SESSIONS WITH ASHRAM RESIDENTS - 4
The Message of Swami Sivananda to the Branches of The Divine Life Society
by Swami Krishnananda
(Spoken on January 10, 1997 to representatives of the Branches of The Divine Life Society)
As the acorn grows into the large oak, as thought expresses itself in action, as will resolves itself in decisions, as the soul beholds its own perfection in the beauty of things, so did The Divine Life Society find its expression in the austerity, the tapasya of its sage-founder, His Holiness Sri Swami Sivanandaji Maharaj. The Divine Life Society organisation is an outer expression of the austerity, the concentration of consciousness of this mastermind, His Holiness Sri Swami Sivanandaji Maharaj, a stalwart of the Spirit, the likeness of whom it is not easy to find in the world of history.
We are told in the Upanishads and the Vedas that God did tapas – tapo tapyata – and in this concentration of Himself, He beheld the potentiality of what was to be manifested in the form of creation. You would be wondering what kind of tapasya God is doing. We are accustomed to think that tapasya means not putting on proper clothes and not eating, not sleeping, not talking, etc. Actually, tapasya is the concentration of consciousness. This is the meaning we have to see in God’s tapasya before He contemplated the form of this vast manifestation which He beheld as total perfection.
It is said in the Upanishad that God beheld His own creation and felt, “Well done, well done!” He patted himself on His own back, as it were. God was fully satisfied with the creation of this world, an outcome of His concentration. The concentration of the Spirit of God is the formation of this multitudinous variety we call the whole space-time complex in creation.
So is the case with this mini-universe, I may say, which is The Divine Life Society organisation spread throughout the world. The Divine Life Society is not only in Sivanandanagar, it is a spirit pervading all humanity. Swami Sivanandaji Maharaj used to tell us The Divine Life Society is in the heart of a human being. It is not necessary to have brick and mortar, steel and cement in order to build a Divine Life Society branch. Your concentration of feeling, the integration of your purpose, the stability of your will, and the totality of your outlook – these constitute the foundation of The Divine Life Society and every one of its branches.
Suffice it to say that Swami Sivanandaji Maharaj was out-and-out spiritual. He was an embodiment of pure Spirit, and there was nothing else in him except pure Spirit. The externality of his activities and the variety of his performances in the form of writing, etc., are all manifestations of his spirit. If the whole world is Spirit manifesting itself, The Divine Life Society, we may say, is also a mini universe manifested by his tapasya. Where there is no tapasya, there is no success. You have to know this secret of success everywhere. Intense austerity in the true sense of the term is the road to every kind of success everywhere, in all fields of life. Even in business, even in industry, even in office work, even in management, everywhere this austerity is necessary. We should not think austerity is a kind of religious occupation of recluses. It is the world Spirit itself manifesting its own need in this vast creation where every one of us is included.
We should not think that we are outside the universe and God is somewhere high and the world is external to us. The world is not external to us, nor is God high above in the heavens. These ideas of the above, the below, the outward and the inward arise on account of a defect in the way of thinking itself. There is a basic lacuna in the very structural pattern of the human mind, on account of which it cannot see anything properly unless our perceptional faculty itself is purified by the tapasya that I have made reference to, which is total dispassion, wanting nothing because Spirit wants nothing inasmuch as it includes everything within its own self.
And a devotee of Swami Sivananda, a member of The Divine Life Society, the chief of a branch of The Divine Life Society is an emblem of Swami Sivananda himself. There is Swami Sivananda in every one of your hearts, as God is present in every one. If you think that only work is important, minus the Spirit behind it, if you forget that you are a spiritual hero basically and a man of work outwardly, if you forget the existence of God and are busy with outward performances as if you are the doer, you will not succeed finally.
