The lives of great men are like so many lights removing the darkness that besets the highway of human progress. Their lofty actions are sources of perennial inspiration, not only to the people of their own immediate times, but for human beings in times to come as well. Their lives and actions serve to vivify the present and to supply perennial vitality to the future. Everything about them is so invested with unique power that during their life-time, as well as for long many years afterwards, their every word, act and example continue to exert a powerful influence over the lives of men and to carry a persistent message to all humanity.
The glorious Sannyasa Diksha anniversary that we have the privilege and joy to worshipfully celebrate this day (1st June), and which marks the supreme occasion of H.H. Satgurudev Swami Sivanandaji’s renunciation of a secular life and his entry into the holy order of Sannyasa, commemorates one such lofty and significant action in the Master’s life which is filled profusely with such exemplary and inspiring acts.
I deem it a rare joy and a great privilege to be provided this sacred opportunity of paying my homage to Sri Satgurudev, in whom I see a unique and amazing confluence of two trends, viz., of renunciation and all the inwardness and detachment that it connotes, as well as the thrilling dynamism with all the outwardly expressed vigour of activity and active, sympathetic interest in human beings and their lives, implied by it. These two trends, seemingly so much mutually exclusive and far apart, would lead us to suppose our revered Gurudev to be a mixture of contradictions.
But no, rather, it is precisely to teach us that true renunciation and dynamism are not contradictory, and to bring home to us the lofty lesson that all inspired, altruistic activity for the common weal and welfare of mankind at large is actually based upon and springs forth from a whole and genuine renunciation of one’s self-centred life, and that is why our revered Master has taken to this ancient order and lived his noble life of unceasing good works and innumerable services unto all classes and sections of present-day humanity all over the world.
His renunciation represents, as it were, a fertile seed out of which has sprung forth the great tree of his later Sannyasa life, full of the flowers, fruits and the shade-giving foliage of a many-sided Lokasangraha or selfless service unto humanity upon the physical, mental, moral and spiritual fields of modern man’s life. The Master’s act of Tyaga (renunciation) and Sannyasa carries the message: “O Man! Give up thy little ‘I’ and thy petty, selfish life, and let thy selfless life flower into cosmic love, world-brotherhood and service unto all. Give up thy little self and give thyself, in body, mind and spirit, to the whole world. To renounce is, verily, to offer thyself as a gift unto the noble cause of human welfare.” His Holiness’ act of renunciation and Sannyasa, done thirty-five years ago, has served during these years as an incontrovertible proof-positive that this ancient tradition of holy Bharatavarsha, that this ancient heritage received from our bygone seers and sages, is not a negative lapsing into a selfish and careless quiescence (as it is sometimes thoughtlessly misconstrued) or an unfeeling retreat from realities, but, on the contrary, it is an utmost, positive step, pregnant with the possibilities of unlimited human welfare and containing within it the seeds of selfless service of the most glorious type.
It is a step by which man breaks out through the barriers of his little, limited and narrow life of selfishness and attachments, and soars high into the empyrean of world-consciousness, cosmic love and vision of world oneness. It transports him into the field of world-service of Loka-Seva. This is the dynamic structure of genuine renunciation and true Sannyas. It is vibrant with love and compassion, dynamic with worshipful service and divinely pervaded by Karma Yoga in the spirit of the Gospel of the Bhagavad Gita.
Such has been the exemplary Sannyasa life of our holy Gurudev Sivanandaji Maharaj and such is the significance of his Tyaga done full three and a half decades ago. The giving up of his secular life has come to mean the bestowal of lofty example of new divine life to countless thousands of people in this present age of restlessness and tension. His renunciation and Sannyasa has been a blessedness not merely to him as the renouncer, but a blessedness to countless thousands who have now come to receive the rare fruits of his renunciation.
The cultural genius of Bharatavarsha, her wondrous heritage of Yoga and Vedanta, and the ideals of Sanatana Dharma, received a tremendous fillip and became infused with new life through the fact of Swami Sivanandaji’s great renunciation and through the wave of spiritual forces released thereby. To those who could perceive it, it was an act according to the Divine plan. In the building of the New India within the set-up of this memorable and significant nuclear age, his renunciation was a constructive feature that has proved prolific and richly fertile in that it has showered the incomparable wealth from the treasure-house of India’s ethical and spiritual culture like bounteous life-giving rain to an impoverished world where all higher values and nobler ideals had been seared and scorched by the consuming flames of destructive, materialistic trends and God-denying ideologies.
The power that sprang out of his renunciation has outspread into the world of today, reached, into all points of the compass and, penetrating all lands and homes, has brought new life, hope, solace, light, strength, joy and inspiration to literally countless millions of souls throughout the modern world. Thus, the “loss” (if it can be termed as such at all) of one little family became the blessed reward for the entire universal family of mankind. Truly and factually, the great event, the anniversary of which we are celebrating here, constitutes a divine gift unto humanity. It is a heavenly bestowal. Saint Sivananda’s renunciation and Sannyasa can rightly be said an offering by God of divine manna to appease the spiritual hunger of His soul-famished children in this crucial century.
To us all, fortunate ones of this age, our Master’s glorious Sannyasa has, indeed, become synonymous with world-awakening. That almost unknown act which young Dr. Kuppuswamy did thirty-five years ago to become Swami Sivananda, at Rishikesh, was like unto a seed that contained the latent potency of bursting into a great and tremendous tree, towering high over the present-day scene, to waft the breeze of Yoga and Vedanta and a divine life of spiritualized human activity on earth. His renunciation and Sannyasa have become transformed into the spirit of the new age, the spirit of divine life.
Thus his Sannyasa has come to pervade the modern world in the form of a divine urge, a divine impulse, towards virtue, goodness and godliness. It has taken a concrete shape as this great institution (Divine Life Society), from where this lofty message of service, selflessness, purity, devotion and worshipful living radiate everywhere today. We, the devout votaries of the Master’s gospel of divine life who now sit at his feet and bask in the radiance of his holy presence, are directly the products of his renunciation and its powerful, creative dynamism. We are living witnesses to its positivism and potency. The worldwide spiritual brotherhood that has sprung up under his benign leadership and noble inspiration is the visible result and fruit of Gurudev’s glorious renunciation.
His Sannyasa has transformed itself into a spiritual force that holds within itself the hope and promise of the future world-welfare and world-order, based upon a divine life of love, compassion, virtue and goodness. This solitary act of his Sannyasa has become a swelling flood of self-giving that marks the stream of this saint’s dedicated life through the better part of the past half century. By this, he proclaims the grand idea that renunciation is not to be a single act at some momentous occasion but that it should characterize your entire life and mark every thought, word and act throughout your life.
You must literally live renunciation. This is the way of all attainment. This is the key to true and lasting happiness and peace. This is the secret of world-welfare and universal happiness. In renunciation lies the end of all strife and hatred. In renunciation lies the source of true peace and progress. This Sri Gurudev’s life proclaims. By his life, the modern Maharshi has given to the present and future humanity the new law of welfare saying, “O man, know ye that renunciation is the law of life. Renunciation is the path that leads to friendliness, co-operation and unity. Renounce selfishness, greed, hatred and egoism. Embrace love, humility, contentment and charity. You will have Rama Rajya or the Kingdom of Heaven here upon earth, right now”.
May the world respond to this loving call! May the Master’s radiant life inspire one and all! May this anniversary mark the dawn of a new day in the life of modern man, wherein the spirit of renunciation and self-giving would replace greed and selfishness and bring happiness and joy into the lives of all!