We are not tired of reiterating that the formation, growth and present status of Divine Life Society of South Africa is due entirely to the Grace of our Master, Sri Swami Sivananda. Divine Life Society of South Africa is unique in spiritual history, because it was founded by a spiritual Master who forced his disciple, in this case, Swami Sahajananda, to obey him and carry out his commands.
Regarding the activities of the Society, the Divine Master gave his assurance in his own handwriting:
"God will look after the divine work. Lord will look after everything".
Beginnings of Spiritual Life
Swamiji (Swami Sahajananda) had a very promising academic career but the Master had other devastating plans in store for him and his intervention came at the appropriate time. In the Matric exam Swamiji obtained a second class pass and, because he was annoyed with his performance, he refused a bursary offered to him to take B.Sc. at Fort Hare.
Workings of the Master's Grace
His failure in the Matric, which appeared to him as a great tragedy then, turned out to be the greatest blessing. While browsing through the books at the Vedic Bookshop in Durban, Swamiji clearly remembers picking up In the Vision of God by Papa Swami Ramdas. Closing the book and putting it back on the shelf he moved on. The next book he touched was the Master's Practice of Karma Yoga.
Even though Swamiji did not know the meaning of the words, "Karma Yoga" at that time, the book sent a strange thrill through him. Glancing through its pages he instantly realised that he had found the Guru he was searching for. He came to know that a God-realised Guru was absolutely necessary to guide and lead one to the realisation of God.
First Visit to the Master
Coming to know that the Divine Master, Sri Swami Sivananda, resided at Rishikesh, Srinivasan, as he was called then, at once wrote to him that he would like to come and stay at his Ashram to practise Yoga.
The Divine Master, knowing that it was only a kind of "bubbling enthusiasm", advised him to remain where he was and perform his spiritual practices. But Srinivasan was adamant that he should come to be with the Master at Rishikesh. So the Master allowed him to come to the Ashram, as experience is often the best teacher. The "bubbling enthusiast" forthwith resigned from the teaching profession and proceeded to India.
On reaching the Master's feet and remaining there only for a fortnight, Srinivasan's "bubbling enthusiasm" subsided at once! The Divine Master treated the young aspirant in the most unconventional manner. He asked Vishnu Swami to give him instructions on some basic Yoga postures, but Srinivasan had already learnt them from the Master's book. The only other instructions he gave were: "Learn to type and to make tea!"
Years later, Srinivasan, now Swami Sahajananda, understood that the Divine Master's cryptic words, "learn to type and make tea" were pregnant with deep spiritual meaning. It meant dissemination of spiritual knowledge through his literature, and service of the underprivileged.
Swami Sahajananda visited the Master, Sri Swami Sivananda, at Rishikesh in 1948. He returned the following year. Sri S.R. Padayachee, a great devotee of the Master from Umkomaas, had visited him a few months earlier and, on his return, was doing some work in propagating the Master's teachings. However, the Master wrote to Swami Sahajananda in 1949 to open a Branch of the Divine Life Society.
As Swamiji was very nervous and shy, he did not feel competent to take up the task. He was a young man of 24 at the time. He did not respond to the Master's instruction and kept silent. The Master wrote a second letter, dated 18th October, 1949, with the request: "Kindly start a Branch of the Divine Life Society there. I recognise you as the Secretary".
The Master was evidently impatient to get the Branch opened, for he sent a third letter before the affiliation fee could reach him, in which he commanded: "Kindly open a Branch of the Divine Life Society at once. Do some silent work". This letter was dated 11th November, 1949.
It was indeed a queer situation, with the Master, the founder of the Society in India, and his Secretary, Swami Sahajananda, in South Africa as the only member in this country. However, the drama did not end, for the Master wrote a fourth letter dated 5 June, 1951: "Kindly open a Branch of Divine Life Society and do some silent work."
Swamiji commenced the publication of a quarterly journal entitled Light, Power & Wisdom. He used to finance it himself and distribute it free, often selecting names at random from the telephone directory for his mailing list.
Soon two other devotees joined him and the three used to have their weekly Satsang at the Umgeni Road Temple in Durban. Often, when the other two failed to turn up, Swamiji used to go to the temple all alone and conduct the service. He used to go through the whole procedure of singing Kirtan, reading the Gita and performing Arati, even though there was no other soul present except himself.
When the Master was informed of this he commented, "If one is sincere many would join." This truth is evident today when thousands are following the Divine Life Society.
Search for Premises
A one-hectare site was purchased at Reservoir Hills, then a remote undeveloped suburb of Durban. The Master himself requested that another one and half hectare of adjoining land be acquired, and also instructed that a larger cylinder printing machine and a typesetting machine be purchased. This is how the present two and a half hectare site of the headquarters of the Society was developed.
In 1956, while Swamiji was in Rishikesh, the Master wished to initiate Swamiji, till then known as Sri V. Srinivasan, into the holy order of Sannyas. Swamiji was hesitant to accept the offer, thinking that he was not ready for it. However, the senior disciples at the Ashram advised that it would not be wise to refuse the Master's offer. Swamiji thus had the great good fortune of getting Sannyas from the Master on April 1956.
Dissemination of Spiritual Knowledge
The main aim of Divine Life Society of South Africa is dissemination of spiritual knowledge by means of our Divine Master's spiritual literature. Readers of our books invariably remark about their very high quality, which is enhanced further by multi-colour pictures. The Society has one of the most modern printing plants in the country, with sophisticated equipment. Printing equipment have been installed at Reservoir Hills Headquarters, Durban and at the Sivananda International Cultural Centre, Sivananda Nagar, La Mercy, which is located in the north coast of KwaZulu-Natal, about 30 kilometers from Durban.