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Sessions with Ashram Residents
by Swami Krishnananda

Session 3: The Tapasya of Swami Sivananda

(Spoken to representatives of the Branches of The Divine Life Society)

As an acorn grows into a large oak, as thought expresses itself in action, as will resolves itself in decisions, as the soul beholds its own perfection in the beauty of things, so did The Divine Life Society find its expression in the austerity, the tapasya of its sage-founder, His Holiness Sri Swami Sivanandaji Maharaj. The Divine Life Society organisation is an outer expression of the austerity, the concentration of consciousness of this mastermind, His Holiness Sri Swami Sivanandaji Maharaj, a stalwart of the spirit, the likeness of whom it is not easy to find in the history of the world.

We are told in the Upanishads and the Vedas that God did tapas—tapo tapyata—and in this concentration of Himself, He beheld the potentiality of what was to be manifested in the form of creation. You would be wondering what kind of tapasya God was doing. We are accustomed to think that tapasya means not putting on proper clothes, not eating, not sleeping, not talking, etc. Actually, tapasya is the concentration of consciousness. This is the meaning we have to see in God's tapas before He contemplated the form of this vast manifestation which He beheld as total perfection.

It is said in the Upanishad that God beheld His own creation and felt, “Well done, well done!” He patted himself on His own back, as it were. God was fully satisfied with the creation of this world, an outcome of His concentration. The concentration of the spirit of God is the formation of this multitudinous variety we call the whole space-time complex in creation.

So is the case with this mini-universe, I may say, which is The Divine Life Society organisation spread throughout the world. The Divine Life Society is not only in Sivanandanagar, it is a spirit pervading all humanity. Swami Sivanandaji Maharaj used to tell us The Divine Life Society is in the heart of every human being. It is not necessary to have brick and mortar, steel and cement in order to build a Divine Life Society branch. Your concentration of feeling, the integration of your purpose, the stability of your will, and the totality of your outlook—these constitute the foundation of The Divine Life Society and every one of its branches.

Suffice it to say that Swami Sivanandaji Maharaj was out-and-out spiritual. He was an embodiment of pure spirit, and there was nothing in him except pure spirit. The externality of his activities and the variety of his performances in the form of writing, etc., are all manifestations of his spirit. If the whole world is spirit manifesting itself, The Divine Life Society, we may say, is also a mini-universe manifested by his tapasya. Where there is no tapasya, there is no success. You have to know this secret of success everywhere. Intense austerity in the true sense of the term is the road to every kind of success everywhere, in all fields of life. Even in business, even in industry, even in office work, even in management, everywhere this austerity is necessary. We should not think austerity is a kind of religious occupation of recluses. It is the world spirit itself manifesting its own need in this vast creation where every one of us is included.

We should not think that we are outside the universe, and God is somewhere high above, and the world is external to us. The world is not external to us, nor is God high above in the heavens. These ideas of the above, the below, the outward and the inward arise on account of a defect in the way of thinking itself. There is a basic lacuna in the very structural pattern of the human mind, on account of which it cannot see anything properly unless our perceptional faculty itself is purified by the tapasya that I have made reference to, which is total dispassion, wanting nothing, because the spirit wants nothing inasmuch as it includes everything within its own self.

A devotee of Swami Sivananda, a member of The Divine Life Society or the chief of a branch of The Divine Life Society is an emblem of Swami Sivananda himself. There is Swami Sivananda in every one of your hearts, as God is present in everyone. If you think that only work is important, minus the spirit behind it, if you forget that you are basically a spiritual hero and are outwardly a man of work, if you forget the existence of God and are busy with outward performances as if you are the doer, you will not succeed finally.

Many people complain, “I have done so much. No result follows.” Why should it not follow? It is because you have not done the work properly in the spirit of karma yoga. Karma yoga is a manifestation of the pure spirit in action. It is an abundance of your own spiritual perfection that reveals itself as your performance outside. Your actions are yourself seen externally in this world. The work that you do in this world is not something that is done by your hands and feet. It is a work of yourself. You are there in your work. If you are not in the work, that work will not bring any satisfaction to you.

