swamiji standing there.
‘Swamiji, why are you?’ ‘Get up, get up. What are you doing here?’
‘All right, all right, don’t go to heaven once for all. What kind of meditation is this? Don’t you see that it is chilly here? You might catch cold. Your mind may meditate; what about the body? If you want to meditate go into a room, sit and meditate.’
He never wanted us to torture the body; at the same time not to pamper the body. Give it its due, give it proper attention. Do not overindulge in things. For instance, Hatha Yoga; he talked a lot about Hatha Yoga, but still he knew the limit. He never asked us to practice the head stand for half an hour or pranayama for an hour.
A little of everything: asana, pranayama, japa, meditation. Above all, show it in your life. See God in every, serve everybody; all the teachings should be put into your daily life. He used to say, by developing your physical strength, or attaining certain powers don’t think that you are going to be a Yogi. Suppose somebody comes and spits at your face, do you smile at him? If you cannot, you are not a Yogi. Bear insult, bear injury, that is the highest spiritual practice is to bear insult and injury. Accept things equally, that’s what the Gita says: praise and censure, pleasure and pain, profit and loss; try to keep up the equanimity all through. And to keep up the equanimity you have to face the duality. Unless you face the pleasure and pain, how can you learn to keep up the equanimity? And that cannot be practiced in a cave, because there is no opportunity for you to face the pleasure and pain. So the world is where we learn the equanimity. When you are praised, don’t get excited; when you are censured, don’t get dejected. That is Yoga. Because your real nature is that equanimity, that peace.
Peace is your true nature. God created you in his own image. So God is peaceful, God is healthy, God is happy.
If you are His image you must be healthy, happy, peaceful. That is why all these other terms are negative: ‘I am diseased.’
What do you mean by that? ‘I lost my ease.’ Your nature is ease, you lost it, so you say I am diseased, I am rest-less. Why?
Resting is your nature, you lost it. Even to say, ‘I am disturbed,’ you should have an undisturbed condition; otherwise how can you get disturbed? Knowingly or unknowingly you accept that undisturbed ease, that healthy, peaceful condition as yours. So that ease and peace is your true nature. That is the image of God. So the Yoga teachings ask you not to disturb that ease and peace, not to do anything that will disturb it your diet is going to disturb that ease, to bring disease, take care of it. If your daily movements, if your associations are going to disturb you, take care of the associations. Keep the proper company which will not disturb you. So in the name of spiritual practice we are not going to achieve something new. We have it already. All that we should do is not disturb it, not lose what we have, or what we are.
That is the aim of Yoga, or the aim of religion; all the religions ultimately teach the same thing. It is similar to the proverb, ‘All roads lead to Rome.’ All the religions lead to home. Because there is only one home, very often I say there is OM in HOME. And HE on either side of OM, to make the HOME. That is our true home, and there lives our father. And we are all the children. There are not many fathers, only one, so we are all His children. That means we are all brothers and sisters, whether we are black, white, Australian, American, whatever be the race, whatever be the religion, whatever be the colour. It it that unity which called for in the name of Yoga. So Yoga it nothing new the West: what the West was calling union, or communion, is Yoga. But what it that communion? Where do we get it? Is it only with God? Is it only in the church that we get the communion? If you are going to get the communion only in the church, only with God, it is of no use to you. The real communion is to have it with everybody, with everything, If you cannot have communion with your neighbours, with the things around you, can’t have communion with God. God is not something different from all these things. You should have communion with your table and chair. If you pull your chair it cries. Be gentle in putting it in place. You can communicate with your dishes when you wash them. You can communicate with everything. That is Yoga.
Be nice, be gentle, be loving to everything, to everybody Don’t think you must love only the human beings. You can love your cup as you love your lip. That is Yoga, that is Integral Yoga. Integral Yoga means to apply Yoga everywhere every minute, all through the twenty four hours. That is the great gift of my Master Swami Sivananda. And that is why I am very happy to have gathered here to remember his great teachings. The birthday is only an excuse, Yes, we must have some sort of excuse, because a holy man has no birthday and death day. It is only the body the takes birth, and then is no more. The spirit is always there; it has no birth and death. ‘I was never born, I will never born, I will never die’, says the Bhagavad Gita. So where is the birthday? It is just an excuse.
In that excuse, by praising him, what do we praise? We don’t praise his money or this or that. We talk of his wisdom. The more you talk of the wisdom of a man, the more you get it. That is why we should always talk good of others. The more you talk good of others, the more you become good, because you dwell in that. If you talk about the evil qualities of the other person, ultimately you will become. Not that the scriptures or sages and saints ask you to spare him from telling all his bad qualities; you need not spare that fellow, but spare yourself. If you constantly talk ill of others, you are dwelling in those qualities. Ultimately you become that. So it is for your own sake that you should talk good of others. Even if there is ninety percent of bad, there will be ten percent to god.
Nobody is one hundred percent good. It is always a matter of percentage. Maybe one is ninety percent good, ten percent bad; the other one ninety percent bad, ten percent good. It’s only a matter of degree. So think of the good and you will be benefited. And not only you; when you talk good of him, slowly even a bad man will become good, because everybody appreciates. He will live up to that. So always see the good, praise him. That is the best way to lift him up. That is a living Yoga, and that is the reason we come together to talk about the great wisdom of the sages and saints.
So may this day bring a pure truth to be followed in our lives to make us a little better. May the great blessing of all the great. Masters be upon us and guide us to lead a perfect life with all health and happiness.