Chapter 70: The Blessings of Swami Sivananda
Janie: Swamiji, I was wondering if you would be able to tell us something about when you met your own Master, Sivananda.
Swamiji: What do you want to know?
Janie: I was curious to hear if in the meeting with him, that you recognised what you had always known.
Swamiji: Oh, to meet him was like meeting a giant. Do you know what a giant is? So, I met a giant who will stun anybody who goes near him. But that stunning was also a kind of teaching, and a reception. When you go out from your cave, or a room, into the hot sun, you will receive a stunning welcome from the sun, and the sun's power is so much that you really will be stunned. You will not be able to tolerate it for long time. What do you say?
Swamiji: It was something like that. So it took days and months for me to get adjusted to that atmosphere of the towering personality. I do not know what you are wanting me to say. I am saying something. It was not easy to adjust oneself, in many ways. We had to change the diet that we eat, change the way of living, change the pattern of our rooms, and all that – less comfort – and change the way of thinking, also, which is the worst thing; it is very difficult.
You would be thinking one way in your home, normally, and think in a totally different way, as you are in the Ashram. It is centered in a new world of new laws, new regulations, in which the mind will find it hard to accommodate itself immediately and it will be a suffering for some time. It will be suffering for months; even the physical suffering the body cannot tolerate. Climatic conditions also, they are new here. It is very hot, very cold, and sometimes very rainy, and all that. You have to adjust yourself to the climatic conditions, also.
But, with all those difficulties, people like us here were very happy. You would be wondering how a man with sufferings of this kind can be happy. It is because those difficulties are something like the pains you feel during surgical operations, and are you not happy at that time? You are happy that you are going to live a healthy life afterwards. That happiness goes in harmony with the suffering and agony of undergoing the surgical operation; otherwise who will undergo the suffering? So, with all the pains of this medical treatment, there is also a simultaneous happiness that you are under this protection of good physician that cancels all the pain and makes you feel very positive, hopeful, and secure. This is what we felt.
All those people, who were here at that time when I came here, some 50 years back, are not here today. These people whom you are seeing in the Ashram are latecomers. Those people, out of them, only two or three are here now. All others that you see here, many of them have not seen Swami Sivananda.
Persons like me, one among the two or three as I have said, feel very blessed that we lived under his umbrella, and basked in the warmth of that brilliant sun. Here is the answer to your question. What else can I tell you? We basked in his sun of glory.
Janie: Did you discuss what was going on for you with the others, the people who were also going through the same thing?
Swamiji: Yes, I am telling you, these people are not here now.
Janie: At that time.
Swamiji: Oh, you will be wondering that here, in those days, discussions were not allowed. We will not talk; we will not talk to anybody. There is no need to talk to others, because there is no subject to discuss with them. We cannot talk to Swami Sivananda, because he was too frightening. We had no occasion to say anything; so we would only be doing the work which was allotted to us, and no talk. We would talk to ourselves only.
In those days, the total population of this Ashram was less than twenty, and only about half a dozen rooms – not like this as today. So, nobody can talk; there is nothing to talk about. We were all under the stunning influence of that great master, and a stunned person cannot speak. [laughter] It was a great, wonderful thing.
You cannot find such a person in this world now. Such persons are rare, and I don't know how many are there like that person in the world. Such great people have vanished. We cannot find them. They were supermen – not men. He was physically also tall, and very charitable, large-hearted, good natured, smiling, positive, and always saying "Wonderful, yes, good, good." He will not say, "bad" and all that. Everything is good, fine, nice. He will always finally conclude by saying it is all right. It gives you some courage, to hear those words: "It will be all right." How it will be all right, he will not say, and it really becomes all right after some time. Yes. [laughter] Now he has become the universal immanence, not a particular person, so we feel his presence even now.
