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LIVES OF SAINTS
by Swami Sivananda
Table of Contents
Publishers’ Note iii Prayer v Introduction vii Saints of Ancient Times Maharshi Vyasa 3 Sage Yajnavalkya 6 Yogi Bhusanda 10 Dattatreya 11
19 Thirumula Nayanar 20
Zoroaster 23 Parsvanatha 29 Buddha 31 Mahavira 44 Confucius 47 Jesus 58 Guru Nanak 63
Sankara 77 Ramanuja 89 Madhva 95 Vallabha 97 Nimbarka 99 Ramananda 102 Gauranga 104 Saint Arunagiri 117
The Saivite Acharyas of Tamil Nadu
Appar or Thirunavukkarasar 121 Sundaramurti 126 Thiru Jnana Sambandhar 131 Manickavasagar 136
The Alwars or Vaishnava Mystics of South India
Introduction 141 The Three Ancient Alwars 143 Periyalwar 145 Nammalwar 149 Kulasekhara Alwar 153 Thondaradippodi Alwar 157 Thiruppan Alwar 161 Thirumangai Alwar 163 Thirumazhisai Alwar 166 Andal 170 Saint Alavandar 174
Saints of Maharashtra
Samartha Ramdas 181 Namdev 186 Ekanath 195 Tukaram 199 Damaji 208 Chokamela 210 Akalkot Swami 213 Gorakumbar 214 Jnanadev 217
Saints of North India
Goswami Tulsidas 225 Kabir 228 The Saintly King Pipa 237 Narsi Mehta 240 Dadu 243 Akha 245 Milarepa of Tibet 246 Gorakhnath 248 Saint Haridas 250
Saints of South India
Thiruvalluvar 259 Kanak Das 262 Nilakantha Dikshitar 264 Purandara Das 266 Thayumanavar 270 Yogi Mukund Rai 272 Paramahamsa Tailang Swami 273 Pattinathu Pillayar 275 Tyagaraja 279 Nandanar 282 Bhadrachalam Ramdas 284 Vilwamangal 289 Yogi Vemana 293 Jaya Deva 301 Vidyaranya 313 Appayya Dikshitar 318 Sadasiva Brahman 329 Appayyacharya 333 Potana 335
Madalasa 339 Mira Bai 340 Sakubai 346 Muktabai 351 Rabia 353 Avadayakkal 357
Jalal-ud-din Rumi 363 Mansoor 365 Shams Tabriez 367 Bulla Shah 368
Saint Augustine 373 Saint Francis of Assisi 377 Saint Francis Xavier 379
The Sikh Gurus
Guru Nanak 385 Guru Angad 387 Guru Amardas 392 Guru Ramdas 397 Guru Arjun Singh 399 Guru Har Govind 406 Guru Har Rai 411 Guru Har Kishan 414 Guru Tej Bahadur 415 Guru Govind Singh 419
Saints of Recent Times
Raghavendra Swami 429 Ramalinga Swami 433 Swami Dayananda Saraswati 440 Sundaresa Swami 445 Narayana Guru 448 Ramakrishna Paramahamsa 450 Sri Aurobindo Ghosh 453 Swami Swayamprakasa Brahmendra Saraswati 459 Swami Rama Tirtha 462 Sri Ramana Maharshi 467 Saint Gudidi Baba 472
Swami Sivananda’s "Lives of Saints" was first published in 1941 and reprinted in 1943 and 1944. A companion second volume, under the same title, followed in 1947, the year of the Master’s Diamond Jubilee. It contained life-sketches of many more saints not covered in the original publication.
In the current edition, we have endeavoured to consolidate, not only the stories included in the above two volumes, but also those written by Swami Sivananda in other miscellaneous books. As such, the present publication has verily turned out to be a treasure-trove of inspiring spiritual biography, instructive anecdotes and lofty admonitions of men and women of the highest realisation. For sheer variety and range, this book perhaps has no equal.
Here, two points deserve special mention. Firstly, this book is totally non-sectarian and free from prejudice of any kind. It thus manages with marvellous success to draw out the very best from each subject it touches. Secondly, as these sketches come from the pen of a spiritual personality, they present all the lives in a distinctive spiritual perspective, which a layman writing the same biographies would hardly be able to do. This fact, in itself, enhances the worth and utility of the book a great deal.
We feel privileged to be able to offer this book to the reading public. May the light of these saints guide and illumine the path of the readers. May their blessings shower upon the readers and the whole mankind!
February 19, 1993.
O All-Merciful Lord! Time is fleeting. The senses are revolting. The mind is jumping. Maya is deluding. The three fires are burning. The five afflictions are tormenting. Friends are disturbing. Diseases are troubling. The heat of the summer is scorching. Flies, mosquitoes, bugs and scorpions are teasing. The charms of the world are tempting. I can neither concentrate nor meditate. I cannot do anything in the spiritual path without Thy benign grace. O Lord! Thou art an ocean of mercy. Bless me. If I get a drop from that ocean, will it dry up?
O Adorable Lord! People proclaim that Thou art Deenabandhu, Deenanath, Kripa Nidhan, Karuna Sagar, Anatha Rakshaka. Thou hast saved Ahalya, Draupadi, Prahlad, Dhruva, Gajendra, but in my case, Thou hast not done anything. I am still in pain, agony and darkness. I am crying for Thy grace and help. O absentee landlord of this world! Where hast Thou gone?
O Self-Effulgent Lord! The fish cannot live without water. The sunflower cannot live without the sun. The Pativrata cannot live without her husband. The mind cannot live without Prana. The flame of the lamp cannot burn without oil. So also, I cannot live without Thee. O Lord, come, come, enthrone Thyself in my heart. Thou art the Prana of my Pranas. Thou art the Soul of my soul.