But we are like mercenaries, mostly. We do work for the sake of somebody else, for earning money, reputation, position, etc. Nothing of the kind can be called work in the sense of freedom. If work binds, it is not worth doing at all. Who wants bondage in this world? But if you say all work is a curse, it is a suffering and brings nothing but pain and agony, it means to say the work has not proceeded from the total depths of your heart. You are not in the work; the whole point is that. You are doing the work, but you are not in the work, just as you have put on a shirt but you are not the shirt. You may look beautiful by the artistic, aesthetic presentation of your clothes, but you are a feeble skeleton inside with no strength of your own. The clothes are not yourself. Your outside demeanour is not what you are really. What you are has to manifest itself as your work. You cannot have work of one kind and yourself of another kind. You yourself are the work.

So each one should know what oneself is. Are you a poor nothing? Are you bankrupt? Are you an unwanted individual in this world, or are you a representation of the pure spirit? Do you believe that God is everywhere? If He is everywhere, He is also everything. That which is everywhere has to be everything. Therefore, that which you behold with your eyes is not the world; it is nothing but the arms and the fingers of this Almighty. Remember the words of the Bhagavadgita. Sarvataḥpāṇipādaṁ tat sarvato'kṣiśiromukham, sarvataḥśrutimal loke sarvam āvṛtya tiṣṭhati (B.G. 13.13): All these heads that you see here, they are the heads of the almighty Virat Purusha. Do not think the Virat Purusha is sitting in the skies and you are different from Him. Your own eyes are His eyes. He is seeing through your eyes, He is thinking through your brain, He is walking through your legs, He is writing through your fingers. Can you accept this fact? This is the meaning of Bhagavan Sri Krishna telling Arjuna nimittamātraṁ bhava savyasācin (B.G. 11.33): I have done everything. You do work as an instrument.

Is it possible for anyone to be so concentrated in his spirit as to feel that your eyes are His eyes? In that sense, to behold the world correctly would be to behold it as God Himself sees. You see this building, you see that tree, you see the sun and the moon and the stars, you see the road and the marketplace, and God must also be seeing these things. God must be seeing that there is a building here, a road there. But do you believe that there is a difference between your seeing this building and God seeing it? He sees it as Himself, just as bricks feel this building is themselves. There is no house minus the bricks and the mortar and the other constituents. This is the difference between our perception and God's perception. We see, and God also sees. What is the difference? Whose perception is correct? Is God's perception correct, or is your perception correct? You will be flabbergasted when such a question is posed before you, and you cannot answer it. Are you right in your vision of things, or is God right in His vision of things? Do you see dirt everywhere, squalor everywhere, evil everywhere, good-for-nothing things in the world? Does God also see that? Just touch your heart and see.

The great perfection, the Vishvarupa, was revealed in the eleventh chapter of the Bhagavadgita. Everything was seen there. What was seen there? Was there cow dung, dirt, squalor, poverty, sickness, hospitals? What was seen in that Viratsvarupa? You will be wondering how you can answer this question. Beauty, grandeur, perfection, majesty, awe, indescribable delight were seen there. But it included everything that you consider as the opposite. What a wonder!

I mentioned that Swami Sivananda was a spiritual Master. He existed and operated for the sake of manifesting this spiritual vision of things in the minds of people. His intention was not simply to build kutirs and invite guests, write books and sell literature. That was not the intention. These are only external forms taken by his great, glorious intention of spiritualising humanity, awakening the slumbering spirit of people and telling them, “See, behold, you are sleeping. Wake up from this dream.” When you wake up from your dream, you know what things are, and there is no need of further instruction.

To implant in yourself the vision that God has about His own creation in whatever percentage, whatever modicum, in any degree, that would be the extent of your spirituality. Everybody should aspire to be a Godman. You must take a vow: I aspire to be a Godman. I do not want to leave this world like a poor nothing. Why should I? I am as good as anybody else. Why should I not be a Godman? What is lacking in me? I shall set it right just now by turning the table around and seeing whatever is outside is within me.