You people like to go to gurus and sit with them, but we used to run away from him. If he comes that way, we would go the other way. [laughter] Don't you think that disciples flock around the gurus? But we were not like that. We will run away – as far away from him – if we don't see him for three days, we were very happy. [laughter] Yes, really, if we see him coming that way, we will go the other way. We never encounter him on the way. So, that was a different kind of Guru altogether.
The difference between our situation and his situation was so much that we could not stand before him. That is the reason why we ran away; and also, we were afraid as to what he will tell. He may say anything, and it would be very surprising. We do not want to hear surprising things, so we do not want to see him at all.
He may even say suddenly, "For three days, do not eat." We would not expect that thing from him. And why is he saying like that? We will be shocked. What is the matter? "Hey – from tomorrow, three days you don't eat!" What? A shock!
If we go scantily dressed in cold winter, he will say, "This is foolish renunciation. You are torturing your body and falling sick afterwards. This is the body given by God as a temple of worship, and you are tormenting it under the impression that you are a great ascetic. Put on a woolen shawl," he will say.
Afterwards we would put it on, and go on like that. It goes on, for two or three months we go on putting on the shawl; then, afterwards, one day, he would say, "Look at this man, so much attached to this shawl! [laughter] Even when it is warm, and the shawl is not necessary, he is clinging to it. Hey! This attachment is very bad – even to a blanket!" he would say. You see, we never wore it. On his insistence, we put it on. Now he is criticising because we put it on. How do you stand before that Swami? You don't know what he will say.
These things he says are very unpalatable, but they are great instructions – that you may not go to extremes, either this way or that way. Spiritual life is not an extreme of avoiding or getting. It is a balance that you have to maintain between two things. Neither you should cling to the body, nor should you torture it. That is the mean that you have to maintain – the golden mean, and he was insisting on it.
People go to extremes. They go on doing japa always, and no work will be done, so he says, "You will become very lethargic afterwards. Do some work." If you do only work, he will say, "You are attached to the work. Do some japa, also." That is, every day he will prick you like this, giving one instruction or the other, and it was not easy for people to get on like that, when they could not understand him properly. Many ran away; they could not stay. And some, by God's grace, stuck, and those who stuck, I should say, were in many ways blessed – many ways.
Visitor: Swamiji, was there discussion with him?
Swamiji: We had no occasion to discuss. We were under the spell of his presence, and, when you are under a spell, you will not speak. We had a great satisfaction among ourselves that we are under the protection of him, and a satisfied person does not speak much. And, also, all of us were of the same category. It is not one superior, another inferior, and all that, and so one cannot communicate any wisdom to the other, as if he is superior to the other. All are all on par with each other, so what will they communicate among themselves? And, also, we were very busy, hardworking; the whole day we had to work. If we had any real difficulty, we can, of course, mention it to Swami Sivananda himself. Normally, we do not place before him any problem; but if it is very stringent, of an emergent nature, then, of course, we tell, and he will say that it will be all right. His answer is simple: "It will be all right." That is all – and, it somehow becomes all right, afterwards. How it becomes all right, you cannot say. His word itself is a recipe. The presence itself is a teaching. He need not have to go on saying anything. It is not necessary. Some of the greatest people never say anything. They simply keep quiet, and you see them, have darshan, and go back. That is enough. He would not encourage people to question, and ask, and all that. He said, "Don't ask anything. You see what I am doing, and that is itself the teaching." Sometimes, we used to say, "Swamiji, we want some instructions, and some lessons from you." He says, "No, no. Don't say anything. You don't ask questions. You see what I am doing. That itself is the teaching. How I live, and what I do from morning to evening you observe, and that is the teaching."
Swami Sivananda never went out anywhere. He stuck to this place, from beginning to end. He had a little cottage down on the Ganga and he was staying there. He never changed his house; he never changed his cottage. He never wanted a better building, or any such thing. A little dungeon – like room, with not much ventilation, and even that building does not belong to this Ashram! It belongs to somebody else. And in that, he was staying. He had his own Ashram, and so he could shift, but he would not. "This is all right. Ganga is everything. All is well." His blessings on us all are always with us, ever.