Thou art Light Divine. Thou art Light of Knowledge. Thou art the Dispeller of darkness. Thou art the Supreme Guru. Thou art beyond the reach of mind and speech. Thou art beyond any kind of limitation. Thou art the Over-soul. Thou art the Self of this universe.
Thou art self-luminous. Thou art without parts, without actions, without limbs, without any taint or fault, without birth and death. Thou art our Father, Mother, Brother, Friend, Guru, Relative and sole Refuge. Thou art the embodiment of Peace, Bliss, Knowledge, Power, Strength and Beauty.
O All-Merciful Lord! Through Thy grace, may I realise Truth! May I always entertain sublime thoughts! May I realise myself as the Light Divine! May I serve humanity with Atma Bhav! May I be free from greed, lust, egoism, jealousy and hatred! May I behold the one sweet Immortal Self in all beings! May I realise Brahman with pure understanding!
May that Light of lights ever guide me! May He cleanse my mind of all impurities! May He inspire me! May He bestow on me power, courage and strength! May He remove the veil of the mind! May He remove all obstacles in the spiritual path! May He make my life happy and fruitful! I bow to Thee, O Lord of lords, O God of gods, O Deva of Devas, O Brahman of the Upanishads, the Support for Maya and Isvara!
Who is a saint? He who lives in God or the Eternal, who is free from egoism, likes and dislikes, selfishness, vanity, mine-ness, lust, greed and anger, who is endowed with equal vision, balanced mind, mercy, tolerance, righteousness and cosmic love, and who has divine knowledge, is a saint.
Saints and sages are a blessing to the world at large. They are the custodians of superior divine wisdom, spiritual powers and inexhaustible spiritual wealth. Even kings bow their heads at their lotus feet. King Janaka said to Yajnavalkya, "O venerable sage! I am grateful to your exalted holiness for obtaining the ancient wisdom of the Upanishads through your lofty and sublime instructions. I offer my whole kingdom at thy feet. Further, I am thy servant. I will wait on thee like a servant".
Such is the magnanimous nature of saints and sages. Their very existence inspires others and goads them to become like them and attain the same state of bliss achieved by them. Had it not been for their existence, there would not have been spiritual uplift and salvation for you all. Their glory is indescribable. Their wisdom is unfathomable. They are deep like the ocean, steady like the Himalayas, pure like the Himalayan snow, effulgent like the sun. One crosses this terrible ocean of Samsara or births and deaths through their grace and Satsang. To be in their company is the highest education. To love them is the highest happiness. To be near them is real education.
The saints wander from village to village and disseminate divine knowledge. They move from door to door and impart wisdom. They take a little for their bare maintenance and give the highest education, culture and enlightenment to the people. Their very life is exemplary. Whether they deliver lectures or not, whether they hold discourses or not, it matters little.
Saints and sages only can become real advisers to the kings, because they are selfless and possess the highest wisdom. They only can improve the morality of the masses. They only can show the way to attain eternal bliss and immortality. Shivaji had Swami Ramdas as his adviser. King Dasaratha had Maharshi Vasishtha as his adviser.
Study the lives of saints; you are inspired at once. Remember their sayings; you are elevated immediately. Walk in their footsteps; you are freed from pain and sorrow. Therefore, the book "Lives of Saints" must be your constant companion. It must be in your pocket always. It must be underneath your pillow.
Do not superimpose defects on the saints on account of your Dosha-drishti or evil eye. You cannot judge their merits. Be humble and sit at their feet. Serve them with your heart and soul, keep them in your garden, clear your doubts. Get instructions and practise them in right earnest. You will certainly be blessed.
Every school, every college, every boarding-house, every jail, every institution, every house, should have a saint for guidance. Saints are in abundance. You do not want them. You do not wish to approach them. You do not wish to serve them. You do not aspire for higher things. You are perfectly satisfied with some broken shells and glass-pieces. There is no thirst or spiritual hunger in you for achieving higher divine knowledge and inner peace.
There is no caste among saints and sages. Do not look to their caste. You will not be benefited. You cannot imbibe their virtues. In higher religion, there is neither caste nor creed. Cobblers, weavers and untouchables had become the best saints. Wisdom and Self-realisation are not the monopoly of Brahmins alone. South Indian Brahmins pay respects and give food only to the Brahmin Dandi-Sannyasins. This is a serious mistake and a grave blunder. What a sad state! That is the reason why saints do not wish to visit South India. Punjab and Gujarat have devotion to all saints. Hence the saints move in those parts and people there derive much spiritual benefit from them.
In placing this book before the public in general, and the aspirants in the spiritual path in particular, it seems proper to write a few lines on the glory of saints. Saints, to whatever clime they may belong, have left their footprints on the sands of time, so that others, who are true and faithful, may follow their track in search of the Eternal Truth. Their lives have ever remained an inspiration to us. Their glory has ever been green in our memory. Their teachings have ever flowed with the tide of life. May they inspire us and guide us for ever!
The present work has been divided into thirteen sections. Saints do not strictly belong to any clime or country and no geographical limits can stop their influence from overflowing the boundaries. They belong to the whole world. Hence, to attach to them any provincial basis is to facilitate the easy understanding of the spiritual current started by each separately and by all conjointly for the spiritual regeneration of the land.
Man feels that he is weak and helpless. He has to counteract such evil tendencies through right exertion and through proper lead. To such persons the lives of saints serve as a guide. They mould their life, their character and their future. They change their mental outlook and convert them to the faith and teachings of their guide. Such true and reliable guides are the saints who have come and gone.
May this world be filled with good saints and sages! May you all attain the supreme goal through their Satsang and advice!! May the blessings of saints and sages be upon you all!!!
8th January, 1947.
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