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The Headquarters of The Divine Life Society
by Swami Krishnananda

(Spoken on July 29th, 1999.)

The Divine Life Society was founded by worshipful Gurudev Sri Swami Sivanandaji Maharaj. He himself used to tell every one of us, “Where is The Divine Life Society? Is it within the brick walls or is it confined to houses? Is it an institution of people?” Swamiji Maharaj’s vision was that The Divine Life Society is the heart of a person. Wherever there is a heart, there is a Divine Life Society.

The Divine Life Society is an emblem of divine aspiration. It does not consist of bricks and mortar and steel rods, and all that. Wherever there is aspiration for God, there is The Divine Life Society, and all the people in the world who entertain this kind of aspiration are veritably centres of The Divine Life Society. The Divine Life Society is not in Rishikesh; it is in the feelings and the hearts and the aspirations of humanity. This is a broad definition of The Divine Life Society by his Holiness Sri Swami Sivanandaji Maharaj. As long as humanity exists, The Divine Life Society cannot cease to exist, because it is an operation of consciousness in the heart of every person seeking God, and seeking only God through various stages of the developmental process. It is the human longing for God that is The Divine Life Society.  Therefore, it can never cease to exist because if it ceases to exist, humanity will cease to exist. It is not in Rishikesh; it is not in any particular place. It is there where the heart of divine longing is.

There are many branches of The Divine Life Society. People who are running the branches think it is confined to a little bit of sankirtan, bhajan, buildings, land and property, and donations, keeping accounts, etc. These are all external forms of the maintenance of a branch of The Divine Life Society, of which the headquarters is said to be in Sivanandanagar in Rishikesh. The most important thing that everyone should remember is that The Divine Life Society, even in its pragmatic presentation, is basically the headquarters. When people say, “We want to go and see The Divine Life Society,” they mean they want to come to Rishikesh. Though there are hundreds of branches everywhere, they do not think of going to the branches when they feel that they have to contact The Divine Life Society. The headquarters is The Divine Life Society, irrespective of the fact the branches are doing very good work. But nobody will go to a branch in order to see The Divine Life Society. This question should be answered by each person: Why don’t you go to Malaysia, why don’t you go to Bombay, why don’t you go to Kanyakumari or New York to see The Divine Life Society? It is not in their minds. It is in Rishikesh, on the bank of the holy Ganga, where people breathe the sanctified air of the Himalayas. So my feeling is that the headquarters of The Divine Life Society should be an ideal, beautiful, aesthetic, and powerful organisation, and it is not enough that the branches are working very well, though it is a wonderful thing indeed.

The branches are actually like the branches of a tree. It is true the beauty of the tree is in the foliage, in its beautiful green leaves, flowers and fruits, but how does the tree thrive? That is a matter to think of. It thrives because of the strength of the root and the sustenance that is derived by the branches and the leaves, etc. through the root. Nobody admires the root of the tree. They do not say how beautiful is the root, and so on. They do not believe that it exists at all. How beautiful it is! The green leaves, foliage of a very wide shade-giving tree is here. Beautiful! But they do not remember that all the shade-giving beauty is in the neglected root of the tree.

It is necessary, therefore, to stabilise the headquarters, make it very strong, an ideal example by the saints who live in the Ashram. The headquarters does not consist of accountants and auditors. Their presence does not increase the beauty of the headquarters, though they are essential outwardly. The saints in the Ashram are The Divine Life Society.

There was an occasion many, many years back when the authorities wanted to commercialise all the ashrams, including The Divine Life Society – that is to say, to convert them into departments of the government. At that time, I was alone in the Ashram. This notification came that all the trustees will become government servants. They can be transferred. A trustee of The Divine Life Society headquarters in Rishikesh can become a trustee of the Ramakrishna Mission and be transferred there. This came like a shock. I consulted some of the trustees who were here at that time. They said the government is taking over everything. So I was wondering, what is my duty? I had nobody else here to consult. I wrote to the chief authority who was promulgating this doctrine of taking over. I did it as a last effort. I wrote a letter, a long letter, three pages, and I sent it with a swami from here telling him, “Please go and give this letter to the authority who is promulgating this kind of doctrine, and say, “I salute you. Swami Krishnanandaji has given this letter to you.”

What had I written in that letter? “Your Excellency may be under the impression that institutions like The Divine Life Society are very rich, and so it would be an advantage to the government if they take over them. Yes, these institutions like The Divine Life Society are very wealthy, but wealthy with saints, not wealthy with money. But if you have no respect for the saints, you are seeing value in only the buildings and the ground, well, you can do that. The saints who are actually running the Ashram are not going to subject themselves to being political trustees of any system or organisation. We will all leave this place, and you come and take care of the whole Ashram. We are not interested in anything personal. There is no money here, merely some old buildings. You take the buildings, and we will quit this place.” I wrote a letter like that. That letter touched him very much, and he sent a message to me, “The Divine Life Society I will not touch.” He issued an order that this ordinance does not apply to The Divine Life Society. But he knew that he could not exempt only one institution in the whole country, so he exempted the Aurobindo Ashram and the Anandamayi Ma Ashram also, three ashrams. I got the order that this institution is exempted from this ordinance. All the other ashrams got up like this: “How you got the exemption?” They all came: “What is your secret? Tell us how you got an exemption and we are caught.” [The ordinance was not implemented. Later on it was withdrawn.] Anyway, it went off like that. So what satisfied that authority is the emphasis on saintliness which I presented powerfully in that letter. “The saints and the sages and the Godmen that are in this Ashram, they are The Divine Life Society. They cannot come under your control. Your idea is no good, and if you insist on that, we will leave this place. We can get our biksha anywhere.” That touched him so deeply.

