Remembering Swami Sivananda
by Swami Krishnananda

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(Spoken on September 8, 1992)

This is the blessed occasion of the coming of Sri Gurudev Swami Sivanandaji Maharaj. In one’s usual occupations of life, engrossed as one usually is in several things from morning till evening, one is not likely to find time to keep in mind the memory of a presence of this kind, a force that operated in this world and moved like a mighty colossus of the Spirit for such a long period of time, to the visibility of all people.

The human mind is short of memory many a time. It cannot remember even great things, what to speak of other things. But this is not a thing about which we can have the liberty to remember or not remember. It is an influence whose impact and impression upon the world as a whole cannot easily be erased from the atmosphere of this Earth. The world will remember him; this very Earth will stand as a witness to that great advent. Millions who have been transformed in their inner spirit and outlook of life will cherish his memory. Countless people in this world who have made a right-about turn in their life, who have started looking forward with an inner eye and a vision of perfection, cannot afford to forget him; much less can those who had the blessing of physically living with him, rubbing shoulders with him, as it were—beholding him every day, receiving his commands, orders and instructions, bathing in the glory of his presence, and enjoying the security that he provided—afford to forget him.

Sri Gurudev Swami Sivanandaji Maharaj came like a single power, lived a life of aloneness, and went alone, as a pervading meteor that shot through the sky, as it were, inundating the world with a radiance that the world has rarely seen. We say he was a spiritual force, casually knowing the literal meaning of this word but not knowing what it actually implies. The world is not aware of the meaning of the words ‘spirit’ and ‘spirituality’; it knows only the surface skin of their meaning. If the in-depth profundity of this significance had actually entered the feelings of people, the world would not be what it is today with tension and anxiety. A word does not protect; it is its meaning that gives us security. Language has no meaning if its significance is not capable of appreciation. If I cannot understand what you speak, and if you do not know what I am saying, the sounds do not carry significance. So is the case with words like ‘God’, ‘spirit’, ‘spirituality’, ‘yoga’, ‘meditation’, ‘moksha’. They fly like empty shells in the firmament of human studies and performances, but life does not change. It is like eating food without digesting and absorbing it. Our studies, our business of life, our activities, our occupations, are not even skin deep, to say the least. Perhaps they do not touch even our skin, yet they seem to be everywhere in the world as the only meaning of life. And what is this ‘only meaning’—the meaning that has not even touched our skin?

That is why we come as we came, we live as we came, and perhaps we go as we came and we lived. This is the fate of many a creature-like existence that treads this Earth as humanity. To reorient this vision and to awaken humanity to the consciousness of a higher value of life—to ‘awaken’ is the proper word—this great, mighty Master incarnated under the command of God Himself.

When Sri Gurudev came to this world, materialism was rampant everywhere. It was the end of the nineteenth century, when a technological industrial revolution was making headway in this world. The wrong side of Western education was emphasised. Logic, argument of an empirical nature, sensorily oriented, intellectually conditioned, was the educational procedure. Unfortunately, that outlook continues even today.

However, even a little of a good thing is great. The Bhagavadgita, the word of Bhagavan Sri Krishna, tells us that even if we do an iota of good work in this world, it will remain as the goodness of our gesture. Here it is the goodness that counts, and not the quantum of it. Our goodness need not be like an ocean, for the visibility of people’s eyes. It is a quality that is called goodness; it is not a quantity, like a mountain.

So with this great vision, the first step was taken by mighty Masters such as Sri Swami Sivananda, right from the time of the coming of Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa and his disciples. Then many a great genius of a rational, philosophical and intellectual type arose in this world. That was the beginning of the twentieth century when there was, as people say, the renaissance outlook in the history of India. It was the culture of the West that preponderated everywhere. There is nothing wrong with it; but everything has a right side and a wrong side, as we all know. We can emphasise only the left, only the right, or both sides in an integrated whole. There was a tilting of the balance on the exterior, materialistic, outwardly oriented side of things. This had to be set in order.

