This article is a chapter from the book Swami Sivananda, Our Loving Awakener.
What has Gurudev Swami Sivanandaji Maharaj specially done to the world which the great saints and sages like Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, Swami Vivekananda, Swami Ramatirtha, Sankaracharya, Ramanuja, Vallabha and others did not do? Gurudev has brought the message of all these people. What Jesus said and Buddha and Mohammed said—the quintessence of these teachings has been given to us by Sri Gurudev. Gurudev has given us the essence of all the messages contained in the Upanishads, the Gita and other holy scriptures.
What is the uniqueness of Sri Gurudev? Has he done something distinctive? Every person is unique. Just because you have been eating rice, Chapati, Dal and vegetables all your life, if today these things come to you, will you say, “What is unique in this? I am eating them daily. I don’t want them.” You will not say that; because today’s food is unique for today. It is the need of the hour; all that you have eaten for so many years will not appease your hunger today. Today’s meal is unique for you. Similarly, from this angle in the context of each period and generation, in each century, the work of a saint, a sage or a messenger of God who comes in that particular framework of time, is of most important significance to that particular time.
If you go into deeper analysis, you will find that it is exactly the prime need of the hour. So from that point of view Gurudev’s teaching was unique. Its value cannot be estimated at all. It is invaluable. In the context of what was going on in India and outside India, Sri Gurudev appeared to once again revive the fast fading loyalty or allegiance of Indian people to their own culture. The people then were under the impact of a flood of alien ideas and ideals. At that time Gurudev put before them the great value and the precious importance of the eternal ideal and goal. He proved that the spiritual ideal can never become old. It is ever new. And it will continue to be new even in the future; because it is eternal. Gurudev thus showed people the right path and then woke them up to their error. He said, “Don’t commit the error of getting fascinated by wrong ideals. Don’t commit the error of casting away diamonds for a piece of glass. A diamond is always a diamond even for thousands of years. Glass can never take its place.” Gurudev also put them into the pride of their religion; he put into them a desire to propagate it. Dissemination of spiritual knowledge was something very dear to Gurudev.
He used to say, “It is no good for you not to know what your religion is. Know your religion. But don’t keep it to yourself. Share it. Share whatever is beneficial to all. See that others also are benefited by this knowledge.” Though other saints have also done this before, Gurudev did it in a very unique way. He said, “Religion is not confined either to the time you visit a temple or your Puja room morning and evening. It is something which pertains to every breath that you take. It is something which has an intimate connection with and is concerned with every moment of your entire life.” So he refused to make religion a part of people’s life. For him life itself was religion.
What is religion? Man’s attempt to worship God and to move towards Him is religion. Life should be lived as worship to God; life should be lived as an upward ascent into God-experience and Bhagavad-Darshan, coming face to face with God. The whole life must be made divine. You must live life as a divine process and not as a material or worldly process. We must open our eyes to this new outlook. Gurudev said, “Here I give to you life that is not going to be in any part either materialistic or worldly or gross. All life is spiritual. All life is divine connecting you directly to God. Therefore, live life divine. If you are a doctor practising medicine, practise it in a divine way, seeing His Presence in your patients. If you are a lawyer, then be a divine lawyer. Practise your law in a divine spiritual way. If you are a businessman, do your business in a divine way. Make it spiritual and not earthly and corrupt. If you are a professor or a teacher or a principal, know that you must be so in a divine way. If you are an engineer then be a divine engineer.” Because, that which you are doing is extraneous to yourself. It is ‘you’ who are doing it, so it does not matter what you are engaged in, ‘you’ must be divine while you are engaged in it. Then you will bring the quality of divinity in whatever you are engaging yourself in.
In your engineering activity, in your medical activity and your academic activity, or any activity for the matter of that, bring the divinity which is your essential nature and can never be contradicted by anything in this world, no matter what anyone may say about it.
