Sri Swami Sivananda–A Composite Personality
This article is a chapter from the book “Sivananda–The Apostle of Peace and Love”.
Swami Sivananda is not only a sage, Yogi, philosopher, author and orator, but also a poet, artist, humorist, singer and musician. His poems in English belong to a class of their own. He sings melodious songs in Hindi, Sanskrit and English with a charming celestial voice which must be heard to be believed.
As a child innocent and pleasing, as a friend cordial and sympathetic, as a doctor successful and benevolent, and above all as a Sannyasin noble and sublime, Swami Sivananda stands as a beacon-light amidst the billowing ocean of humanity.
The fertility of Swami Sivananda’s brain, the lucidity of his expressions, the sweetness of his tone, the boldness of his spirit, the simplicity of his appearance, the affection in his voice, the magnanimity of his service, the popularity of his undying works, the glorious work at Ananda Kutir, the Forest University, the Ayurvedic Pharmacy, the Free Literature Department, Charitable Hospital and the School are all different shades of his unique personality. He is a dynamic personality of the present age, endowed with diverse faculties of the head and the heart. He is a man of practical wisdom capable of guiding the destinies of nations. His indomitable courage, iron tenacity of purpose and flawless character make him a great soul, unique in all respects. He is a most enchanting and arresting personality.
The Sivananda Ashram atmosphere breathes the idea of the essential unity of all religions. To be in Swami Sivananda’s presence is in itself a blessing. The spiritual aura brings that wonderful peace and happiness which cannot be had elsewhere in the world. The Swami sheds wisdom, power and love to all who come within his aura.
The moment people enter the gates of Ananda Kutir, the headquarters of the worldwide Divine Life Society, and the seat of the Yoga-Vedanta Forest University, they entirely forget the differences of opinion, party feelings and miseries of the world. The Divine Atmosphere creates joy and thrill in all aspirants. The sacred environment where every ripple of the Ganga, every gush of the forest wind and the very soil of the Himalayas thrill one with ancient and modern Tapas is beyond description. The special attention of the Swamiji, his kind regards and uniform and artless courtesy bestowed on all visitors turn every man into a divine being. The visitors cherish with joy and gratitude the happy memory of (his) God-intoxication.
Swami Sivananda’s religion of the heart, which he has significantly termed “Divine Life” is not the cave-dweller’s concern, nor the monopoly of monks. It is for all. Swamiji tells each one of us how to transform our daily life into divine life and how through regular, fruitful, dynamic activity, everyone can expand the heart to infinite dimensions to enable it to hold and be filled with Divinity or Self-realisation, that is the goal of all.
To him religion is not mere meditation,–something dry and fairy, something which we may practise only in shrines and temples. To him religion is the daily demonstration of our spiritual belief from hour to hour, indeed from moment to moment, in our dealings with one and all, here and now, in this very work-a-day world. His attitude to life and the personal example he sets before all naturally satisfied the educated, the rationalist, the modern men and women in all of whom his sagely teachings and Yogic power evoke a sense of loving adoration.
Swami Sivananda has been a source of spiritual inspiration to millions of men and women in various countries irrespective of colour, creed and race. With a special knowledge of all religions, he talks on the essential unity of religions with convincing persuasiveness. He has scholarship which is happily combined with understanding; he wields a facile pen and possesses fiery eloquence to give expression to his views. His explanations of social and metaphysical problems and their solutions are clear and they carry conviction with all, even with those saturated with modern scientific education and materialistic culture. His constant endeavours in the field of dissemination of spiritual knowledge are the expressions of profound conviction that is rooted in his very soul that modern man can be saved only by an inner spiritual awakening, and that the realisation of the highest peace and happiness is possible only by ceaseless service of Man. His message is that ‘Love of God is Service of Man.’ This is for him not a mere theoretical concept to be preached but a matter of daily practice, every moment of everyone’s life.
There are no subjects in Hindu religion and Philosophy which the Swamiji has not expounded for the easy understanding of all. His writings are an indispensable guide to all those who tread the spiritual path.
The simple, fascinating, calm and forceful style of Swami Sivananda has brought about a wonderful change in the readers. He is that rare fusion of intellectual giant and spiritual angel. Many spiritual giants of India cannot be understood and so they cannot find response in the material world of the Occident: but Swami Sivananda writes with both spiritual depth and intellectual persuasion. He practices what he preaches, just what the country and the world need today. His teachings warm up the hearts of countless people and give them a new hope. He himself comes down to the level of the Sadhaka and then gradually takes him up to the higher level. He finds out the aspiration of each and combines in himself the wisdom of a Jnani and the zest for assisting human beings at all psychological levels that is the hall-mark of a true selfless social leader (Karma Yogi).
The difficulties we feel in our day-to-day life, as well as in our spiritual practices, vanish when we turn to his hope-radiating precepts which are not at all irksome to follow. He does not advocate the orthodox tight-rope walking Sadhanas nor does he place before his disciples the proverbial ‘razor’s edge’ to walk over. His genius lies in his discovery of the simple and the easy Path to the Supreme Goal, which anyone can tread, whichever walk of life he may choose.
Swami Sivananda does not advise his disciples and followers to entirely isolate themselves, for entering into Samadhi or Communion with God, but to immunise their mind to the earth-earthy currents of pleasure and pain, like and dislike. He advises them to go out into the world, live in society with a disciplined mind, and, above all, to serve their fellow-beings in a spirit of selfless, egoless and desireless worship of the all-pervading divinity.
Swamiji has himself illustrated the kind of service that they can render by his own epochal ‘Dynamic Spiritual Awakening’ Tour of India and Ceylon in 1950, when he thundered forth his stirring message of eternal wisdom throughout the length and breath of the land. The ocean of human heads that rose around him, the reverence with which Maharajahs and political chiefs greeted him, the devout veneration with which philosophers and leaders of the society welcomed him everywhere–in short the spontaneous love and regard with which the whole nation rose as one man to welcome him, to worship him and to hear him, proved the glory of Self-realisation and dynamic sainthood, the thirst of mankind for the healing message of the Spirit, and the illimitable field that lay before Sannyasins and spiritual leaders to serve humanity. Millions in India had the opportunity of knowing the Himalayan Saint in person. From the highest to the lowest rungs of social and spiritual ladder, men, women and children all over the country thronged to see and hear the champion of social and spiritual service. His words were embedded in the heart of the listener; his gestures were enthralling; and innocent love-filled look and the flowing robe keep your thoughts engaged throughout. He is a powerful orator who can thrill and electrify the audience.
Undoubtedly, this power he has obtained through his highly manifest soul-force developed through the cultivation to a remarkable degree of the sterling qualities of head and heart, viz., spontaneous and unrestrained love, nobility, humility, patience and self-sacrifice. His unbounded love can be yours for the mere asking and his help and guidance you can command by showing the least inclination to tread the spiritual path. Swamiji shuns not the sinner; he loathes not the vicious; nor does he brush aside the criminal. For each he prays, to each he pays individual attention till a wholesome change in the personality is achieved.
Of no less significance has been Swami Sivananda’s imperceptible service in the higher Spiritual Planes, where through his mysterious spiritual powers he has worked wonders and performed miracles transforming the very nature of men, shaping the very destinies of men and women, mysteriously freeing them from their material and spiritual woes, and showering upon them peace, plenty and prosperity.
Millions all over the world have discovered the object of their quest, in him; and they have all derived incalculable benefit in their physical, mental, moral and spiritual regeneration. The world is infinitely better today, for his services, than it would otherwise have been.