Beginning of School Projects
Divine Life Society of South Africa has been dedicated to the moral, educational and spiritual upliftment of communities in South Africa throughout its history of six decades in this country.
The Society began its African Education Projects in 1974. Thirty five years later, after ensuring community participation in each one of the projects, it has completed the building of over 350 education, health and other projects. Our education projects include the establishment of 374 classrooms, libraries, offices and staffrooms in various parts of KwaZulu-Natal.
It will not be out of place to relate how Pujya Swamiji's relationship with the African community originated and developed all these years.
Pujya Swamiji wrote: "During my early life in the Midlands town of Estcourt, our family moved very amicably with Africans. Often on Sundays my parents and some of my brothers and sisters would go out fishing or for collecting fuel. This journey would be about 20 kilometers to and fro, all done on foot. I remember how my parents would always spend about half an hour or more at a kraal in the area we went to, to entertain and be entertained by Africans. All had to drink twala from a single clay pot. This was the custom. It was a health drink and not intoxicating. I never liked the taste of it and used to ask for mahew and ground mabella! It was so nice to see my parents sitting and chatting with their African friends."
"Later, after I took to the spiritual path and guided my parents, they changed to vegetarian diet. Because of this early interaction, it was easy for me to meet and work with Africans, when we took up education and health projects for them."
"As I said, the Divine Master ordained our work for Africans, and it is his Grace that is behind all our activities. He is teaching us in a practical manner how to see the Lord in all names and forms. It is easy to say that all beings are the forms of God, but to serve such beings with love and compassion is not easy. The heart has to expand and the power of God has to settle in it through meditation and prayer for this to happen. Then it becomes quite easy to see God in all names and forms, regardless of race, colour and creed."
Pujya Swamiji reproduces herewith the manner in which the school projects for the Africans commenced:
"The projects we started about 1974 were ordained by our Divine Master. It happened like this. I went on a pilgrimage to India around 1974. In many places, like Chennai, I saw street children begging. I would buy some eatables for them. It was a pathetic sight to see these poor children. So I decided that when I returned to South Africa, I would send money to India to feed these children."
"On returning, when I began reflecting over the matter, I felt my Master telling me from within: "God in the form of the Africans is suffering in this country. Why not do something for them first instead of sending money to India?"
"It was not a voice that I heard. It was just a strong urge I felt coming from our Divine Master. So we decided to send R25 000 to Dr M.G. Buthelezi to have a school built in Mahlabatini. We had contact with him because his daughter, Mandisi, stayed at our Ashram for several months."
"Dr Buthelezi asked us to build the school ourselves, as the school committee might not use the funds properly. That is how we started our first project. Most of the material had to be transported by us from Durban to Mahlabatini, a distance of 300km. All enjoyed the work. Often we used to spend the night at Dr Buthelezi's residence. We used to be treated with great hospitality. When Dr Buthelezi built a beautiful new home we used to spend the night there, receiving VIP treatment."
"People heard of our work and contributed funds. So, after building the first school we decided to continue our projects. It was hard work because we had to transport building material to distant centres. Often our trucks used to return at midnight. All the school committees worked enthusiastically. They were very honest and no material was wasted or stolen. The school committees had to supply the unskilled labour and pay a small amount."
"Any hard work is often tested, but the Grace of God and our Divine Master always comes to our aid. Once, we were asked to build a school in the South Coast. As we drove to the church building that the children were using, we came across large potholes. I became hesitant and resolved not to undertake this project, as our vehicles might get bogged. But when I saw the little children sitting on the bare cement floor, I immediately took a resolution that whatever happens, I will build this school. I returned and at once sent some carpets for the children."
"When the project began, the truck taking the first load of sand got bogged. The European firm got annoyed because they lost finance and refused to transport any more sand. I tried many firms, but all refused. At last, Y.C. Naidoo, father of our beloved Dhanpal Naidoo, delivered all the sand and, what is more, did not charge us anything for it. From then onwards, even after the passing of Y.C. Naidoo, our Dhanpal Naidoo, has been serving our Society by supplying sand free of charge for our building projects. That is how God tests us and comes to our rescue at the same time."
