This article is from the book Swami Sivananda: Saint, Sage and Godman.
Divine Life movement is a plan of life and a goal that is common and acceptable to all upon earth, who wish to rise above sorrow and obtain lasting Bliss.
More than to strive to reach heaven after this life, the followers of the Divine Life try to make conditions of Heaven prevail upon earth… The basis of this movement is adherence to the triple ideals of truth, non-violence and purity—the common fundamental tenets of all the religions throughout the world.
We have been trying to know about Gurudev’s life and his teachings, what he taught us. One of the very, very important, most significant insight that Holy Master Swami Sivanandaji brought into our life and into our understanding is the truth that the spiritual striving, the Yoga-Sadhana cannot be diverted from daily living. You cannot treat them as two things apart having no interconnection. They cannot be treated as watertight compartments. It is impossible that what is going on here has no relevance there. Because, whatever striving you make, whatever Yoga, whatever prayer, whatever meditation or worship you make is within the framework of your life you are living. You are engaged in your spiritual Sadhana within the framework of that life itself, it is the scope of your Sadhana. Your daily life is the receptacle or the ground on which your Sadhana is to rest. So these two are inextricably and inseparably bound up together and are closely interconnected; whatever you are doing in living your daily life has necessarily its effect on your inner life, on your Sadhana life. Also, whatever Sadhana you are doing in the inwardness of your own spiritual subjectivity has its impact on your daily living. If the inner spiritual life you are living within the spiritual interior of your own subjectivity, does not have a corresponding effect on your outer, normal, day-to-day living, then you better sit up, and take a second look at yourself. There is something fundamentally wrong. Something has been wrong somewhere. The Guru will not be able to tell you what. God may try to make you aware of it in direct and indirect ways, but he does not come and correct you. Therefore, it is up to you to take a look at yourself, with very great seriousness, earnestness, sincerity, impartiality and total honesty, and find out what is wrong. If I am entering into that vast silence, that vast Peace in my meditation why do I not have the same peace when I come out of meditation and relate myself to the life around me? What has gone wrong? Why do I not project that Peace outside? I am talking about only one quality of the great Reality. It implies various qualities, fundamental among them are Purity, Truth, Compassion, Sat-Chit-Ananda, Joy, Cheerfulness and Auspiciousness. That is an expanded blessed state of the mind when you are content to be alone, you do not require anything to be added onto you, you are full. When you are alone, company of your own self is more than enough for yourself. You have no desire, no inclination to come out of yourself and to get into some company or relationship. Our scriptures call it Swatmarama Avastha or the state of abiding and rejoicing in the Self. This is your permanent ground. This is your continuous, unbroken normal state. Let this grow and you will overcome all your problems.
You cannot burn an incense stick and yet not have the room filled with its fragrance. If no fragrance is there, there must be something wrong with the incense stick. It is not a genuine one.
Right from the ancient times down to the medieval age, the spiritual ministers, the great devotees and the mystics have given their Experiences and teachings in songs. In this great land, there have been innumerable such devotees and mystics. All of them have reiterated the same truth and spiritual values. If you have a genuine, authentic spiritual life, if you are a real Sadhaka, a devotee of the lord, your interior life must have its inevitable influence and impact on every thought, word and action in the living of your day-by-day life. And that is the test for you. If there is a dichotomy between your outer life and inner life something is wrong. Find out its reason. Reflect upon it: “If my interior life is genuine and honest, authentic and real, then why is the link, the relationship not there? I am really a wonderful child of God. I am with God inside. But the moment I come in contact with God’s other children, I become something else, something different. So either there is something wrong with my interior spirituality or with my external normal dealings with God’s world and God’s creatures. Why the two behaviours are not connected? Why there is a sort of a break?”
Holy Master Gurudev Swami Sivanandaji regarded the living of your daily life as important, if not more important than the practice of your spiritual Sadhana. He gave, not without any reason, a very significantly true message of ‘Divine Life’. His institution is The Divine Life Society, its magazine is The Divine Life and he gave the name Divine Life to his message. He did not call it this Yoga or that Yoga or transcendental meditation or any other name. This name that he gave has very much relevance, very much connection and relationship with your life. Gurudev regarded the living of your life equally important as the practice of your spiritual Sadhana, your Yoga, Vedanta and meditation. Perhaps he regarded the former more important than your spiritual life. Because if your life, your daily living is proper, then alone your Sadhana will proceed unhampered and be progressive and it will yield fruits, and it will go on yielding fruits. You don’t have to wait till it culminates in spiritual Realisation. It would go on yielding fruits right now. It would go on giving flowers and yielding fruits step by step. So Gurudev called it Divine Life. If your life is lived rightly, your Sadhana will be fruitful, progressive and effective. If your life is not lived rightly, the fruit or result will not be commensurate with your effort—much effort but little fruit. How can you afford to do that? How much time you have in your life span to go on doing such effort? No one knows. We are here now, but what moment we will not be here God only knows. Therefore we cannot afford to make a lot of effort in spiritual Sadhana without getting the desired results. Your Sadhana must yield fruits. So Gurudev rightly laid great emphasis on our day-to-day life.