Many people complain, “I have done so much. No result follows.” Why should it not follow? Because you have not done the work properly in the spirit of karma yoga. Karma yoga is a manifestation of the pure Spirit in action. It is an abundance of your own spiritual perfection that reveals itself as your performance outside. Your actions are yourself seen externally in this world. The work that you do in this world is not something that is done by your hands and feet. It is a work of yourself. You are there in your work. If you are not in the work, that work will not bring any satisfaction to you. But we are like mercenaries mostly. We do work for the sake of somebody else, for earning money, reputation, position, etc. Nothing of the kind can be called work in the sense of freedom. If work binds, it is not worth doing at all. Who wants bondage in this world? But if you say all work is a curse, it is suffering and brings nothing but pain and agony, it means to say the work has not proceeded from the total depths of your heart. You are not in the work; the whole point is that. You are doing the work, but you are not in the work, just as you have put on the shirt but you are not the shirt. You may look beautiful by your artistic, aesthetic presentation of your dress, but you are a feeble good-for-nothing skeleton inside with no strength of your own. The shirt is not yourself. Your outside demeanour is not what you are really. What you are is to manifest itself as your work. You cannot have work of one kind and yourself another kind. You yourself are the work, so each one should know what is oneself. Am I a poor nothing? Am I bankrupt? Am I an unwanted individual in this world, or I am a representation of the pure Spirit?
Do you believe that God is everywhere? If He is everywhere, He is everything also. That which is everywhere has to be everything, so that what you behold with your eyes is not the world. It is nothing but the arms and the fingers of this Almighty. Remember the words of the Bhagavadgita. Sarvataḥ pāṇipādaṁ tat sarvatokṣiśiromukham, sarvataḥ śrutimal loke sarvam āvṛtya tiṣṭhati (B.G. 13.13): All these heads that you see here, they are the heads of the Almighty Virat Purusha. Do not think the Virat Purusha is sitting in the skies, and you are different. Your own eyes are his eyes. He is seeing through your eyes, he is thinking through your brain, he is walking through your legs, he is writing through your fingers. Can you accept this fact? This is the meaning of Bhagavan Sri Krishna telling Arjuna nimitta-mātraḿ bhava savya-sācin (B.G. 11.33): I have done everything; you do work as an instrument.
Is it possible for anyone to feel so concentrated in his spirit as to feel His eyes are your eyes? In that sense, to behold the world correctly would be to behold it as God Himself sees. If you can see things – you see this building, you see the tree, you see the sun and the moon and the stars, you see the road and the marketplace, God also must be seeing it. God must be saying that there is a building here, there is a road. But do you believe that there is a difference between your seeing this building and God seeing it? He will see it as Himself, just as bricks will feel this building is themselves. There is no house minus the bricks and the mortar and the constituents. This is the difference between our perception and God’s perception. We see, and God also sees. What is the difference? Whose perception is correct: His perception is correct or your perception is correct? You will be flabbergasted when such a question is posed before you. You cannot answer this question. Are you right in your vision of things or is God right in His vision of things? Do you see dirt everywhere, squalor everywhere, evil everywhere, good-for-nothing things in the world? Does God also see that? You just touch your heart and see.
The great perfection, Visvarupa, was revealed in the Eleventh Chapter of the Bhagavadgita. Everything was seen there. What was seen there? Was there cow dung, dirt, squalor, poverty, sickness, hospitals? What was seen in that Viratsvarupa? You will be wondering how you can answer this question. Beauty, grandeur, perfection, majesty, awe, indescribable delight was seen there. But it included everything that you consider as the opposite. What a wonder!
I mentioned that Swami Sivananda was a spiritual master. He existed and operated for the sake of manifesting this spiritual vision of things in the minds of people. His intention was not simply to build kutirs and invite guests, write books and sell literature. That was not the intention. These are only external forms taken by his great glorious intention of spiritualising humanity, awakening the slumbering spirit of people and telling them, “See, behold, you are sleeping. Wake up from this dream.” When you are woken up from your dream, you know what things are and there is no need of further instruction.