"When the Society first began its educational projects for the Africans, some individuals stated that it was a very late start. I felt: 'better late than never.' "Also some individuals were not in favour of serving the Africans because of the riots that had taken place in Inanda. But the Society did not worry about this as it felt that it was serving God by undertaking such work."
"One of the questions put to me by individuals some years after the commencement of the school building projects was whether Africans appreciated what the Society was doing. I would answer that as the Society was serving God and its work was worship of the Lord, it did not seek any kind of appreciation."
Water from the Ganga has the recursive property that any water mixed with even the minutest quantity of Ganga water becomes Ganga water, and inherits its healing properties. Also, despite any impurities put into it, Ganga water remains pure even if stored for several days.
Based on this principle, the Divine Life Society of South Africa has constructed several large water features in South Africa which are regularly sanctified with Ganga water brought from India. Littered throughout this web-page, you will find pictures of such water features in the Divine Life Society Ashrams in South Africa.
Presently (2015), the holy Ganga water sanctifies fountains at the following places, four at Sivananda International Cultural Centre, La Mercy, one each at Sivanandashram (Reservoir Hills), Sivananda Ghat (Clare Estate), Sivananda Sunlit Path Centre (Chatsworth), Sivanandashram (Zakarraiya Park), Sivanandashram (Chatsworth), Sivanandashram (Pietermaritzburg), Sivanandashram (Stanger), Sivanandashram (Richards Bay), Sai Ashram (Chatsworth), Nelisiwe Ganga Baptismal Centre (Port Durnford), Ebuhleni Ganga Baptismal Centre (Inanda).
At the Nelisiwe Ganga Baptismal Centre, African girls dressed in saris, belonging to the Nazareth Baptist Church, perform Ganga Arati once a week. Ganga Arati is relayed over a sound system. The picture of our Divine Master, Sri Swami Sivananda, has been installed on the shrines in the centres at Port Durnford and Inanda, together with pictures of Bishop Shembe and his past Masters. The Shembe clan, which has a following of about five million, also worship water. So they have great reverence for Ganga
Lord Krishna says in the Gita: "Among streams, I am the Ganga".
Devi Bhagavatam: "He who utters 'Gange, Gange' even from a distance of hundreds of kilometers, becomes purified from all sins, and attains Vaikuntha, the world of Vishnu."
Lord Dhanvantari: "When the body is afflicted by senility and diseases, the holy water of Mother Ganga is the medicine, and Lord Narayana (Hari), from whose Feet Mother Ganga emanates, is the great physician."
Sri Sankara: "Even a little study of the Bhagavad Gita, or drinking of a little Ganga water, and worship even once of Murari, will make one immune to Yama, the Lord of Death."
Prayer to Ganga
1. Om, obeisance to Ganga, identical with Siva and the bestower of happiness! Obeisance, obeisance, obeisance to you in the form of Vishnu! Obeisaince to you in the form of Brahma!
2. I bow to you in the form of Rudra, Sankari (benefactress)! Obeisance to you in the form of all gods! Obeisance to medicine personified!
3. Obeisance to you, the most excellent physician of all ailments of all people! Obeisance to you, the destroyer of the poisons arising from mobile and immobile beings!
4. Hail to you, the destroyer of the poison of worldly existence! Obeisance to the enlivener! Repeated obeisance to you, the destroyer of the three types of distresses, the Goddess of the vital breath!
5. Obeisance to the Goddess, the cause of lasting peace! Obeisance to you of pure form! Obeisance to the purifier of everything! Obeisance to you in the form of the enemy of sins!
6. Repeated salutes to the bestower of all worldly pleasures and salvation! Obeisance to the bestower of welfare! Obeisance to the bestower of pleasure here and hereafter! Obeisance to you, the river in the nether worlds!
7. Obeisance to Mandakini! Obeisance to the bestower of heavenly pleasures! Obeisance to the triple-streamed one!
8. Obeisance to the holy river abiding in the three white ones (pure ones, namely, its source, Prayaga and confluence with the sea)! Obeisance, obeisance to the one with forbearance. Obeisance to the one abiding in the three types of fire! Obeisance to the brilliant one!
O Adorable Mother Ganges!
by Sri Swami Sivananda
O adorable Mother Ganga, the Shakti of Lord Siva,Prostrations and adorations unto Thee!