Gurudev was very fond of giving analogies in support of intricate truths. He enjoyed it greatly, one such analogy is:
There were some merry-makers who had consumed more liquor than that was good for them. So they were high. They went out for a rowing trip to some place a little away further down the river. They went out on a hot summer night, expecting to reach the destination at the dawn. With all the preparations they came to the river side and boarded a boat. They went on rowing, singing cheerfully in expectation of reaching the great destination. When it was twilight, they were in great spirit thinking that they would soon be reaching the destination. Then they saw some persons coming towards the river for taking the bath, they started shouting: “We have reached, we have reached.” But someone said, “All these people look familiar.”
They asked someone, “Which is this place?” The villager rebuked, “Don’t you recognise your own village?” A merry-maker argued, “We are rowing for such a long time and how is it that we have not reached our destination? How can we be stationary at the same place?” So the wise man explained, “Your boat is tied to a tug in the post. You cannot make any progress unless you untie your boat.”
In the same way, the spiritual Sadhana will not bring you nearer to the destination, if you do not, first of all untie the bonds of impurities of Kama, Krodha, Lobha, Moha, Mada, Matsarya, desires, jealousy, hatred, anger, hostility, greed, delusion, untruthfulness, dishonesty. Our efforts will be like the oil-man’s bullocks moving on and on from dawn to dust and yet remain at the same place without making any progress whatsoever. If we do not untie ourselves, make us free from all the impurities before launching into spiritual Sadhana either we are trying to deceive ourselves or the people, or we are very, very unwise, thoughtless, foolish. The great scriptures say, the essence of spiritual life is gradually becoming like That whom you adore, whom you are trying to Realise, whom you are meditating upon. A meditator must gradually become transformed into the object which he is meditating upon. If the object is the ultimate Reality that is All-good, All-noble, All-perfect, Absolutely Pure, Bliss Absolute, the Sadhaka must also become Good, Noble, Perfect, Pure, Holy, Godly. Vedanta declares Brahmavid Brahmaiva Bhavati ‘The knower of the Brahman becomes Brahman Itself’ (Mundakopanishad 3/2/9). If you really want to worship God, you must become God-like, you must become a god. Then only you can connect yourself with Him and worship Him. The essence of worship is connecting yourself with the Divine Reality and moving towards It, approaching It and entering into It. Ultimately all Sadhana is connecting yourself with the Reality, approaching It and entering into It. If you want to connect yourself with the supreme Reality, there must be something in you similar to That. Then alone there can be a point of contact, and you can have relationship with God. To worship It, we must already have within us, at least to some degree, the nature of the supreme Reality. It is no use quoting Vedanta saying, ‘I am an Amsha, a part of God, I am already divine, why should I have anything to do?’ This is no good. This is at best, a second-hand knowledge from the scriptures or lectures. This was perhaps the main reason why Gurudev called his gospel ‘Divine Life’ and did not call it this type of meditation or that type of Vedanta or this type of Yoga or that type of Sadhana, or Kriya Yoga or super-Sadhana. There are so many schools, so many teachers who give specific types of meditation or Sadhana or Yoga and all that. India is full of them. But then, no one seems to realise the importance of emphasising upon life, emphasising upon living the life in a noble, pure, godly, sublime way. This is more than half of all spirituality, all Sadhana. Once you become well-established in a good and noble life, in a pure and holy life, in a life full of kindness, compassion, sympathy, understanding, forbearance, forgiveness pardon, then that life itself has already taken you on the spiritual path. It is like a perfectly prepared field prepared by a farmer for sowing after removing stones and woods, cleaning, ploughing, manuring. If he sows seeds in such a ready field within no time the sprouts appear and he yields a good harvest. If the ground is not prepared, you all know the biblical analogy of the sower of the seeds:
A sower went forth to sow; and when sowed, some seeds fell by the way side, and the fowls came and devoured them up, some fell on stony places, where they had no much earth. And when the sun was up, they were scorched, and because they had no root they withered away. And some fell among thorns; and the thorns sprung up and choked them. But other fell into good ground, and brought forth fruit, some an hundred fold, some sixty fold, some thirty fold. But while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat and went his way. But when the blade was sprung up and brought forth fruit, then appeared the tares also. (The householder) said, Gather ye together first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them. (The New Testament.—St. Matthew XIII).
Therefore, Gurudev gave equal emphasis on life as he gave on Sadhana. Sadhana will be in vain unless supported by a spiritual life, Yogic life, holy life.
Gurudev’s emphasis on holy and spiritual life is very well depicted in Narsi Mehta’s poem. The gist of the Gujarati poem is:
O Lord! Even if I keep religious observances,
Even if I take food only once a day,
Yet if anger, jealousy, revenge do not vanish from my mind
Then all these are in vain, in vain.
Even if I visit the temple daily,
And adore the deity with flowers and incense,
Yet selfishness, greed, attachment, egoism, arrogance vanish not
Then my worship is a mere self-deceit.
Even if I mutter prayers and do Japa all the time,
Attend Satsanga regularly and meditate for hours,
If love, compassion, kindness and joy do not become my nature.
Then my spiritualism is not true.
Even if I stay in seclusion and observe Mauna,
Practise austerity, Tapas and proclaim non-attachment, renunciation,
Yet if my desires and Vrittis are not annihilated,
And I have not transcended the body-consciousness
And know not the Supreme Soul that dwells in all the beings,
Then all is futile, all is futile.