This article is from the book Philosophy and Teachings of Swami Sivananda.
Philosophy a writer once defined as the conversation carried on by the great minds across the continents over and above the head of the teeming multitudes. This, in fact, it is. The multitudes, therefore, almost entirely miss philosophy altogether. Thus one finds that serious metaphysics and deep research into questions of eternal reality shines as ornaments to the cultural structure of the race but fail to reach down and redeem the ‘common man.’ They are only treasured as precious heritage. Historically we see how the mastermind of the great Vyasa was led ultimately to feel the inadequacy of the classic Vedas and abstruse Brahmasutras for the task of universal enlightenment. The Brahmasutras left the masses untouched. The thousand and one defects, deficiencies and incapacities of the ordinary individual had to be considered if philosophy had to become a tangible force for transformation and redemption. A vision of frank realism could alone evaluate the true need of average humanity and labour to fulfil it. Vyasa had it, and did his work through the vast Puranic literature. It was a tremendous labour of love, and out of it, the Gita stands a monument of extreme realism and human understanding. This explains why the Gita has continued down to this day as a tremendous force and influence throughout India.
It is precisely this intensely realistic attitude of Swami Sivananda that has rendered him peculiarly the inspirer and spiritual awakener of thousands of people literally throughout the world. When the first inkings of his Mission stirred in his bosom one third of a century ago, the subtle lure of the hoary Himalayas and the holy Ganga drew him irresistibly to the northern reaches of Bharatavarsha. Shedding off with impatience the irksome folds of the mantle of secular life, the spiritual seeker, Kuppu Swami (Swami Sivananda), repaired forthwith to that holy region sanctified by the sages and the seers of yore, to plunge himself into rigorous austerity and Sadhana. That was to prepare the ground for the dynamic work which was to be turned out in the later years.
More than two decades ago Swamiji commenced the task of systematically awakening up the entire nation, and, within recent years, has stirred up the people of the land from end to end to bestir themselves in the spiritual path.
Through his powerful writings, filled with the force of his spiritual personality, he has created in everyone a keen thirst for divine life. He has made them realise the supreme importance of human birth and its real, lofty purpose. He has thrilled the people by presenting vividly to their vision the glorious goal and realisation that is their very birthright. He has sacrificed his whole life for the work of inspiring mankind and making people do practical spiritual Sadhana. He is the man for the multitude, and the multitude constitutes the ninety-nine per cent of mankind.
Swami Sivananda is a Kevala Advaitin and his philosophy is one that asserts the absolute falsity of all changing phenomena whilst regarding the Supreme alone as the only real entity. But the unique combination of the philosophy and the intense realism that exemplifies in himself has given him a wonderful insight into the practical difficulties of the struggling man. This has been the factor to decide his position in and his value to mankind today. For, he is not a mere inspirer alone. He awakens and inspires and, in addition, works unceasingly in guiding the aspirants throughout their Sadhana, keeping a close watch over their progress, pointing out and removing the numerous obstacles that beset them on the path. He suggests to them methods to combat and overcome difficulties that are personal and peculiar to each individual temperament, constantly heartening them up during their failures, acting as a hope in their despair, and consolation, encouragement and strength in the inevitable setbacks and disappointments during their upward march.
The exuberant genius of many a saint of the past had been a fount of inspiration to many. They inspired many but stopped with that. They lit up a flame in the hearts they touched. In Swami Sivananda the world has one who is not content with lighting the flame alone. He has lit up the flame of spirituality and aspiration in countless hearts, and having done this, he feeds the lamp to keep the flame alive, guards and protects the flame from adverse winds and trims carefully the wick, when the need does arise. He has an unerring eye for inescapable facts. Too well does he know the limitations, weaknesses and the handicaps of an average aspirant struggling for the attainment of Truth.
In seeking to make everyone strive for the attainment of the life’s goal, Swami Sivanandaji leaves aside no aspect of their life as constituted today. He takes into consideration all the above factors, and this it is that has resulted in his carrying on his awakening message so very effectively and successfully. He takes the typical man of today as he is. He does not segregate the individual from his domestic, social, professional and economic setting. He does not address his precepts to him as an isolated entity. No, for this would mean preaching to a special class because such whole timed, isolated ones, form only a small and distinct group. For this group he sets aside always a separate set of instructions that invariably finds a place in his voluminous writings. They appear under the titles such as, ‘Special Instructions,’ ‘Advice to Aspirants,’ or ‘To Whole timed Sadhaks’, etc. The purpose of this modern awakener-guide is to reach one and all.