So what I am saying is, The Divine Life Society is mainly the headquarters even from the pragmatic point of view. When people want to see The Divine Life Society, what will they see? Will they go to Kanyakumari and see something, or they will go to Nagpur, Bombay, Madras, Calcutta? No. “They may be doing wonderful work, but we want to see The Divine Life Society in Sivanandanagar Ashram.” So my feeling is the headquarters should be an emblem of power, spiritual authority, saintliness and desirelessness.

I am hearing that a big conference is to take place in greater Bombay. My message is: Emphasis should not be laid on the quantity of performance, but on the quality. Three thousand people are coming. This is not the criterion of the importance of it. Ten thousand horses may come; what is the use of that? You want ten thousand human beings. A human being is one who behaves like a human being. He does not behave like a cutthroat and a business merchandise leader. A human being is one who considers another also as a human being, and a human being is not one who considers another as a customer. No, there is no customer in this world. Everybody is as important as the other person. There is no servant in this world; there is no boss in this world. Because of circumstantial reasons people submit themselves to the level of a low worker; a servant, we call them. No human being is a subsidiary to some other human being. In what way is one man superior to another man? They have got the same stomach, the same head; they breathe the same air and eat the same food, and sleep in the same way. How is it possible to see a difference between one and another? Circumstantial pressure and subjugation and exploitation ethically, economically and religiously create these differences. So if a person knows this, and knows “the other person is having the same difficulty as I am having, and I am having the same difficulty as another is having”, he creates a human cooperative society automatically. He stands at the centre of the world population. Such a person is a citizen of the whole country, the whole world, the whole universe because India or any country is a part of the whole world, and the world is a part of the whole cooperative space-time complex, the whole universe. So you do not belong to any particular place. You belong to the whole creation of God, due to which operational beauty you are alive, you seem to be happy, you have security.

The security that we are apparently having here is due to the cooperation of cosmic powers. Even the nose cannot breathe if a god’s power is not cooperating. We cannot see with the eyes if the cosmic power of Surya is not operating. We cannot eat and digest food if the Vaishvanara Agni inside is not operating. We cannot lift our hand, the finger cannot move if Indra, the god of this particular limb, is not operating. We cannot move our legs. Every part of the body is moving on account of the operation of a central divinity which is a working medium of the Supreme Absolute Being.

It is necessary for everyone to think in terms of the universal impersonality of the universe. We are not personal entities. We are impersonal emblems wrongly appearing as located beings in one place or another place. There is actually no such difference in the world. We must look at the world instead of looking at ourselves. What is the world doing? How does it think? What are its ethics, what are its morals, and what are its objectives, finally?

It rains, the sun shines, rivers flow, oceans rise. Who is doing all these activities? Can any man do this? Suppose the sun does not shine and there is no rain, and there is drought; is it all right? Even we cannot walk on the road unless the gravitational force pulls us down. If gravitation is not there, the legs will be lifted to the skies. In one of the Upanishads it is mentioned: If the sun above does not pull us up, we will be stuck to the ground, and if the gravitation of the earth does not pull us down, we will be in the air. Both these sources of energy are very proportionately maintained here: pulling down and pulling up. We are in the middle, and thinking that we are very great people walking independently on the road. We cannot even walk on the road if the operation of the gravitational force is not there. If the earth does not pull us down, our legs will be up. How will we go for a walk? So the egoism of human nature is to be condemned. Do not say “I”, “mine”, and all those things.

Many people did not understand this great knowledge which Swami Sivanandaji Maharaj advocated because his behaviour itself was very queer, because he was a person who thought like the world, and nobody thinks as the world. They always think as “myself” only. Swami Sivanandaji was not a “myself”, so people thought that his talks, his way of behaving and his action looked funny. Some of the queer behaviours of his are recorded in some of the publications like Swami Sivananda: Saint, Sage and Godman, which are the observations of Swami Chidanandaji Maharaj in the early days of Swami Sivanandaji. His behaviour was often quite contrary. He would put us in embarrassment. Anantanarayan has published a book called From Man to Godman; there also some of his actions are recorded. Swami Venkatesanandaji recorded day to day of Swami Sivananda. Many incidents are there. It is impossible to understand these people, as it is impossible to understand how nature works, but we think that everything is clear to us. The child cannot walk unless the mother lifts the child. The mother lifts the child, and the child thinks that it is walking. Similarly, someone is holding us up. The gods of the heavens are holding us in perfect order. A total impersonality of perception, feeling and action is the way of divine living.