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Swami Sivananda

Divine Life Society

When I was a young girl my maternal grandfather took me to Haridwar and Rishikesh, famous pilgrimage centres for the Hindus, on the banks of the Ganges River.

For me to describe the River Ganges. I have to use the name that Hindus so lovingly use, Ganga-Mata (Mother Ganga). She is surely a happy bubbling Loving Mother who takes her children endearingly in her lap and cleanses them physically, emotionally and spiritu­ally.

Even today, sitting by her side seems to me one of the most fulfilling, cleansing experiences a trusting, and believing Hindu can have.

By her, in Rishikesh, is the Ashram of Swami Siva­nanda, one of the most revered Hindu sages Modern India has known.

Swami Sivananda came from a well-known family of yogis and saints. One of his ancestors Appayya Dikshltbar wrote over a hundred original texts in Sanskrit dealing with philosophy.

Swami Sivananda, as a boy, was versatile both in the classroom and on the sports field. He had a charming and magnetic personality. He was an expert musician and dramatist. He studied tropical medicine and surgery. He left for Malaysia to serve the sick and afflicted.

Verily, Swami Sivananda was a blend of the knowledge of Buddha and the compassion of Florence Nightingale.

Swami Sivananda was influenced by great Sanyasis and Sadhus (holy spiritual men). As his religious instincts developed he felt a pull for the grandeur of the Himalayas to meditate and know himself.

The Grand Mountains and Sacred Mother Ganga beckoned him to Rishikesh where he became known as Swami Sivananda Saraswati.

His time passed between serving the sick and needy and practicing deep meditation standing in the icy cold water of the Ganga.

After prolonged, diligent sadhana Swami Sivananda merged with the Divine and he heard a Voice from within which said,

‘Siva wake up
And fill the cup of your life with this nectar,
Share it with all
I shall give you strength,
Energy, power and wisdom.”

Swami Sivananda obeyed the command. God did fill his cup, and he did share It with all, in the form of the Divine Life Society which provides many a service to suffering mankind.

Today a graceful suspension bridge across the Ganges nearby his ashram has been named Sivananda Jhoola.

When I visited Rishikesh as a young teenager with my family, we expressed the desire to have Swami Sivananda’s Darshan (to see him). His devotees turned us away as it was not his time for meeting people. As we were moving away dejectedly, the devotees came running up to us saying that he would meet us. Happily we went towards the small room In which was his custom to meditate.

The room was peace itself. I remember looking into a pair of twinkling, kind and knowing eyes. Catching my gaze he urged me to serve Sri Rama.

I found that strange, as my Ishta (the deity I worshipped) had always been Sri Krishna.

People through the years explained to me that Sri Rama and Sri Krishna were the same, but somehow I was not satisfied, and I always wondered about his bidding.

Many years passed. I got interested in things spiritual.

I was driven by an unseen hand to write my second book, which I called, Symbolisms in the Ramayana.

One of the devotees of Swami Sivananda said to me, ‘Strange, Shakun. Isn’t your Ishta Krishna? How come you have written on Sri Rama first?”.

I remembered Swami Sivananda’s words and in my heart, I felt pleased that I had been an instrument in following his bidding.

Once Swami Sivananda was asked why he had secluded himself on the banks of the Ganges and not engaged himself in politics like Gandhiji to serve humanity.

Swarniji answered that his writings were his field of service that would inspire thousands to evolve towards perfection.

He believed that though one could thrill audiences through lecturing, it was books that would provide people with permanent inspiration. Swamiji stated that God had endowed each man with a certain talent and marked out his field of service for him. It was man’s duty to delve deep into himself and find out his God-gifted talent and mission and devote his life to it.

I am reminded of what Mother Teresa had told me when I had the good luck to spend a few minutes with her in Calcutta in Nov, ‘81.

She had said to me, Listen to your inner voice and follow what it tells you. Everyone in this life is born to accomplish a mission. What I can do you may not be able to do, but what you can do, I may not. Follow the Inner command and you will always be happy.”

Swami Sivananda founded the Divine Life Society in 1936. Its motto is: Serve, Love, Give, Purify, Meditate. Realize, Be Good, Do Good, Be Kind, Be Compassionate, Know thy Self and Be Free. Practice Non-Violence, Truth and Chastity, Enquire, ‘Who am I’?

That is the road on which Swami Sivananda traveled towards his goal and this is the path on which the Great Master urges his followers to travel upon. Nay, he urges all modern humanity, everyone to traverse upon. This is the path, the path of Divine Life!

This I learnt and gained from Swami Sivananda, his life, personality and his noble teachings.

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