Sri Swami Sivananda’s Favourite Formula
Sri Swami Sadananda
Message from the book Philosophy and Teachings of Swami Sivananda.
The best way in which we can benefit ourselves whether we are near Swami Sivananda or away from him, is by carrying out his advice, and because there are so many things which he has written about in more than 250 books, it may be impossible for us, ordinary people, to understand everything, even if we have time to read everything. Therefore, he has been so kind as to condense all his teaching into a few words which constitute what may be called the Mantra that he is uttering everyday in our hearing, so that it might sink deep in our minds and enable us to meditate upon its meaning. I am referring to what he always says at the end of the Sat Sang, “Serve, Love, Give, Purify, Meditate, Realise, Be good, Do good, Be kind, Be compassionate, Enquire, ‘Who am I?’, Know the Self and Be free.” I consider that this is his favourite formula, the Mantras that he is giving as Upadesh not in the formal way, but in the really valuable way to all people, who come and visit him here and this is a Mantra that has also spread in all parts of the world. If we are to benefit ourselves by the Grace that God has shown to us by giving us this Guru, so that we may improve, the best way is to think about its meaning and act according to it in the best manner possible for us.
Just think about the meaning of these words, “Serve, Love, Give, Purify, Meditate, Realise.” Each one of these words has been specially chosen and the word coming after the previous one comes with a purpose. It is not placed without any thought. Even a person in the lowest stage of spiritual evolution can enter into the path of progress, or evolution, only by serving others. That is the first thing that we have to do. Serve everybody as much as you can in the manner in which you are fitted to serve. Now, spiritual service, is selfless service. When you remember that you are part of the universe, that you cannot live independently of the universe, that you partake of the blessing that God is conferring upon you only through others who are living in this universe, your sense of duty will tell you that you have to serve others. Otherwise you will be selfish. Nobody in this universe can live independently. He lives only because there are others who help him in some fashion or other. Therefore, service is only a return for the obligation that we have received and are continuing to receive from others in the world. So, that is the first thing. Whenever you do anything, remember that you are doing it as a sort of repayment of the debt that you have received from other people. Then if you want to have a little better position in the spiritual field than you are having, you must invest a little more in the form of service to mankind. If you have put money in the bank you can take that money from the bank. But if you want to have more credit, do not take away all the money you have put there; but go on increasing your investment. Therefore, serve the world a little more than you have a claim to receive from the world. So, that is the first thing, Karma Yoga. So, then, in this Mantra, the first thing that is taught is Karma Yoga.
Naturally, when you have developed this feeling that you are part of this universe and it is your duty to do something for the universe, the next stage is reached that you should love the universe. Here also we are only returning the love that we are receiving from other people. Love has been shown to us by the parents from the day on which we were born. In our childhood, the whole world loved us. Who does not love a child? Therefore, even in returning, we have to return much more than what we have received. And unless there is love in the world, there cannot be any kind of harmony even in our own little family or community even in the immediate neighbourhood where we live, unless we received love and give love there cannot be any happiness, and mind you, love is the life of Bhakti Yoga. If you love in the manner in which you ought to, you are loving the world, recognising that every person has got in him the all-pervading Atman and that every person functions on account of the presence of God in him. When you recognise that you are able to talk intelligently to other people, only because God gives you that intelligence, when you recognise God everywhere, automatically, you love everyone.
Then, ‘Give’. That is a very important advice that has to be given to a man. In the Upanishads there is a story that once thunder was heard as “Da Da Da” by Asuras, Devas and men. Those who heard the three words, Da Da Da, understood them in their own respective ways. The Devas said, ‘This is the teaching God has given us, because we do not have Dama (restraint).’ Devas are known for their want of restraint, and therefore they felt, ‘We must have restraint. We are running towards the enjoyment of pleasures. We must have a little more control.’ And the advice was taken by men as Dana (charity). The tendency for human beings is to receive and not to give. Asuras have no Daya. Dana is very important for men. If you search your heart, you will find that out of necessity you will pay something, give something and even supposing you had given very willingly, you will be thinking about it and taking pride in your heart of hearts for having given something, though you may not show the pride you feel. When you have given charity, you have done something which is quite abnormal for an ordinary being. Therefore, the teaching that is given us is, “Remember you are a human being. Rise above the average human being. Become divine. Give.” This is the teaching there.
Then when all these are practised, the true preparation is made. When you have done selfless service, have decided to rise above the average human being so that you can make your life divine, then you become fit to proceed further. Therefore, serve, love, give, purify. There you have to think of cleansing your mind. Swamiji has got another set of phrases: “Purify your mind, simplify your life and intensify your Sadhana.” Why should you purify your mind? So that later on you will not fall a victim to the temptations of your mind. Therefore, purification is for keeping the mind filled with good thoughts. They should stick themselves permanently to the mind, and when you have done that by the practice of Yama and Niyama, by controlling yourself completely, by not allowing yourself to be led away by temptations, by not taking advantage of the simplicity of others in business matters or other matters, when you are avoiding all these bad things you will have purified yourself.
Therefore, serve, love, give, purify. ‘Then you will be fit for meditation. Suppose you are inviting a friend to your house. You will first of all keep your room clean. You will not keep your room dirty. Ordinary courtesy requires that you clean a room before you receive an honoured guest. Now, if you are inviting the most honoured guest, God, to take His seat in your mind, you cannot keep your mind dirty. He will sit only in a place which is clean. Therefore, purify. Then meditation will be possible. Meditation means that you will be able to keep God inside you. When once you have cleaned your mind in the way that it is fit for God to dwell in, then Realisation comes quickly. That is why Swamiji says, “Serve, love, give, purify, meditate and realise.”
When you have developed yourself into the position of some divine personality, then it becomes your duty to be positively good. Be good. Till then all the virtuous qualities are only to perfect yourself. Afterwards you are qualified not only to receive power-vibrations from God, but also to transfer your power and godliness to other people. Therefore, you are asked to be good. Perfect goodness is perfect ‘Godliness’. Therefore, “Be good, Do good, Be kind’. “Be compassionate” comes naturally.
Because, you are no longer selfish, you will begin to live only for others’ good. Then, “Be kind and Be compassionate.” Then you will be able to understand how other people are to be benefited by the level you have reached. Then enquire, ‘Who am I?’ Be conscious of your identity with the Paramatman, and “Be free”.
This is the Mantra which we are receiving every day from Swamiji. Even the person who is very low in the spiritual evolution can practise, “service”. The person who is a little advanced, can practise Bhakti Yoga. So, it is possible to practise all these virtues one after another. I would request you to keep this Mantra running in your mind always, concentrate on the meaning of it, when you have time, and work out the ideas, always. That is the way in which you can benefit from the thought vibrations that are always emanating from Swamiji. Now, I am not qualified to describe him to you, but still I can give you this secret that saints like our Swamiji can never be keeping quiet at any moment of their life without radiating vibrations of a spiritual nature. They are always there, and the result is that when we have attuned our mental radio to the appropriate meter to receive those vibrations by simplifying our life, by purifying our mind, by meditating on our inner Self, we shall be able to receive those vibrations and transform ourselves into divine beings, which we are called upon to become, having been born in the world and especially in India, where we have preserved the spiritual heritage of our ancestors. Let us become worthy of them.