gurudev’s 116th birthday

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Gurudev H.H Sri Swami Sivanandaji’s 116th birthday

When we normally think or speak of a birthday, we usually refer to the birth of a body. However for spiritual seekers, it seems senseless to celebrate the birthday of something perishable and impermanent. As Lord Krishna said in the Bhagavad Gita that birth and death are inevitable so why grieve for the death of the body. So similarly, one could ask why rejoice? For ordinary beings, life is lived in a state of dream and slumber and no great contribution is made to the life of others. But from time to time, there are some great souls who incarnate and transform the life of others in such a significant manner that long after the passing away of their body, others remember their lives and celebrate the descent of their soul from the kingdom of God to earth. These souls are immortal and as Sri Ramakrishna said for them death and birth is like passing from one room to the other. They are ever present in both realms to help suffering souls find their way back to God, and reach enlightenment. Christmas, Krishna Janmashtami, and etc. are occasions where believers of a religion or a tradition gather together to remember and celebrate in a spirit of joy the birthday of the founder of that faith, or sect.

In the Sivananda Ashram, the Divine Life Society Headquarters, ashramites and devotees celebrated on the 8th September 2003, the 116 years of His Holiness Swami Sivananda Maharaj. Swami Sivananda was born on the 8th September 1887 in Pattamadai, Tamil Nadu, in the illustrious family of Sage Appaya Dikshita. He had an inborn eagerness to serve all and an innate feeling of unity with all mankind. His passion for service drew him to the medical career. He became the editor of a health journal and wrote extensively on health problems. He then served as a doctor in Malaya for many years. There came a turning point in the young doctor’s life, where he renounced his career and took to a life of renunciation. In 1924, he settled down in Rishikesh, practised intense austerities and shone as a great Yogi, saint sage and jivanmukta. Many spiritual seekers were drawn by his aura of holiness and he became a minister of the soul. He founded the Divine Life Society and the Yoga-Vedanta Forest Academy for the dissemination of spiritual knowledge and training of people in Yoga and Vedanta. He wrote more than three hundred books, and attracted disciples from all over the world. On 14th July, 1963, he entered Mahasamadhi.

After the necessary rites, his body was enshrined in a newly build temple where devotees can come and pay their homage. On the 8th September 2003, the temple was beautifully decorated with lights and the shrine was filled with flowers to commemorate the birth and life of the great man and saint. The remembrance started at 4:30 a.m. with meditation and satsang, where Revered Swami Atmaswarupananda Maharaj, Revered Swami Yogaswarupananada Maharaj, Vice-President and Revered Swami Jivanmuktananda Maharaj, General Secretary spoke of the three tenets of Gurudev teachings, namely Ahimsa, Brahmacharya and Satyam.

Later that morning at 9 a.m. with heartfelt devotion, the devotees and other ashramites participated in the abhisheka performed in the temple shrine, followed at 9:30 a.m. by the Paduka Puja. The senior swamis performed the worship of the holy sandal of Swami Sivananda with great love and many devotees also paid their respect by offering flowers, milk, and light to the holy sandals. Then, the young brahmacharis and swamis sung beautifully bhajans and kirtans. The audience joined in the singing, and the rhythm of the songs swept the mandir as a divine whirlwind. Minds flew towards God and there was a sense of unity. One could experience that verily God is one.

A direct disciple of Gurudev, Revered Swami Premananda spoke wonderfully of Gurudev’s teachings reminding devotees that Gurudev used to bow down to all because he saw the divine in every human being. Revered Swami Yogaswarupananda then spoke of Gurudev’s perfect manner, politeness and civility in all circumstances of life, and the simple way and straightforward manner in which He taught the highest philosophy making it understandable to all seekers. Finally Revered Swami Jivanmuktananda summarised the essence of Gurudev’s teachings to the eager devotees and all listened with utmost attention to the wisdom teachings of Revered Swami Jivanmuktanandaji Maharaj.

In the afternoon, a special satsang was held. And long-term devotees of the ashram spoke of their direct experience with Gurudev and with Revered Swami Chidanandaji Maharaj who has carried for more than forty years the light of Gurudev’s teachings from country to country, embedding in the hearts of the devotees the Love of God.

Gurudev’s presence was tangible, and the mandir was filled with his love. He taught that the law of life is love and his life is a divine personification of that great love for humanity. Not only in the mandir, but in homes all around the world, he guides seekers, candles their thirst for God, protects them from dangers, and encourages them in their practices. He gave generously during his lifetime, and with the same generosity he is giving since he left his body. Gurudev’s presence is very much alive in his teachings, and each one of us who bowed down at his holy feet, felt his divine blessings. Swami Sivananda is a living reality, a saint for whom death and birth are transitory experiences and who having realised the highest Brahman can guide souls from wherever they may be.

The programme concluded with the evening programme. The devotees were in an elevated state of mind. Heart and mind were filled with the same joy, gratefulness and words ‘Happy Birthday, Beloved Gurudev.’ In the Sivananda global family, the 8th September is a day where devotees remember that God took birth as Swami Sivananda, to guide and bless humanity.

Report from Divine Life Society Headquarters


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