To implant the vision that God has about His own creation in whatever percentage, whatever modicum, in any degree, that would be the extent of your spirituality. Everybody should aspire to be a Godman. You must take a vow: I aspire to be a Godman. I do not want to leave this world like a poor nothing. Why should I? What is wrong with me? I am as good as anybody else. Is it true or not? What is wrong with me? Why should I not be a Godman? What is lacking in me? I shall set it right just now by turning the table around and seeing whatever is outside within me. The outward, the inward, both blend together in the universal. We see our own selves outside to see the world. Can you bring the two together in a universalised perception of inclusiveness? That would be divine perception. That is God-vision. This was the teaching of Swami Sivanandaji Maharaj, and very few people understood him.
Even those who were very close to him in the early days of his tapasya did not understand him properly. Many people thought he was an extreme type of person. They didn’t know. Saints and sages sometimes look like extremely odd types of people. Their behaviour is difficult to understand. They will say one thing today and say another thing tomorrow, but it is not like that. God will do one thing today, tomorrow a beggar becomes a king, and the day after tomorrow a king becomes a beggar. Are these contradictions in life? No. What is God doing?
There was a sadhu walking on the road, a saintly person. The king of the country was passing that way. “Namaskar,” the king said to the mahatma. “Please come, please come. I want to put a question.”
“What is the question?” asked the mahatma.
The king was seated on a throne, and the mahatma was sitting on the floor. “What is God doing just now?” This was the question of the king.
The mahatma said, it seems, “You are putting a question to me, and I am supposed to give the answer. That is to say, you are in the position of a disciple and I am in the position of a Guru. The disciple is sitting on the throne and the Guru is sitting on the ground. Is it proper?”
Immediately the king said, “Please come.” He put the mahatma on the throne and he sat on the floor. The king sat on the floor and the mahatma sat on the throne.
“This is what God is doing,” the mahatma said. “He that is low is raised up in one second, and he that is high comes down in one second. This is the answer to your question,” he said.
Likewise, these actions of God – raising one to the heights and then throwing him down to the dust – are not contradictions. They are part and parcel of His universal necessity in the process of what we call evolution. Evolution is the death of the previous condition and the birth of the new condition. So birth and death are necessary processes of the onward march of everyone from the lower degree of existence to the higher degree. This evolution is taking place everywhere – outwardly, inwardly, everywhere.
Suffice it to say that what is called spirituality is all in all. We should not make a distinction between spirituality and secularity. That would be like making a distinction between God and the world because the world is secular, God is spiritual. Does that mean to say there are two things? Then the secular world would be totally dismembered, truncated, cut off from the spirit of God. No. Action and thought, spirit and performance are identical things. Mattaḥ parataraṁ nānyat kiñcid asti (B.G 7.7) says Bhagavan Sri Krishna in the Gita: “Outside Me nothing is.” If outside him nothing is, who is performing all the deeds of Mahabharata war and all these things? His actions were himself only. I am repeating once again what I mentioned a few minutes before. If your thoughts, your feelings and your deeds are you yourself, then everywhere you will feel happiness and delight.
It is necessary for every spiritual seeker to be happy. This happiness cannot come by bank balance, money, status, authority; nothing of the kind, because all these things are external accretions grown on the person in an artificial manner, and they can be removed at any moment of time. Authority cannot be there always, money cannot be there always, but you will be always there. When you leave this world, you do not carry your authority with you. You go as you came. You stand totally naked, as it were, undressed before God, the Supreme Judge of the universe. When you go there and are asked “What have you done?”, what will you say? “I was a prime minister.” “I was a millionaire.” Will you say that?
In the Kaushitaki Upanishad we are told this question will be put to you when you go there. You will be taken to Brahmaloka, and the question will be put: “What have you done?” Can anyone have the courage to say that the dispensation of the Great Judge who sent you to this world as an ambassador has been fulfilled? We have come to this world as ambassadors of the Spirit. We belong to another government altogether, which is the government of the cosmic operation of things. From there we have been sent here to do its ordinance, execute its orders. Here, we do not do our work; we do its work. So to the extent that we are fulfilling the purpose for which we have been brought to this world as ambassadors of the Spirit, to that extent we shall be successful and we shall be taken back. The prodigal son will be taken back by the Father in heaven, as the biblical story goes. God will embrace you and take you back. But if you have lived like a forlorn, misguided individual with selfishness at the core, you will find that you will go poverty-stricken.
