2. The Divine Life Society
(Darshan given on January 21st, 1997.)
Swamiji: [To a group of visitors] I am saying something to you about this Ashram. This is popularly known as Sivananda Ashram, after the name of the founder, Swami Sivananda. Officially, this is a registered body under an Act of the Government of India, and the official name of this otherwise-known Sivananda Ashram is The Divine Life Society. This is an organisation founded by a great spiritual master called Swami Sivananda.
To mention the least, I may tell you that he was a superman, not an ordinary human individual. His vision of life was cosmically oriented, not individually oriented. Whenever he spoke or he wrote or he gave advice, he did it from the point of view of the whole of creation of God Almighty. His view is an organic conception of the universe. The universe is to be regarded as the body of God Himself. It is an interconnected spiritual kingdom. You have heard the words 'kingdom of heaven' or 'kingdom of God'. You may say this is the kingdom of the Almighty All-pervading Being. Inasmuch as this Almighty is omnipresent, it is also inseparable from everything that is created. Yourself, myself and everybody are part and parcel of this cosmic cosmopolitan society, you may call it, which is headed by a Supreme Intelligence we call the Creator of the universe, Father in Heaven, Creator, Preserver, Destroyer, God Almighty, whatever name you may give to this mighty inclusive Being.
So Swami Sivananda, the founder of this institution, wanted to create a nucleus of activity in this place called Rishikesh, whereby people may come from outside and participate in a program of spiritual instruction, guidance and training – philosophically, spiritually, socially, and every point of view. His conception of the human being is multifaceted. A human being has many needs and requirements. Firstly, the soul of the human being requires its own spiritual diet. The spiritual diet spoken of here, in this connection, is the aspiration of the soul for unity with God. This aspiration is the diet of the soul. It requires it, and it cannot be happy unless this is provided. Whatever facility, comfort you may have in this world, if the hunger of the soul is not appeased, there will be restlessness everywhere individually, socially and politically.
First and foremost, therefore, is to see that the appetite of the soul for God, the hunger of the soul for the Supreme Being, should be cared for appropriately by adopting techniques of meditation. Meditation is the centralising of the soul of the human being in the Supreme Absolute. Apart from this, there is the psychophysical individuality of the human being. There is hunger, there is thirst, there is fatigue, there is illness, there is ignorance. All these have to be taken care of. Swami Sivananda provided for all these requirements of the human personality.
We have a large kitchen here, which feeds people. Any number of people come and take food here. There is a unique peculiarity in this Ashram, which is the large feeding of people. Usually we feed about 500 to 600 people every day in the Ashram. No charges; free food. If visitors come here, we do not charge anything from visitors – neither for lodging nor for boarding nor for water nor for electricity nor for instruction and training. Everything is provided free under the dispensation of the great founder, Swami Sivananda. This is why I said he is a very comprehensive, mighty man, a superman.
For treating illnesses of people, he has opened a hospital here which renders free medical aid. We have doctors, we have costly medicines we purchase and give free to people. We never charge money from patients. There is free food, free accommodation, free medical aid, and also free educational facilities to poor students, numbering about one thousand in a year. This facility also is provided.
This was originally a backward area of the mountains. This is not a very polished area. Now it is coming up politically, but previously it was backward. People are very poor. They cannot go to colleges and schools because there is no money. So Swami Sivananda instituted a system of financing the educational career of students who are poor. I mentioned to you, about one thousand students are financed. We spend about 4-5 lakhs. Five hundred thousand rupees we spend for education of these students. It is very interesting to hear that everything is free. We never charge for instruction, training, yoga asana, food, water, anything.
You will be wondering how we run the institution with giving everything free like that. This is the mighty thought of Swami Sivananda. He says if God wants the institution to run, it will run. He believes fully perhaps in the great dictum of Jesus Christ: Ask and it shall be given. Knock and it shall be opened. Seek and you shall find it. See ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you. In this sense he was a true Christian. He believed fully in this: If you seek the kingdom of God first and foremost, then all the facilities of life will follow automatically. He did not merely teach it; he believed it one hundred percent.
This is how I can say that this institution is running in a most unique, incomparable manner spiritually, educationally. Even politically this is a highly respected institution. The Government of India has a special soft corner for us because our accounts are so perfect, meticulous. Everything is clean, and people are happy to see our balance sheet, accounts, etc. When we submit to the Government our accounts, they simply marvel. They say, “Thousands of statements of accounts come to us from different parts of the country. Yours is the best.” They are so much pleased. You will be surprised; they don't even want to see our accounts. They say, “It is The Divine Life Society, so it is okay. No problem, no problem.” And because of this appreciation of the great charitable activity of this Ashram, the government has exempted this Ashram from taxation. We never pay income tax, and so many other taxes are exempted.
This is just to mention to you the power of Swami Sivananda, the founder. He trusted in God hundred percent – hundred and one percent, I may say. He is a Godman, and we are humble followers of this great master. Thousands of people came here – came and went, came and went. About a dozen of us are still here for the last about fifty years, following his advice, and following his footsteps literally without changing one inch from his dictum. Even now we follow the dictum of Swami Sivananda: Never ask from people. If they give, they give; if they don't give, that's also good. A hundred people come and eat, and go. It doesn't matter. Let a hundred people come and eat; we have no objection. But one person will give, and compensate the whole thing. God does like that, you see. He can give with this hand, and take away with this hand also. Belief in God is a very difficult thing. It is very difficult until your soul is united with the structure of the whole cosmos.
I am mentioning to you briefly the foundational characteristic of this Ashram, The Divine Life Society.
A visitor: Those who join, do they have to be of a certain age and education?
Swamiji: No, there is no restriction on formal education, but there is a restriction on moral principles. They must not tell lies, they must have self-restraint, and they should not commit violence. These three are the basic principles of any person: non-violence, self-restraint and truthfulness. If you take a pledge in these three ways, you can be admitted as a member, and formal education is not required. It may be or it may not be there. Anyone can become a member – men, women, anybody – provided they are aged about twenty or twenty-one years. Small children we don't take; we take adults. That is how membership is instituted.
Another visitor: When did this first start, in what year?
Swamiji: This started in the year 1936. It is sixty years. Recently we have celebrated the Diamond Jubilee of this institution. Diamond Jubilee we have celebrated, sixty years of working.