Both the outward and the inward blend together in the universal. We look at our own bodies to see ourselves, and look outside to see the world. Can you bring the two together in a universalised perception of inclusiveness? That would be divine perception. That is God-vision. This was the teaching of Swami Sivanandaji Maharaj.

Very few people understood him. Even those who were very close to him in the early days of his tapasya did not understand him properly. Many people thought he was an extreme type of person. Saints and sages sometimes look like extremely odd types of people. Their behaviour is difficult to understand. They say one thing today and say another thing tomorrow. God does one thing today, and tomorrow a beggar becomes a king, and the day after tomorrow a king becomes a beggar. Are these contradictions in life? No. What is God doing?

There was a sadhu, a saintly person, walking on the road. The king of the country was passing that way.

“Namaskar,” the king said to the mahatma. “Please come, please come. I want to put a question.”

“What is the question?” asked the mahatma.

The king was seated on a throne, and the mahatma was sitting on the ground. “What is God doing just now?” This was the question of the king.

The mahatma said, it seems, “You are putting a question to me, and I am supposed to give the answer. That is to say, you are in the position of a disciple and I am in the position of a Guru. The disciple is sitting on the throne and the Guru is sitting on the ground. Is it proper?”

Immediately the king said, “Please come.” He put the mahatma on the throne and he sat on the ground. The king sat on the ground and the mahatma sat on the throne.

“This is what God is doing,” the mahatma said. “He who is low is raised up in one second, and he who is high comes down in one second. This is the answer to your question.”

Likewise, these actions of God—raising someone to the heights and then throwing him down to the dust—are not contradictions. They are part and parcel of His universal necessity in the process of what we call evolution. Evolution is the death of the previous condition and the birth of a new condition. So birth and death are necessary processes of the onward march of everyone from the lower degree of existence to the higher degree. This evolution is taking place everywhere—outwardly, inwardly, everywhere.

Suffice it to say that what is called spirituality is all in all. We should not make a distinction between spirituality and secularity. That would be like making a distinction between God and the world. Because the world is secular and God is spiritual, does that mean to say there are two things? Then the secular world would be totally dismembered, truncated, cut off from the spirit of God. No, it is not so. Action and thought, spirit and performance are identical. Mattaḥ parataraṁ nānyat kiñcid asti (B.G 7.7) says Bhagavan Sri Krishna in the Bhagavadgita: “Outside Me nothing is.” If outside Sri Krishna nothing is, who is performing all the deeds of the Mahabharata war, and so on? Sri Krishna's actions were himself only. I am repeating once again what I mentioned a few minutes before. If your thoughts, your feelings and your deeds are you yourself, then everywhere you will feel happiness and delight.

It is necessary for every spiritual seeker to be happy. This happiness cannot come by bank balance, money, status, authority, because all these things are external accretions grown on the person in an artificial manner, and they can be removed at any moment of time. Authority cannot be there always, money cannot be there always, but you will be there always. When you leave this world, you do not carry your authority with you. You go as you came. You stand totally naked, as it were, undressed before God, the Supreme Judge of the universe. When you go to God and are asked what you have done, what will you say? “I was a prime minister.” “I was a millionaire.” Will you say that?

In the Kaushitaki Upanishad we are told that this question will be put to you when you go there. You will be taken to Brahmaloka, and the question will be put: what have you done? Can anyone have the courage to say that the dispensation of the great Judge who sent you to this world as an ambassador has been fulfilled? We have come to this world as ambassadors of the Spirit. We belong to another government altogether, which is the government of the cosmic operation of things. From there we have been sent here to do its ordinance, to execute its orders. Here, we do not do our work; we do its work. So to the extent that we are fulfilling the purpose for which we have been brought to this world as ambassadors of the Spirit, to that extent we shall be successful and we shall be taken back. The prodigal son will be taken back by the Father in heaven, as the biblical story goes. God will embrace you and take you back. But if you have lived like a forlorn, misguided individual with selfishness at the core, you will find that you will go poverty-stricken.

