(Talk given on Swami Sivananda's Mahasamadhi anniversary in 1987)
We are here on a day which is adored as a special pendant in the sacred garland of a series of holy performances, services and worships during this Centenary period of the great Master Worshipful Gurudev Sri Swami Sivanandaji Maharaj, one of the stalwarts that this country has produced, one of the most renowned benefactors of mankind, whose personality towered above the usual classifications of human society, and who symbolised in his own indivisible and disciplined personality the aspirations of all people. He stood, as it were, in his personal life an example for the total aspiration of humanity.
In Christian circles it is oftentimes said that Christ died for the sins of mankind. If that is so, we may equally say that a personality such as Master Swami Sivananda lived for the aspirations of mankind. Not only did he live this noble longing of the human soul in his own disciplined and austere life individually, but he also spread the radiance of this aspiration throughout human society by means of writings, speeches and an infinite variety of services that he rendered, many of them known and many unknown. The known form of the services rendered by this great Master consist of the social welfare projects, many forms of educational services, unlimited charity, and personal guidance which he rendered for ameliorating every kind of human sorrow.
But more than all this, more than the personal, social and visible forms and the gestures of his sacrifice to mankind, is the invisible form of service that he rendered. The greater a personality is, the more difficult it becomes to perceive their services to people. The inwardness and the potentiality for work increases directly in proportion to the increase in that person’s greatness. The word ‘greatness’ is intriguing indeed to most of us because it is not easy for us to characterise what greatness could be, to define what greatness is. It is not immensity of wealth that can be called greatness, as you all know very well. It is not the extent of material possessions or the land that one occupies as a suzerain. One may be rich, wealthy and powerful, but not great.
What is greatness, then? Who do we call a great person? A wealthy man, a powerful man, an army leader or a political head – who is great before your eyes? None of these. Powerful they be, wealthy they be, attractive in many respects they may be, but great they need not be. The greatness of a person lies in the in depth of achievements and the inward realisations that touch the very roots of being, the very subtle seeds of the very Earth, the world in which we live and, we may even say, the extent to which one is able to touch the corners of creation.
The superhuman achievements and the attainments of a human person determine the greatness of that person. To the extent that one is more than human, to that extent one is also great. To be great, it is not enough to be merely human. A humane, very large-hearted towering social worker need not be great because greatness is not a human characteristic, it is a superhuman attainment. In order to be superhuman one has not only to be entirely human, but also live a life which is more than what can be encompassed by entire humanity. A superhuman individual, if at all we can call that person an individual, exceeds the capacities of all humanity. One superhuman person is greater than all the individuals constituting mankind as a whole. Here plebiscite, quantity does not count. Millions of votes of all the people in this world cannot equal a single vote of this one person. Here the greatness of a person counts. In our day-to-day assessments of the power of a person, socially or politically, we go by counting of heads, as is well known. Millions of illiterates cast a larger number of votes than one genius. This is not the way in which we assess the greatness, the value or the potentiality of any person. Great Masters are not quantities in themselves, they are radiant qualities, and it is not difficult to appreciate that quality is more than quantity. It is not the largeness, the extent of the crowd of people that can make for the values of a particular step that is taken or a project that is undertaken. It is something more altogether.
As we grow higher and higher in our inward potentialities, as we reach nearer and nearer to what can be called superhuman nature, we become more and more qualitative rather than quantitative. The extent of the number of friends that one has and the quantity of membership that one can elicit from outside may, to the outward eye, look like the capacity of one’s individuality. The great person is sometimes called a spiritually great person. The spirituality of the person is the greatness of the person. It is not materiality, sociableness or political strength, and not even intellectuality or scientific outlook; it is spirituality that is true greatness.
The spirituality involved in superhuman nature is actually the divinity that is enshrined by that person. All these terms are difficult to ascertain their meaning. We have been told many times that there is such a thing call spiritual living, there is such a thing called divinity, but it may not have had much meaning to us, especially in our practical living. It has been a theoretical concept, a word in the dictionary which has only a linguistic synonym to give its significance, but it has not touched our lives.
The spirit of a person is commonly present in every other person also as the very same spirit that asks for a common goal to be achieved. Do we not, as human beings, sometimes feel at one with the aspirations of all people in the world? Are there not occasions in human history when all mankind can ask for one thing only? Such an occasion may not have arisen up to this time in history, but it will not be difficult for us to infer the possibility of such an occasion. Impulses which are deep rooted are common to all people, and the final longings of humanity cannot be diversified by caste, creed, colour and various other segmentations of human society.
The touching of the roots of the very life of all beings is the achievement of a superman. In that position where he is placed, that person ceases to be a he or a she. It is a superperson, we may say, and not a person at all. Their capacity, their power, their ability to work miracles arises on account of their spirituality, which is what we call the greatness of that person. Such a person we had before us. This great person, Master Swami Sivananda, is remembered by us today. We may call him a yogi or a spiritual leader, a mastermind, a wonderworking social welfare leader, a spiritual hero, a divine individual, a Godman. His anniversary is here observed this day in this ashram which he founded – Sivananda Ashram. In its operative aspect it is called The Divine Life Society, an organisation of divine kindred souls, spirits that spark forth as radiances from the anvil of the aspiration for God. The Society stands for a collaboration of spirits, not merely persons coming from various corners of the country. Luminous sparks are not material contents, aspirations are not material bodies; our longings are superphysical. Thus this organisation, at least as intended by the Master Swami Sivananda himself, can be regarded as a conflagration created by the coming together of millions of radiant spirits of spiritual aspiration.
Here we are in the Society of this kind which is not materially construed or even socially interpreted. It is something even more than all that, a symbol of human aspiration for that which we call superhumanly desirable. That person is remembered today in this worship that we have performed, one hundred thousand offerings in honour of this great spiritual miracle man. His greatness is the potentiality of the greatness of everyone, it is the symbol of the welfare of this nation, and it is also the heralding signal for the great future of mankind.
It is therefore a great privilege for every one of us to be here at this moment and be in a position to offer our heartfelt prayers to this great Master who symbolises veritably God Almighty. May his grace be upon us all.