Thou art the creatrix and nourisher of the world.People address Thee as "Bhagirathi", "Har Har Gange",
I know well Thy story, O dear Mother,
Once King Bhagiratha brought Thee down
To purify the ashes of his grandfathers,
Lord Siva took Thee in His matted locks,
Thou takest origin in Gaumukh, beyond Gangotri,
Thou passest through Uttarkashi, Rishikesh and Haridwar,
Thou purifiest the Punyabhumi of Bharata Varsha;
Thou finally mergest in Ganga Sagar;
Thou art Bhrantinashini and Jagatjanani;
Thou adornest the head of Gangadhar,
Thou art the nectar of immortalilty that gives salvation,
Thou art Mahamaya, Adishakti and Avyaktam,
People sing "Gange Lahari" in the evening,
They do Arati with Bhav and devotion;
They raise Jaya Jayakar: "Ganga Mayee Ki Jai!",
They worship Thee with flowers and Prasad,
Thou art Jnana Ganga, the wisdom nectar,
Thy subtle form is in the celestial regions,
Thy gross form only human beings behold here,
Thou pervadest the world as subtle Chidakasa,
Thou hast attracted the people of the whole world,
Thy name has holy associations and vibrations,
A dip in Thee refreshes and purifies the heart,
Millions flock to Thee during Kumbha Mela,
Thou art the purest water on earth,
No germs can thrive in Thee,
This is the finding of the scientist in his laboratory,
Thou art sparkling and clear as crystal,
A drop on the tongue at the moment of death gives Moksha,
Yogins and Sadhus do Tapas on Thy banks in cottages,
Thou deliverest them from the rounds of births and deaths,
Who can describe, O Mother, Thy glory and splendour?
Will a day come to me, Beloved Mother,
To sit on a block of stone on Thy bank,
To shed continuous tears of Prem on Thy lap,
And merge in Thee for ever and ever?
O all-powerful Mother of compassion and love,
Bless me with Thy Grace and mercy,
Destroy my darkness and ignorance,
Remove the veil and show Thy true form,
I am thine, O Mother, Thou art mine,
The sense of duality has vanished now,
The bridge that separates us has broken now,
Let me dwell in Thee, Mother, for ever and ever.
While every Hindu adores the Ganga, Swami Sivananda's love for Her was unprecedented. He clung on to a small set of rooms on the bank of the holy river for more than three decades, only because from there he could always commune with Mother Ganga day and night.
During his early days of rigorous Tapas in a cottage at Swarg Ashram, Rishikesh, he would get up at 4am and, even during winter, would enter waist-deep into the ice cold waters of the Ganga. Only when the sun appeared would he climb out of the waters. This awesome Tapas affected the Divine Master's body in later life, but his reverence and love for the celestial river did not diminish and continued up to his last days on earth, as will be seen from the narratives below.
This incident occurred about 24 June, 1963, a few weeks before the Master entered into Mahasamadhi. At the lunch table he could not pick up the towel with his left hand when he tried, nor could he perform his usual salutations to Mother Ganga after taking his meal.
On July 8, he was wheeled to the verandah and, at his bidding, the doors of the verandah opening onto the river front were thrown open, enabling him to drink his fill of the beauty of the holy Ganga to his heart's content. Ganga Darshan to him was always a spiritual feast.
On July 10, the Master expressed a desire to see Ganga from where he lay in bed. An intervening wall obstructed the view. So the direction of the bed was suitably changed in order to enable him to view the holy Tirtha, which he loved so much, on whose banks he had lived for almost forty years, and on whose glory he had written a book.
At 10am the Master was brought to the verandah as usual. Normally he sat there for half an hour, but that day he rested for just ten minutes, with a straight gaze fixed intently on the Ganga.
On July 14, as was the usual practice, the disciples wanted to give the Master barley water or jeera water, but he wanted to have Ganga water, pure and simple. The water was brought. The Master, who had experienced difficulty in taking the smallest quantity of solid or liquid, gulped down half a glass of Ganga water wihout apparent trouble-and with that, the Being that was Swami Sivananda laid aside his mortal vesture. It was 11.15pm.