What did you bring when you came to this world, and what are you going to take when you go from this place? How is it that you have become so big and important in the middle? An importance that was not there when you were born, an importance that is not going to be there when you go—how could it be there in the middle? It is not there in the middle either. You are in a state of illusion.

We are completely confused in thinking that we have some value and importance here. If that was there, it will be there even when we leave this world. Will you go satisfied that you are a very important person? Do not be misguided. Our idea of God's perfection is poor.

It is said that when the the great ship Titanic sank in the Atlantic Ocean, an American millionaire went to his cabin and put on his dinner dress.

People asked, “Why are you putting on dinner dress now? We are sinking.”

He replied, “Because when I go to the Almighty, I do not want to go as a poor fellow. I will go as a millionaire.”

This is the idea we have got about ourselves and about God. What is the use of putting on dinner dress? He said, “I want to look gentlemanly before the Almighty.” This is our idea of the relationship of man and God.

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven—poor in spirit, not poor in money. He may be poor in money, but not necessarily poor in spirit. You may be filled with the spirit of God though you have no penny in your hand, and everything shall flow into you. Everything shall flow into you if the spirit asks for it. Ask, and then you will find everything is being given to you immediately. God being a timeless existence, He does not take time to give you what you want. He is not like a boss who says, “Come tomorrow, let me see.” He is not a bureaucrat of that type. He has no tomorrow. He is timeless. Ask now, and it shall be given just now. Can you have this faith?

Swami Sivananda had this faith. People used to come and ask him, “How are you running this big Ashram, Swamiji?”

“It rains from above,” he used to say. He did not say that donations come from people horizontally. “Vertically it is falling. It rains from above,” he would say. Very rarely do people have such visions.

We are not sustained by the donations of rich people, but by the rain of grace from above. If that is not there, this horizontal connection will be severed at any moment of time. So do not trust anything that is outward, visible, sensory, but trust in that which is our true spirit, out of which we are made and into which we have to return.

We have to live the life of Swami Sivananda himself. His life was one of great tapasya. When he was living in the Swargashram for twelve years, he did one kind of tapas of not having any friendship with anybody. He knew nobody around him. He was all in all, a renunciate number one. And when he came to this side, there was no place to sit here. Where would he sit? The Divine Life Society did not exist. There was a cowshed. Nobody knew to whom the cowshed belonged. When I came here, I saw that very cowshed being converted into a kitchen of the Ashram. The early kitchen of the Ashram was an old cowshed full of straw and cow dung, etc., in which Swamiji sat as his office, his residence, everything. So this is the story of the founding of The Divine Life Society.

Before that there was no property, nothing. He had no money. One rupee donation used to come. When Swami Sivanandaji Maharaj was in Swargashram, he used to receive one rupee donation from a schoolmaster in Nagpur who came to know the greatness of Swami Sivananda. One rupee was a great thing in those days. We did not think that one rupee was a very small thing. And Swamiji used that rupee to purchase curds and gave those curds to the poor sadhus suffering with dysentery, etc. He used to help them. Then he started the Satya Seva Ashram Dispensary in Lakshmanjhula to give medical assistance to poor sadhus, etc. The history of The Divine Life Society is very elaborate, and it is difficult to tell what it is all about. Some things I know, and some things happened even before I came here.

It is a long, long creative process of this wonderful manifestation of God's beauty and Swami Sivananda's miracle. Everything is working beautifully because there is tapasya behind it. If the tapasya of Swami Sivananda was not operating here even now, The Divine Life Society would not exist. We are only hands and feet of this great Master, and whatever strength we have comes from him only. And we trust in God first and foremost. Honestly I am telling you: we trust in God, and we trust in nothing else. Therefore, it shall be a success.