The 8th of September, the sacred birthday of His Holiness Sri Swami Sivanandaji Maharaj, marks the occasion when seekers, disciples and devotees bring to their minds their relation to the Preceptor—the fact of a disciple having surrendered himself to the Guru, the necessity to attune oneself with the wishes and commands of the Master, and the imperative of rigorous sadhana on the path, according to the behests of the Guru. To the disciples, the day is the sacred moment when they worship God in human form, or sometimes even in forms other than human, and invoke Divine Grace to descend into their being. The adhyatma-marga, or the spiritual path, is the inner way of the introversion of the senses and the mind. A secret ‘strait gate’ marks its beginning (hence the difficulty of treading it), and the aspirant free from heedlessness undertakes the arduous journey with the hope that the Light from the Above will illumine his way throughout. The Guru is the focusing medium for the spiritual splendour.
At intervals of time, a being from the higher regions finds its way to this planet of ours, bringing with him the power, majesty and glory of that far-distant region from whence he came. He knows the purpose of his visit, shares the life about him, and enters into their joys and sorrows. Such a one, it may be said with justice, was Sri Swami Sivanandaji Maharaj. Swamiji’s sense of selfless action was so intense that he worked himself to fullness for the fulfilment of his noble, divine ambition, viz., to be a guide on the path in the distress and darkness of seekers, nay, to become the spiritual food by which humanity lives, and to render kind, benevolent acts and daily services with a willing heart and an open purse to strugglers known and unknown. Through the pages of his numerous books, Sri Swamiji’s mission reveals that the secret of reflective action lies in the knowledge of the true Self and in the annihilation of the ego. He endeavoured to acquaint people with the knowledge of that full life which neither psychology nor philosophy can convey, as all knowledge is futile if the basics are not mastered, and transmute that knowledge into character. Sri Swamiji averred and exemplified that man only works well when he is working with the whole of himself. The universe is an indivisible whole; one cannot break it up, seize some part and call it his own without that part slipping from his grip and belonging to the universe undivided. He emphasised that our ineffectiveness and paltriness are due to the philosophy of fragmentation. We feel atomised because we have sadly lost our sense of belonging to the whole, of being conscious participants in the affairs and patterns of the universe. And, therefore, revising our entire outlook, let the whole become our unit of measure. This, said Swamiji, is a method of approach to a loftier expression of being.
We, as disciples of His Holiness Sri Swami Sivanandaji Maharaj, should follow the lofty examples that he has set before us in blending together the relative and the Absolute. The world and God blend in our own life. We do not reject anything. The specific nature of the sadhana and the philosophy as propounded by Swami Sivanandaji Maharaj is this: he neither rejects God nor the world. In his philosophy there is no rejection; it is only inclusion. He was one of those saints, sages and seers who had nothing to avoid, abandon or reject in this world; everything was to be absorbed, sublimated, transformed and redeemed. That was his philosophy, and sadhana is naturally a practice of this philosophy.
The putting into practice, to the extent possible, of this supreme principle in our own life is sadhana. According to him, sadhana is essentially a mental act, not a physical feat. Sadhana is an attitude we have towards the Supreme Being, and it means the requisite adjustment of our personality in social life also. It is a movement as well as an expansion. It is a movement, vertical and horizontal. We move towards God in an ascent, and then we also expand ourselves in social life, so that we take the world with us when we reach God. With this attitude, if we endeavour to work in life and fulfil our duties, whatever they may be, it will be observed that there is no occasion for feeling ill will or disgust towards anything. To see God in the world is the highest sadhana. They say the footprint of an elephant includes the footprints of all other animals, because it is the biggest footprint. This supreme concept of the immanence of God in the world is inclusive of every concept which is spiritually valuable.
To contemplate on God in this world is the highest sadhana, and this automatically implies love towards all beings. We cannot see God in all and yet not love all people. These are contraries. To see God in all and love all equally is implied, and we need not mention it separately; and this also implies service to all. To recognise one’s own self in others and to work for the fulfilment of this in life is a part of our sadhana. Love all, serve all, because God is in all. The Christ said, “Love thy neighbour as thy self.” What did he mean, and what is the reason behind it? Because our neighbour is our own self, we have to love him as our own self. There is a rationale behind this teaching. In daily life we have to conduct ourselves in a manner which is in consonance with this supreme principle which is our ideal, our objective, and the object of realisation.
With what words could the wisdom of saints and sages be praised? In a world where struggle for existence and the survival of the fittest, or in other words, selfishness and hatred, would seem to be the order of things, these saints and sages had the foresight and wisdom to choose renunciation and divinity as their ideals, and boldly exhorted mankind to adopt them for the noble purpose of retrieving humanity from perdition. As these great ones are truly free from selfishness and egoism, it is really God that speaks and acts through them. Through these saints and sages, God shines in the world. Yes, God manifests Himself through all, but our egoism suppresses and veils that manifestation as the dark cloud hides the sun; but these being absent in the sage, he is God himself, and whatever he does is really the work of God. Bhagavan Sri Krishna says in the Gita, “I regard the sage as Myself.”
Such are the qualities, the nature, the far-reaching and lasting results of the activities of saints and sages on this Earth. Therefore, it behoves us all as human beings to keep in mind, with a deep sense of gratitude, the facts, principles and lessons indicated in connection with their lives and teachings.
Lest we should forget, let us all, on this auspicious birthday anniversary of Gurudev Sri Swami Sivanandaji Maharaj, resolve that we shall exert ourselves to the utmost to study these exalted teachings, assimilate them and make them, as far as we possibly can, the working principles of every moment of our daily life. The water drawn up and stored as clouds during hot summer manifests itself in plentiful showers that usher in the advent of fresh life everywhere. May we all, likewise, begin now to seriously put into actual practice all the theory that we have stored up in us through patient study, and thus commence spiritual life. Let all that we have read, heard, seen, learnt and imbibed become, through practice, transformed into a ceaseless outpouring of universal love, loving service, prayer and worship of the Lord seated in all beings. Let us generate fresh waves of spirituality. The day is sacred to the memory of a great sage, a man of wisdom; and our true Guru dakshina is to live up to what our Master’s lofty heart aspired for and expected of us. May God and Guru bless us all to that end!