You are essentially a divine being. Your earth personality is like an overcoat which you have taken upon yourself. But it cannot change what you are. Because this overcoat is temporary, it is Asat, unreal. And that which is unchangeable, eternal, beginningless and endless is your native state; that Vedanta calls Sat, the Truth. So all that is extraneous to you is Asat, unreal. That which is the essence of yourself is Sat. The essence of you is the immortal Atman. You are eternal Spirit, Atman, unborn, deathless. And therefore, in that essence of your being you are divine; because spirit is divinity. Divinity means all-Love, all-Truth, all-Auspiciousness and Blessedness. Therefore, in being divine, your entire life has to be divine. Thus, Gurudev brought spirituality and realisation right into the very heart centre of life and wove it into the very fabric of people’s lives. If you accept his vision and ideal, no part of your life can be left out of spiritual life. All parts become part and parcel of your over-all spiritual living. The end will be spiritual illumination through attainment of God.
Thus, Gurudev’s unique contribution was that he made divinity pervade the entire life of the individual in every aspect and in every detail. He said, “Home life should be divine. Professional life should be divine. The Vyavaharic life and social life also must be divine. One’s whole inner subjective life should be divine.” You should have divine virtues; you must be a divine ideal person. Your nature and character should be divine. Nothing petty, nothing impure, nothing earthly, nothing gross should be there. So your character, your conduct in all your dealings, in all walks of life should be divine. Let a pervasive divine character qualify your entire life. This is called spiritualising all activities.
Gurudev said, “You need not take one step to go anywhere in order to practise this way of spiritualising all your activities. You can be where you are and at the same time bring about this transformation. Let all that you do be touched by this philosopher’s stone of the attitude of worship.”
“I worship my Lord through my life, through every word that I utter, through every deed that I do, through every action I engage in and every thought that I entertain and through every sentiment and emotion —‘Yad yad karma karomi tat tad akhilam Shambho tava aradhanam’.” All activity is worship of God. If we live in the immediate presence of the Divine all the time, how can we be petty and unspiritual? The Lord is seated in all as the Antaryami. He is everywhere as the Sarvavyapi Bhagavan. The Lord says in the Gita – “Kshetrajnam chapi mam viddhi sarva kshetreshu Bharata” — O Arjuna, know Me to be the Knower of the field in all fields. The body is the field and the Being who is seated in this field is called the Knower of the field. Similarly, you are to be like that indwelling being, knowing everything about the Kshetra – the body, the mind and all the other instruments of knowledge. Even in unknowing creatures like animals, creatures, reptiles, in all these also the Lord is the Jnanasvarupa Antaryami Bhagavan. In another context the Lord says, “ Ahamatma gudakesa sarvabhutashayasthitah”— here, the Lord identifies Himself as the spiritual reality in all the creatures. The Lord is the beginning, the middle and the end of all creatures: “There is no part of their being and living bereft of My presence, My essence. I pervade everything.” Gurudev emphasised the recognition of this reality.
God is always in the company of all. In His divine company, how can you lead your life in any other manner except in a spiritual manner? Except in a manner worthy of His great divine presence? Even if we are in the office of some big official, we behave very correctly so that he may not have anything to say criticising our behaviour. God is the Lord of lords, God of gods, Jagadishvara. And so Gurudev said, “Recognise the presence of the Divine within and without. And therefore, conduct yourself in a divine manner in His presence.” The goal of life is to attain Divine Consciousness through divine living. Be up and doing in this task, right up from the beginning. This process of attaining the Divine Consciousness is not meant for some particular part of your life. Therefore, the sooner one is put into the path of divinely living one’s life, the better one is doing one’s duty. Gurudev has also written a couple of books for children like ‘Divine Life for Children’ etc. He says that children also must become aware that they are divine and that they have to live in a divine way in order to attain divine bliss and divine illumination in the end. This is Gurudev’s unique message to mankind. He gave practical spirituality to everyone. That is Gurudev’s grace.