To this end he sets about emphasising the fundamental unity of mankind, shifting the non essential values of life and religion, and bringing to light the essential, underlying unity of approach, diverse creeds and beliefs of the world. The spot by the side of the holy Ganga near Rishikesh, the fascination of the sacred atmosphere of which charmed and held him firm from the day he set foot thereon, there budded and blossomed forth the flower of his spiritual austerity in the shape of The Divine Life Society, synthesising all creeds and Sadhanas for a united onward march towards the fulfilment of life’s supreme purpose. Through, The Divine Life, the voice of this all embracing institution, Swamiji is consistently spreading the message of tolerance, truth, purity and loving service, throughout the land.
The triple-vows of Ahimsa, Satya and Brahmacharya he has placed before us as the key to the attainment of Divine Life in and through the world. How comprehensive and all inclusive he has sought to make his message will be apparent the moment one considers the range of his teaching. He directly addresses the aspirants making no distinction of race and religion. European or Indian, Hindu or Christian, Muslim or Parsi, are all equal as aspirants in the spiritual path, and as such is his approach towards them. He is in the midst of them all through his writings. He freely mingles with them all through his books. He says: “Man cannot ignore any aspect of his being. He has in himself all the aspects–intellectual, emotional, occult and active. It is the Yoga of synthesis, the integral development of all the above aspects that is best suited to the modern age. Keep one Sadhana as the axis and combine all the others as harmonious auxiliaries to it.” It is through synthetic practice of religion that he would have us attain the goal of life.
The ultimate findings of philosophy, the fundamental truths of religion and spiritual life are constant and invariable. They are the same today as they were centuries ago. But external conditions have altered a great deal. Man, his outlook on life and the quality of his receptivity to higher ideas and ideals, have vastly changed with the passage of time. The ancient ideal was for the seekers to devoutly approach the sage. But today the characteristic of life is commercial and the economy of society is money-economy. In the day-long struggle for bread, man does not find time even to care for the health and culture of his own physical body. Much less has he time to approach men of God, sit at their feet and imbibe spiritual truths by years of close association and service. Therefore, today the man of spirit approaches the struggling seeker, adopting methods and media current in his social structure and pattern of life. Hence we see this monk and philosopher rise from his austere meditation, descend from the heights of abstruse philosophy down into the plains of facts and realities.
Here he finds himself faced with a task more difficult and is compelled to contend with forces more formidable than his predecessors of yore. The encroachment of purely materialistic ideas and ideals from outside has vitiated and clouded the culture of the land. The sons and daughters of the soil have broken away from the spiritual moorings and in many cases turned actively antagonistic to spiritual values. They are sceptic towards religion. Thus the dual task of combating the anti-spiritual forces those are deep-rooted in the present-day humanity and then leading them on the spiritual path, of converting and redeeming them, has come to his share. Fully conscious of the state of affairs and unshakably convinced of the psychological law that the positive must and does overcome the negative, Swami Sivanandaji untiringly strives to keep up a constant battery of spiritual ideas, to break down the citadel of irreligion and scepticism. He has flooded the land with a powerful flow of spiritual ideas whose force has been slowly, yet surely, uprooting the evils of the modern age from the minds of the masses and bringing back to them a realisation of the paramount duty of life and urgent necessity for practical spiritual Sadhana.
His message has reached man in every walk of his life. His call has gone home to the student, housewife, householder, retired man and even the brother-monk. He has his admonition for the teacher, the doctor, the lawyer, the businessman and for ladies. Thus into forests and cities, into homes and offices, into hospitals and court-rooms, his voice enters and awakens a note of ready response. The nation today has come to look upon him as a guide, philosopher and friend, who, for all his depths of metaphysics, has, for humanity’s sake, the practical end ever in view in all that he says, does and teaches. He is a gem in the forehead of the Himalayas, of Mother India.