Life is an integration of the outlook of consciousness. It is not a performance or an activity like a job. Life is not a job. It is not a doing of something; it is a being of some quality and characteristic. What kind of being is it that characterises our usual existence in this world? Usually we never speak of this aspect of our life. What kind of person are you? Do not tell me what you are doing—what your achievement in this world, in your career, as a person doing many a job is—but tell me what you are by yourself. What kind of person is this? This question is not appreciated, because that would be touching the vital spot of a person. The vitality is the very essence and the very existence of the meaning of a person. What kind of life are you leading? Apart from the fact that you are doing many a wonderful thing in the world, are you also a wonderful person, as wonderful as the wonder of your activities and performances? Are you a wonderful person? Put a question to your own self.

Great deeds have been performed by people, historically speaking. Are these people also great in themselves? Is your ‘being’ as great and grand as the grandeur and greatness of your ‘becoming’ the performance? You have something, and you are something. These two aspects of the matter are to be considered in the case of every person: “I have something, and I am something. I have something, and everyone knows what it is I have, and I also know what I have. But is it also known what I am?” Spirituality begins here. It is not a performance of mere physical exercises or some breathing techniques. It is not a doing of anything. Underline this matter very clearly. You can do anything—you can lift this mountain—and yet you may not be spiritual, because spirituality is the efflorescence of what you are, and not what you are doing. The world is enamoured of the doings of people. This is how human history goes, society goes, technology goes.

Man has to become superman. Man may do many things, but he will die as a man only. Man cannot die as a god. It is necessary to depart from this world as an angel that incarnated as a human tabernacle. We should not go as the very thing that came from the mother’s womb; otherwise, there would be no evolution, no progress, no advantage taken of this blessed career of life as a whole which has been granted to us by God Almighty for carrying on His mission as an ambassador—a representative, as it were—in this world. We are sent by God to this world not to run factories, open shops and run about to marketplaces, but to obey the order of that Being under whose command it is that we came to this world for a purpose that He knows, and we are also supposed to know.

When we go, we do not carry our factories and shops. What do we carry with us? “Namutra hi sahayartham pita mata ca tisthatah, na putradarah na jnatih dharmas tisthati kevalah; ekah prajayate jantur eka eva praliyate, eko’nubhunkte sukrtam eka eva tu duskrtam” is a mastermind saying in the Manu Smriti. Alone you come, and alone you go. And do you know that you are also living alone, without any friends? If you believe, wrongly, that you have appurtenances around you and you are really not alone in this world, so much the worse for you. Nobody is your friend here. Friends are only up to the cremation ground. Every friendship is conditional, with ifs and buts, and provisos. Nobody is an unconditional friend. Ekah prajayate jantur: Alone you come, without any belongings, and alone you go. And, therefore, when you are living in this world, you have nothing with you. You are a pauper, materially speaking, even when you are living, and no one comes with you—neither father, mother, nor anyone from your family circumstance, nor anything that you thought belonged to you. Not a broken needle, not a piece of straw can come with you. What comes? You come with you; that is all.

Is it not a terrible message? When you go, you carry you only. What does it mean? “Am I going carrying only myself, nothing except myself?” Here again the inundation of the meaning of the word ‘spirituality’ comes in. You carry yourself with you—which means to say, your spirituality comes with you. That is the meaning of the words dharmas tisthati kevalah. Dharma comes with you. Dharma is the impression created in the mind by following the law of God. It is also something connected with your being, and not with what you have done outwardly. What you have done will not come with you; what you have been, that will come. That is dharma. Dharma is the quality of your existence, the characteristic of what you are. That will come.

This was the message of these great Masters who rose up like shining stars in the firmament of Indian history in the beginning of the twentieth century, and some of them continue even today. Gurudev Swami Sivanandaji Maharaj was with us with this message, with this instruction, with this sacrifice of the spirit that he had throughout his life—great sacrifice, physically, mentally, vitally, intellectually, socially, politically, spiritually. We lived with him, and we remember him with tears in our eyes. He was our father and mother, our friend and relation, our security and our wealth. He was our daily meal and our very breath. With him we lived, and him do we remember. May his blessings be upon you all!