What did you bring when you came to this world, and what are you going to take when you go from this place? How is it that you have become so big and important in the middle? An importance that was not there when you were born, an importance that is not going to be there when you go – how could it be there in the middle? It is not there in the middle either. You are in a state of illusion.
We are completely confused in thinking that we have some value and importance here. If that was there, it will be there even when we leave this world. Will you go satisfied that you are a very important person? Do not be misguided. Our idea of God’s perfection is poor.
It is said that when the Titanic, the great ship, sank in the Atlantic Ocean, an American millionaire went to his cabin and put on his dinner dress. People asked, “Why are you putting on dinner dress now? We are sinking.”
“Because when I go to the Almighty, I do not want to go as a poor fellow. I will go as a millionaire only.” This is the idea we have got about ourselves and God. What is the use of putting on dinner dress? He said, “I want to look gentlemanly before the Almighty.” This is our idea of the relationship of man and God.
Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven – poor in spirit, not poor in money. He may be poor in money, but not necessarily poor in spirit. You may be filled with the spirit of God though you have no penny in your hand, and everything shall flow into you. Everything shall flow into you if the spirit asks for it. Ask, and then you will find everything is being given to you immediately. God being a timeless existence, He does not take time to give you what you want. He is not like a boss: “Come tomorrow, let me see.” He is not a bureaucrat of that type. He has no tomorrow. He is timeless. Now you ask, and it shall be given just now. Can you have this faith?
Swami Sivananda had this faith. People used to come and ask him, “How are you running this big ashram, Swamiji?”
“It rains from above,” he used to say. He did not say, “I get donations from people horizontally.” “Vertically it is falling. It is a rain from above,” he would say. Very rarely do people have such visions. We are not sustained by the donations of rich people, but by the rain of grace from above. If that is not there, this horizontal connection will be severed at any moment of time. So do not trust anything that is outward, visible, sensory, but trust in that which is your true spirit, out of which you are made and into which you have to return.
We have to live the life of Swami Sivananda himself. His life was one of great tapasya. When he was living in Swargashram side for twelve years, he did one kind of tapasya of not having any friendship with anybody. He knew nobody around him. He was all-in-all, a renunciate number one. And when he came to this side, there was no place to sit here. Where would he sit? The Divine Life Society did not exist. There was a cowshed. Nobody knew to whom the cowshed belonged. When I came here, I saw that very cowshed being converted into a kitchen of the ashram. The early kitchen of the ashram was an old cowshed full of straw and cow dung, etc., in which Swamiji sat as his office, his residence, everything.
So this is the story of the founding of The Divine Life Society. No property, nothing. He had no money. One rupee donation used to come. When Swami Sivanandaji Maharaj was in Swargashram, he used to receive one rupee donation from a schoolmaster in Nagpur who came to know the greatness of Swami Sivananda. One rupee was a great thing in those days. We did not think that one rupee is a very small thing. And Swamiji used that rupee to purchase curds and give those little curds to the poor suffering sadhus with dysentery, etc. He used to help them. And then he started the Satya Seva Ashram dispensary in Lakshmanjhula to give medical assistance to poor sadhus, etc. The history of The Divine Life Society is very elaborate and very difficult to tell what it is all about. Something I know, and some things happened even before I came here.
It is a long, long creative process of this wonderful manifestation of God’s beauty and Swami Sivananda’s miracle. Everything is working beautifully because there is tapasya behind it. If the tapasya of Swami Sivananda was not there operating even now, The Divine Life Society would not exist. We are only hands and feet of this great Master, and whatever strength we have comes from him only. And we trust in God first and foremost. Honestly I am telling you we trust in God, and we trust in nothing else. Therefore, it shall be a success. And it is requested that every person who is running a Divine Life Society branch represent this headquarters and base his activities and be in the trust of God. Trust in God and do the right. This is the message of Swami Sivananda to every branch of The Divine Life Society.